The first semester of my sophomore year, I had been feeling confident in an African American literature class until the midterm. I can’t remember what was on the exam, but I explicitly remember what happened after it: I felt so sick about whatever I had written that I exited the room and burst into tears. I got worked up about my perceived failing in the class to the point that I missed one session, then another, and then my perceived failings became plural, and then I withdrew from the class entirely, well aware that this would set me back a semester in my major.
Two weeks later, I meekly met my professor in her office after receiving an email with the subject line, “Where Have You Been.” She told me about how, like me, she felt so unconfident about an exam — for her, Shakespeare — in her own undergraduate English program that she also missed multiple sessions. But she dyed her hair, found out she had gotten an A and returned to class. As for me, she informed me that I’d gotten a grade on the better side of good and recommended I do the same — sans dyeing my hair.
Throughout my four years at Binghamton, I liked to maintain that my life here wasn’t about my academics as much as it was about my ecosystem surrounding them. Though I was just as adept in my classes as my peers, I grappled with turbulent, unshakable anxiety as a student. Outside of the classroom, I loved my life here, at least in the beginning: I had joined Pipe Dream’s Copy and Arts desks within my first two weeks at this school and loved this newspaper with rabid enthusiasm; by the end of the year I had also started working at the Binghamton Telefund, where I learned I could pursue fundraising for the arts as my career. Yet it was the moments where my educators were truly human with me, like that one morning my sophomore year, that changed my feelings about the reason I was really here.
One particularly wise English professor liked to remind my class every few weeks that “the liberal arts teach you how to live, and by that, they also teach you how to die.” For her, the empathy that emerged from these studies on life were unparalleled from any other field, and from my own experiences with professors Stoever, Whittier, Walker and Um, I feel inclined to agree. Sometimes, I think I’m the luckiest person in the world that I got to spend four years examining art and literature of profound beauty, or at least art and literature of profound interest to me. And with all the talk about how difficult it is to get a job in the arts, I hope that I can continue to feel fearless and certain that it’s the right place for me.
I was always interested in this sphere: There weren’t a lot of surprises in my undergraduate timeline. In high school, I knew I wanted to study English and art history, I knew I wanted to live in Dickinson Community, I knew I was interested in the student newspaper. The detours from this pre-college plan were welcomed, too: the Telefund, moving to Buffalo for a summer, and then San Francisco the following year — the summers that I moved far from anyone I knew gave me the most clarity about who I was as a person. I was so self-assured about these items in my life that I want to wrap them up in a package and carry them with me wherever I go, and rid myself of the doubt that comes with the fact that I only have a sketch of the working, adult world and its operations: paying for my own life, renting an apartment, knowing how to stay close with my college friends when we might be thousands of miles apart.
I’m so grateful to have carved out my own little life here, exactly how I wanted it to be, and that it gave me the direction and knowledge about myself to know how to do the same after I graduate.
And, of course, I’m unbearably grateful to the people who made Binghamton into the home it is for me now.
Mom and Dad, thank you for staying calm throughout every trial that came with sending your first kid to college, for fielding my questions about art history and my hysterical phone calls. Baby brother, we should catch a football game sometime — I heard you go to a good school for that.
Emily, what am I going to do with you!! I’m so pained that we won’t be able to FaceTime each other at 3 a.m. when we become professional adults, but maybe that’ll actually be healthy for us. I can’t believe we knew each other a whole year before we were friends, and I also can’t believe how quickly you then became one of the most important, empathic and caring people in my life. I won’t be able to begin to summarize how meaningful our friendship is to me, so instead I’ll just say how grateful I am that we both knew a thing or two about grammar as freshmen and our paths could cross in this basement office.
Bridget, I’m … pretty sure we’re actually an old married couple, because no one will ever be as down to complain with me as you are. The only wildcard of the people hired to copy in fall 2016, you joining Pipe Dream and subsequently becoming my dear friend is one of the absolute greatest things to happen to me in this office, on this campus, in this life. I can’t wait to move to a northern rainforest state and live on a sound when we’re 78 to live out this self-fulfilling prophecy; until then, I guess a sleepover sometime (please?) will have to do.
Sarah, remember that one time we were walking to a frat house sophomore year and you said you were kind of into grammar and the rest was history? What could have been just an adjacent friendship to that cool indie girl became so many late nights of suffering and enjoying everything Pipe Dream had to offer — especially for you, as the editor of three (3) sections.
Cory, Khaled and Max, you guys are the literal light of Pipe Dream production, probably for everyone in the office. Being surrounded by people who are so dedicated to the practice is inspiring every time I come to the office, and I’m so excited to see you design the next Subaru model, or Whitney Museum homepage, or children’s book.
Nikk, I actually don’t know that I would have survived if you hadn’t been at the Albright-Knox with me that summer in Buffalo. When we met freshman year, I thought I had met someone who was so kindred to me, who loved modern art and Joni and the AP as much as I did. One day we’ll be working in the same museum; until then, I’ll be supporting you from the wings.
Little Gabby and Little Lia, even though I’ve done nothing to help either of you maintain a sense of calm, I know both of you are going to do an exceptional job carrying the torch at your respective Arts and Copy desks. You know I’ll always be around to answer your questions about Pipe Dream, or grammar, or life.
Katy and Nikki, I felt that it would be impossible to make new friends senior year, but you two were the only people I can think of sharing the Arts desk with. Thank you for dealing with my Pipe Dream scaries every night and for making Arts something I wanted to throw myself into, after all these years.
Noah B., I’ll always hold our special ME/EIC bond close to my heart — thank you for being patient with me as I stumbled through that spring semester. See ya back in New City, or maybe wherever we finally move that’s a more geographically convenient place to commute from.
Georgia, I’m pretty sure you’re actually my older sister, and also one of the kindest, most emotionally generous people I know. When we finally figured out how Arts was going to proceed this year, I think you actually saved my life, which would only make it the second or third time that you’ve done that.
Julia, thank you for being one of the biggest advocates in my early career and my professional development (and for being Pipe Dream’s low-key biggest fan each week). I’m glad I could graduate from being your employee to being your friend, and I’m excited for our upcoming impromptu museum tours.
Noah M. — My most considerate friend and roommate, possibly … ever? There’s no one I’d rather have jammed out with in these past four years, and I wish you the best as you embark on your Silicon Valley journey. Don’t think you’re getting away from me if I also decide to move to the most expensive area of this entire nation.
James, you were there in the beginning, and I’m pretty sure by this point we’ve seen so much of each other in our mutual experiences that we’re stuck with each other for life. It took a while in high school, but I’m so grateful to call you my friend, especially since at this point fate is probably keeping us inseparable.
Colin, being best friends with someone you met at orientation is overrated, but I’ll make an exception for you. Since we’re probably going to live together again in a month, and we’re never going to get out of each other’s lives, all I can say is I won’t apologize for bugging you that entire weekend — I’m glad you let me continue doing so for the next four years, and the foreseeable future.
And Pipe Dream — I feel like the real end of an era isn’t undergrad ending, but my time in this office. True to form, I’m writing this in the midst of the last production, with almost an entirely new generation of editors on staff than when I started. Pipe Dream was the most important thing to me about being here at Binghamton, and then it wasn’t at all, and now it’s somewhere in the middle. But all I can say is I’m so incredibly proud to have been so involved with this paper, from the second week of freshman year to the last week of senior year, and I’m indebted to the older people on staff who taught me everything I know about being a good editor and most of what I know about being a good writer. For staff past and present, thank you for being the biggest support system I could have wanted throughout college.
Shauna Bahssin is a senior double-majoring in art history and English and an assistant arts & culture editor. She was Pipe Dream’s managing editor in spring 2018 and the copy desk chief from fall 2016 to fall 2017.