Max Samson/Editorial Artist

I’ve always been good at following the rules. The codified classroom rules that my teachers outlined every school year, the rules of grammar and spelling that seemed to stick with ease, the rubrics for completing my assignments and the unwritten rules of social interactions that I was sometimes too aware of have always guided me. Breaking the rules scared me, and it was always easier to follow them than to make up my own way through life.

When I started college, I knew I wanted to join the student newspaper. My eagerness to stick to a set of rules made me a great copy editor when I joined Pipe Dream during my second week at Binghamton University, and I never wanted to do anything else. I was happy enough sitting in the corner, listening to the conversations of everyone around me, learning so many things about their lives and about Binghamton while I remained anonymous. I didn’t think I was meant to be doing anything else, so I came to every production for my two-hour shifts and barely said a word to anyone for a whole year. I didn’t even want my name to be in print.

College life seemed pretty simple — I went to class (most of the time), got food with my roommates at C4, went Downtown on the weekends and drank the same pink lemonade punch. I was content with living life on autopilot because I didn’t have to make many decisions. I’ve always been an anxious person, and making decisions of any kind has always been difficult for me, so following the same routine was just fine. I was comfortable with the way things were and I never wanted them to change.

But in December of my sophomore year, my grandma passed away. And I was coping well enough until May of the same academic year, when my nana suddenly passed away. My status quo had been completely interrupted, and I couldn’t even process how much it affected me until the bad things seemed to keep piling up. My campus job — of all things — made my anxiety flare up like nothing else, and I dreaded going to every shift. A week before the start of my junior year in August, I found out that I wouldn’t be able to live on the West Side with my roommates in the house that we had been talking about since we signed our lease in October. Instead, I got the very last available single room on campus in Hillside Community. I felt trapped on top of a literal hill, I was living with strangers and trying to adjust to the steep learning curve of abruptly becoming Opinions Editor after another last-minute change.

I continued going through life on autopilot, but it was getting harder and harder to go to class, to do my schoolwork, to cook for myself, to keep putting one foot in front of the other. As I spent every day riding the campus shuttle to and from my classes, I realized just how much the depression had set in, and that maybe it had been there for a lot longer than I thought. I knew I had to make the conscious choice to help myself, but the difficulties of making that decision — of advocating for myself and trying to move my life in a healthier direction — seemed to outweigh the benefits. It wasn’t until some of my dearest friends encouraged me to seek help that I finally took the leap, and jumping nearly took everything out of me. But I landed on my feet because it was exactly what I needed.

I’m not going to spend time preaching about the benefits of therapy and antidepressants, but making the conscious choice to help myself was one of the best decisions I could have made. I’ve learned that there’s no better catalyst for growth than time; that although I didn’t always recognize it, I was constantly surrounded by love and support from my roommates, my family and my adopted family at Pipe Dream; that the bad things that had uprooted my sense of normalcy didn’t make my whole life bad; that the professors who showed me boundless empathy and encouraged me to pursue projects I was interested in could help heal me; that stepping outside my comfort zone was always worth it; and that even when I thought I was OK with being a copy editor forever, getting to know the people in the office around me and ending college as Pipe Dream’s Editor-in-Chief was way more fulfilling and fun than sitting quietly in that corner.

It’s no secret that I’ll miss looking out my window to see Court Street every day, my roommates sprawled out in my living room watching TV, the mountains and the fall foliage and spending countless hours a week working and seeing my friends in the windowless Pipe Dream office. I’ll even miss the things that seemed to suck: losing hours of sleep from the late production nights that sometimes seemed to last forever, hauling my groceries on blue buses and the gray Binghamton skies that never let the sunshine through. After all the time I spent wishing that it could all just be over, now I wish I had just a little bit more time in this place that has taught me so much — that has allowed me to grow into the person I never imagined I could be. But for now, all I can do is say thanks to the people who helped me carve out my home in Binghamton; who taught me that following all of life’s rules isn’t nearly as satisfying as making up some of your own.

Mom and Dad, thanks for letting me go to Binghamton even though it required me to leave home for pretty long periods of time. I couldn’t have done any of this without your endless faith in me. Joey, I’m so proud of the smart, hilarious person you’ve become. Thanks for always putting up with my shenanigans.

Bridget, what can I say? There’s no one else I would have been able to do this with. Thank you for being my partner in crime, my voice of reason and my best friend; for jumping into the void with me and then helping me find my way back. It’s hard to believe that this is all over, but I know there are many more grocery trips, gourmet meals to cook and people to complain about in our future. I love you so dearly and I’ll miss calling you on the phone from across the room.

Shauna, I guess I can say now that I’m glad you knocked on my door in Rafuse Hall at two in the morning unannounced, although I wasn’t too thrilled at the time. Thank you for being the first person on Pipe Dream to befriend me and tell me that I had potential, for all of the post-production 3 a.m. Facetime calls and for showing me endless love and support. I can’t wait to be back in the city so we can do brunch every Sunday and enable each other to spend unnecessary money.

Sasha and Katy, I’m so proud of you both. I’m glad to be leaving Pipe Dream in extremely smart, capable hands. Sasha, you’re one of the smartest, most ambitious people I know. Always have faith in yourself — you know what you’re doing. Katy, it’s amazing to see how much you’ve grown since the beginning of this year. I promise, you know more than you think. When you put your heads together, you’re going to create something none of us here have done before. I can’t wait to see all the brilliant things you do. But even when things get difficult, try not to take any of this too seriously.

Noah, thanks for teaching Bridget and me everything there was to know about running this newspaper, and thanks for always being around to offer help and advice, even in your post-grad life. I hope I was even half as good a leader as you were.

To my 48 Court ladies, it’s hard to sum up all the time we’ve spent together and all the things we’ve been through in just a few words. You’ve been my family since the first week of college, and it’s going to be the weirdest thing in the world to not wake up and see you every day. Annie, thanks for being the absolute best person to share a room with for two years, for waking me up every morning when I couldn’t hear my alarms and for always making me laugh. Rach, thanks for waiting up for me to come home from every production, for teaching me all about Canada and for drinking all the seltzer. Amy, thanks for laughing at all my jokes, for coining one of my best nicknames and for helping me fix the toilet that one time. Kat, thanks for doing my nails, for always complimenting the meals I cook and for trusting me to do your crafts for you. Thank you for being the sisters I never had and for making Binghamton home.

Liv, I can’t believe we’ve known each other since we were 6, and now we’re about to graduate college. Thank you for being one of the most important people in my life, for going through so many phases and trends with me, for giving me infinite love and support and for being the OG sister I never had. I love you with all my heart and I can’t wait to go back to our Marine Park adventures.

Amy, thanks for being by my side from our Midwood days until now, for our talks on the way to yoga and for always being down to complain about anything and everything with me. It’s hard to believe we’ve known each other for so long, but you’re one of my dearest friends and I’m so excited to hang out in our shared borough. I’m glad you didn’t transfer to Cornell.

Sarah, aka Mrs. Molano, remember when we were almost roommates? I’m sure we ended up spending just the same amount of time together anyway. You’re so incredibly smart, funny and talented and I’m so thankful that Pipe Dream — and our shared love of grammar — brought us together. Our copy and opinions bond is unbreakable.

Max, I still find it hard to believe that we didn’t cross paths until this year. Regardless, you’re one of my dearest friends and I’m so lucky to know such a talented, empathetic and kind person. I can’t wait to see where your roles of art director and office jester take you.

Cory, thanks for teaching me about the importance of design and for always going for the bit. I’m so excited to see your name on beautifully designed museum pamphlets, beer cans, websites or whatever else you decide to go for. And you’re always welcome to stay in my basement.

Khaled, thanks for our Tom’s days (that have since ended because I’m a homebody). You’re one of the smartest people I know. Just remember, it’s OK to look up from your computer and enjoy some free time every once in a while. You deserve it.

To my “littles”: Lia, I can’t believe how far you’ve come since we met. I’ll always see you as my child, no matter how old you get. Thanks for always having my back, even when I constantly annoyed you with copy quips. Gabby, thanks for showing me the world of Dobby, cricket pancakes and zoology. I’ll miss sitting next to you and trying to decipher your vernacular. Gill, I’m sorry we never had our last lunch date, but we still have plenty of time for that, and I’m so happy to have gotten to know you this year. I’m so incredibly proud of all of you.

To my gals who share the same computer: Ariel, you’re such a strong presence in this office. I admire your strength, diligence and positive outlook on life. You already know I’m gonna call you when you finish med school. Jill, thanks for always being able to relate to me on so many levels. You’ve done such great things for digital in such a short amount of time. I can’t wait to hear you on NPR one day.

And finally, to Pipe Dream: Thank you for being one of the only constants in my life these past four years, and for giving me a purpose at this university. I’ve learned more in this office than I’ve learned in any of my undergraduate courses, and I’ve probably spent more time here than I’ve spent in my own home. But I wouldn’t trade a second of it. To everyone I’ve worked with in WB03, thank you for teaching me new things every day and for dedicating your time to this newspaper. To next year’s staff, you’re in good hands. I can’t wait to see what you accomplish and where you take this paper next. Use your voices for good.

Emily Kaufman is a senior majoring in English and Pipe Dream’s Editor-in-Chief. She was the opinions editor in 2017-18 and the assistant opinions editor in spring 2017.