Last of the normals

Ella Schuellerman, Arts & Life Editor

This week, Ella talks about her last “normal” night that she did not realize was going to be the last for a while. (Ella Schuellerman)

I am sure I am not the only 20-something right now feeling quite confused on what I am doing and where the heck I am going next. I keep repeating the same line when I talk to people: 2020 really threw me a freaking curveball. The “dramatic me” wants to say 2020 has shaken me to my core. The “zen me” wants to say it could be much worse. Simply put, there has truly never been a more bewildering year of my life.

Before the pandemic, senior year was already going to be complicated. Like, come on world, give me something good. Normally, senior year is the time to prepare to enter their work field, attend career fairs, network, drink, celebrate, drink more, apply for jobs, plan and soak up the last bit of bad behavior that can be excused as still being a big kid at heart.

My last “normal” college night out with friends was the last week in February. The previous week, my little brother made me obsessed with carrying disposable cameras around at all times. This way, I could capture my favorite moments without being consumed by a phone. He gifted me one, which I stuffed away into my mom’s hand-me-down vintage Coach purse as I headed back up to school.

In three different moments throughout the night in that grungy, dim bar, I pulled out the camera to snap a picture of seniors who have been together since they were juniors in high school and I admire dearly, my former roommate who taught me patience and kindness like no other and a man who played a double agent in order to finally get me and my now-boyfriend together.

That night I witnessed a friend survive a bathroom brawl, endured the noise of a sub par DJ, drank under-poured drinks and witnessed a lot of college women walk down the steps wearing the same outfit as their friend marched in behind them. 

From left to right: Clare Tirpak ’20, Ella Schuellerman ’21, Molly Killeen ’20. (Ella Schuellerman)

These friends for some reason took me under their wings in 2017 when I was a freshman and they were all sophomores. That night in February was unknowingly their last night out during their final year at John Carroll. For me, it was my last college night out with friends who had impacted my life in more ways than I can count. It was the kind of night that you don’t realize will be the last one for a while, and it was all documented with a drug store, plastic, disposable camera.

Pictured above: Molly Killeen and Joe Charpentier ’20. (Ella Schuellerman)

If the last seven months of uncertainty and stagnation have taught me anything, it is to soak up every present moment I am in. The minuscule ones. The ones that made you angry. The ones that made you cry. The ones that made you scream with joy. Enjoy the weekends I’ve let myself sleep in and days I take slow.  Be grateful for the hikes I take the opportunity to take. Hold on to the precious family time I have and will never get back. I have always struggled with the “could’ve beens,” and this year was full of plenty. 

I now have to constantly remind myself to be aware of the moment I am in right now. Not yesterday’s old news, not tomorrow’s possibilities. Just my now. This mindset has helped me immensely because, as one who typically thinks months or years ahead, focusing on today’s little joys is a much better way to use my time and not fear the unknown. It also puts less pressure on what I don’t know and don’t have to know right this second. 

I challenge readers to remind themselves that the only thing we control is the moments we experience today and our reactions to them. We can’t change coulda-woulda-shoulda moments, and we should not get hung up on what comes next because we will miss our now. And who knows what that now will bring. 

Even though I did not know that freezing, gloomy night in February would be one of the last “normal” moments, we still lived that moment, in that moment, for that moment. We did not embellish it. We did not dilute our expectations or think of a next time. We simply lived it. Drank it. Embraced it.  

We scuffed up our shoes kicking up dropped cocktail straws while wiping the sweat dripping off our foreheads as we danced and danced and danced. It was the kind of night that you don’t realize will be the last one for a while. Ordinary. All documented on that drug store disposable camera. 

From left to right: Owen Dobbins ’20, Molly Killeen ’20, Joe Charpentier ’20, Clare Tirpak ’20, Bryce Marshall ’20.