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Opinion

Find your people and you’ll find yourself

I walked down the stairs early the morning of April 30, 2010, with two pieces of fabric in my hand. My dad was sitting in the living room with his morning coffee, and he looked up to meet my helpless gaze with one of understanding. It was college T-shirt day; every senior was getting ready to proudly bear the name of his or her future institution. I was choosing a college, and nothing was more symbolic of that than the two shirts I held; one read “Binghamton University,” the other “University of Maryland.”

Spoiler alert: I chose Binghamton.

If I came to school dragging my feet a bit, I soon learned that I certainly wasn’t the only one. In fact, I met a remarkable amount of people who were torn between the very same two schools. We decided on Binghamton over a seemingly more glamorous option, state or private, and thank goodness we did. Once I got here, I never looked back.

I got to tell my story to hundreds of high school seniors as a campus tour guide. I watched myself change people’s minds about Binghamton, reassure them that their parents are right about the loan thing and give my school — my home — the credit it deserves.

But more important than giving this school its due deference was being critical when it mattered. Chris Kantz, you reminded me of something very important when I asked you to take a look at an issue of Pipe Dream: “Student journalism that doesn’t convey some level of radicalism feels kind of sad.”

Being part of this paper meant fighting to get other students to care about Student Association elections and mental health support, while most of my friends were more interested in the results of their BuzzFeed quizzes. Sometimes, we made change: Several editorials we wrote saw immediate response from the University. Sometimes, apathy won. It’s shameful that 36 students voted on campus in the fall. Scott Henkel, you re-inspired me to try to change the world amid a sea of cynicism, most of it my own. You pushed me intellectually and never accepted a half-assed idea, and I’m a stronger thinker because of it.

The hardest part about falling in love with a place is leaving it, and I’m not looking forward to the day the lease is up on 57 Leroy Street. Friendsday Wednesday crew: I love you guys so much. Thanks for reminding me that despite my absurd schedule, I always had a few hours to kill on the couch. Council: I will desperately miss being able to run down the hall to you guys for advice in the wee hours of the night. It keeps me going knowing that it’s not over — we’ll assemble again soon enough.

Orion, you’ve seen enough crazy to make a lesser man walk away, yet here you are. Thanks for allowing me to laugh at myself during the darkest of times, for coming to Rochester with me when I really couldn’t do it alone and for the best Valentine’s Day of my humble 21 years.

Onondaga Hall floor 2 M-X: I didn’t see enough of you guys once we moved out of the dorms, but you introduced me to college and our memories together are some I hold closest to my heart. I still have my coloring book pages from the first week of Camp Binghamton.

My Pipe Dream family: For all the words we wrote together, it’s strikingly hard to find the right ones right now. Darian, you made me feel like a part of the group on my very first night, and I’ll never forget that. Paige, you’re the hardest damn worker I know and I’m so proud of how much it’s already paid off. Jim, Dan and Jules, don’t be surprised if I call you for advice for the rest of my life. Kendall, Ari and Zack, you’re a bunch of studs and I’d love to get lunch sometime. Mikey, thank g-d you were willing to be talked into joining this stone-cold pack of weirdos. Miriam, you are beautiful, inside and out. Willie, thanks for lifting my spirits when I needed it. Zach, the paper wouldn’t have stayed afloat without you. Geoff, you’ve been here for the whole ride and you’ve taught me more than I can say about believing in people — including myself. Rachel and Nick, I’ll probably keep dumping advice on you guys, but feel free to tune me out at any time. You’ve got this. And I never really knew what I was doing, anyway.

Mom, Dad, James and Francesca: You are the four parts that make up everything I am. You are the reason for the Mibs. You know me better than I know me, and sometimes that sucks, but mostly you’re right when you tell me things, even if I’m too stubborn to admit it. G-Ma, thank you for calling me every Sunday, and I’m sorry for all the times I didn’t answer. G-Pa, your constant reminders that I was in the thick of the “best four years of my life” made me strive to get the most out of all this. I hope I did OK.

And finally, some of my general musings and sage wisdom for the freshlings. Your best friends aren’t necessarily the people you see the most or with whom you have the most in common; they’re the people who will take you in, feed you and keep you safe if ever you were to knock on their door in the middle of the night. Learn who those people are and keep them close. Also, move off campus. You’ll see.

Seniors, we grew up here, and a lot of that happened quickly and unexpectedly. College seemed so distant, and then so permanent. Growing up means realizing that when we talk about college with our parents and grandparents, we’ll all be speaking in the past tense. It means coming to terms with the fact that life will no longer be segmented into these neat little blocks of time, but now stretches on in a way that will make it easy to forget to stop and breathe once in awhile. And it means understanding that although these significant four years are behind us, we’re not dead yet. You don’t have to call yourself a “twentysomething” or lament not being ready for the “real” world; you can just take things one step at a time — the first of which will be on the stage of the Events Center next Sunday. I’ll see you guys at commencement.

Views expressed in the opinion pages represent the opinions of the columnists.