There was a fire safety board on the ground floor of Cleveland Hall in Hinman College during my freshman year. It was vomit green with paper flames licking the borders. It said ‘Fire Safety’ with warm colors, except the ‘T’ fell off sometimes. It introduced me to a comic that forever changed my life: the dog in a room on fire. You know the one.
Something about the vacant look in the dog’s eyes as the room around him — the walls, table and floors — melts resonated deeply with my small, anxiety-plagued freshman self. It seemed so calm amid the shambles, a skill I sorely lacked. Keep in mind, this was around the time I had spreadsheets for my spreadsheets and another breakdown about the first breakdown. I’m not going to argue that the comic revolutionized my personality, but the dog in a room on fire quickly became a frequent flyer in my mental landscape.
Somehow, the majority of my experiences in college could be characterized by that GIF where Donald Glover walks into a room with pizza, only to find it on fire. Pipe Dream was a little like that, at least at first.
Pipe Dream is independently funded. We don’t receive any money from the Student Association, Binghamton University or grants. This means that it’s imperative that the Business Manager masterfully knows how to earn and record every penny that comes in and out of our account.
Now, did I know how to accomplish this when I was promoted to Business Manager? No, of course not, because if I did then this would likely be a very different column.
To say my department was on fire my first semester as Business Manager would put it lightly. The future of the paper quite literally depended on it not being on fire. So I put it out.
It might have taken two and a half years and a concerning amount of stress and anxiety, but Pipe Dream is in a better place financially than it was when I first took the wheel. And I firmly believe that walking through the fire helped me learn that nothing is as bad as it seems.
Terrible things have a way of making everything else seem less dire. That first semester, coupled with other heartrending circumstances from my personal life, was probably one of the worst periods of my life.
So naturally, everything after that seemed bearable. Nothing ever made me feel the way I felt then, and I found that nothing had the power to. I had grown up a little bit, and the world seemed less dangerous than it used to.
My time at Pipe Dream, and BU, was akin to a crucible. I was melted down and transformed into something stronger. New problems seemed less cataclysmic because I had dealt with worse before. Even if they were objectively worse problems, I had more knowledge, more people and more strength than before. Everything I went through, both from this office and outside of it, taught me to believe in my strengths and in myself because I had gotten myself out of a bad situation before. I could do it again.
Before I knew it, nothing was on fire because I no longer believed it would burn.
Without fear, it was easier to put out fires. It didn’t consume me like it used to. I could enjoy the things around me that I had previously been too anxious to enjoy. I’ve spent the last few months making friends freely, creating memories of ridiculous adventures and making jokes that lived on beyond me. I’ve spent the last few months cherishing the people around me because I could see beyond the smoke. This place taught me how to let go, and I learned how to breathe.
So goodbye Dog in a Room on Fire; I’ve finally learned some fire safety of my own.
Sasha, you were the first real friend I made in Pipe Dream. Our journey began when our desks were right across from each other — a perfect image to describe the path we would later take, parallel, looking to each other. From ranting to each other about trying to figure out how to run a section to weathering the chaos from this year together, you’ve always been at my side, and I hope you feel the same. You’ve grown so strong in these past three years, and I know you’ll move mountains in your future. I have unshakable faith in you, my friend.
Katy, you were a pleasant surprise. I cherish the time we spent bonding this year. You truly enabled my chaotic energy and it helped make the year lighter. That’s something you’re gifted at: making things easier. You have this aura of kindness and empathy that’s soothing and beautiful. Not to mention, you’re quick on your feet and actually pretty funny. You’re endlessly fun, kind and the best kind of friend. I’m grateful to have gotten closer to this year, and I look forward to crying about job hunting with you.
Sam, Sam, Sam. Where do I even begin with you? You are literally a blessing. I’m not sure why you accepted the assistant position but I’m eternally grateful that you did. You are the reason that I was able to get this ship in order. I know next year is going to a big transition for you but you are more than capable of being better than you ever thought you were. You are intuitive, thoughtful, firm and a pleasure to be around. Your intellect will help you run a tight ship but your thoughtfulness will make you a great leader who pushes this paper to thrive. You’ll be amazing. I’m so excited to watch you succeed.
Mike Contegni, did you ever get that coffee machine? I still want updates. All jokes aside, thank you for taking a chance on me. I don’t know what you saw in a bright-eyed, green freshman when she told you to your face that she was gunning for your job that prompted you to give her a position, but the faith you had in me helped me get through the rough times. It’s something that I carried with me and tried to emulate with varying degrees of success: faith in people’s potential, and the joy of helping them grow. Thank you for believing in me first.
Noah, thank you for having my back when I was figuring out how to swim. You helped me figure out how things are done, reassured me that I was doing okay and helped shoulder some of the responsibilities when things were tough (remember when Gannett closed? I do). Your support got me through that first semester, and I can never thank you enough for it. Stay the same, Noah, you’re pretty great.
Thank you to all of my friends in this office who made my time in this dungeon memorable. Rohit and Shauna, you were the first two people who made me feel truly welcomed in the office. Henry and Nate, it was cool talking with you after you graduated. It reminded me that the bonds we make in this office are long-lasting.
Michelle, you’re a rock star and no one gets my memes like you do. Kade, vaporwave. That’s all.
Ed, I’m not actually mad that you left Business. Watching you thrive in Sports was worth it. Kim, befriending you was a gift. You’re going to go so far and touch so many people in life. News is lucky to have you at its helm; Pipe Dream, to have your voice helping to guide it.
Pipe Dream, like me, has gone through a lot. But through every challenge, our staff has reminded me what keeps it going: a love for journalism, a love for BU and a love for people we don’t even know — the people we write for. It’s that love that made all the struggles meaningful and made the corner office in the basement a home. I’m excited to see how it will grow to embrace the digital environment and the changing campus atmosphere. Keep doing the good work, kids. Thanks for setting me on fire in the best way possible.
Cue that GIF of Elmo basking in the flames of victory.
Maryam is a senior majoring in business administration and business manager. She was assistant business manager in fall 2017.