My friend Rebecca once told me, “You are not peaking in college, and that’s OK.” I wouldn’t say college was the best four years of my life. There were good times — lots of them. However, the first thing I remember when I reminisce about my college experience is the pain.

My junior year was the hardest. Right before the world shut down, I applied to be a resident assistant (RA), thinking it would be a great life hack to save money and conveniently live on campus without a car. I knew it would be an emotional sacrifice at times, but I could not possibly have predicted the mental toll it would take on me.

Instead of going into an oversharing synopsis of my RA experience, I’ll summarize it by saying it was the worst work experience of my life. I’ve also worked in retail and food service, but trust me, this took the cake. Residential Life at Binghamton University is toxic. The new expectations for the RAs amid the pandemic were unrealistic, and the residents were cruel. The isolation and loneliness I felt during this time became too much to handle.

Just as life was already testing me, major tragedies in my personal life took place. I have overcome challenges in the past, but at this point in time, I was feeling emotions at a capacity I had never experienced before.

You’re probably wondering what happened next. Well … it ended. The school year ended and summer began. I could return home to my friends and family and leave it all behind. Let me be clear, this is not a column where I preach toxic positivity. I am not saying that the school year ended and my life became unbothered, full of sunshine and rainbows. This experience ruined me. I am a completely different person now, but I am OK.

Senior year began — I was all set to move in with people I loved, and I even convinced my dad to let me bring his 2012 Honda Civic. Hell yeah, thanks Dad. My biggest goal was to build an extravagant art and design portfolio. I couldn’t wait for what this year would bring. It finally felt like the sun was rising again.

In November 2021, Pipe Dream produced its annual Basketball Issue, which showcases the BU men’s and women’s basketball teams’ upcoming seasons. I insisted on designing the cover because I dreamed of a career in sports graphic design.

I posted the cover art for the 2022 Basketball Issue to my Instagram, tagging the team and the student athletes. I communicated with the men’s basketball video coordinator, who said they had been searching for someone to help produce graphics for the season and offered me the position.

I feel that I should insert a short tangent about my educational experience as an art and design major. I didn’t learn much as a student here. I met many talented classmates and great instructors, such as Marcus Newton, who made attending Binghamton University worthwhile. However, I ultimately taught myself the skills necessary for my future. The hours spent watching YouTube tutorials and analyzing graphics I found on Instagram were my education. I tend to be humble and self-deprecating most of the time, as many artists are. It’s easy to be a pessimist and allow the negative comments to discourage you, but for the first time, I will say that I am proud of myself.

Back to BU basketball. I attended every single home game with my camera. I spent hours upon hours perfecting the graphics. The people who live in my apartment building questioned my well-being when they saw me parked with my laptop every day in our lobby for eight hours straight. I may have lost a lot of sleep and just a few of my marbles, but I loved every second of it.

I remember driving home from a men’s basketball home game in tears — these were tears of joy. All the memories from the previous school year flooded my brain as I reminded myself how far I had come. I was now surrounded by people I love, working hard on my passion and confident in my future.

To conclude my novel, you need to listen to people when they say it gets better. By some miracle, I landed a dream job working for my favorite baseball media company. It doesn’t feel real yet, but I know that all the hard work paid off. I have to thank Pipe Dream and BU basketball — more specifically Bethann Shapiro Ord, Damani Meyers and Maggie Moore — for helping me get there. A year ago, every day was a struggle to get through. Now, I can’t wait for what each new day will bring.

To Nate and Annabeth, thank you for reeling me into Pipe Dream when I was a freshman. Your guidance meant the world to me, and I’m so grateful for my Pipe Dream journey. I wouldn’t be where I am now without you and this organization.

To each and every one of my Pipe Dream friends, thank you for making me feel included. It was incredible to be a part of something so special. There is no one I would rather stress and complain with. Thank you for all the laughs. These inside jokes cannot be beat, especially when some of them don’t exist.

To Harry and Hamza, Pipe Dream is in great hands. You both have incredible talent and I cannot wait to see what you do.

To Nicole, Kaitlyn and Ciara, I love you so much. Thank you for being a light in the dark. Our friendship is so important to me, and I will cherish our memories forever. The future of our friendship is going to be incredible. Never mind, I hate Ciara.

To Addie, Hannah, Emily and Kiara, my first friends at BU, thank you for all the fun we had. You had such a positive impact on who I am as a person and how to be a good friend. You made college memorable, and I’m so lucky to have friends who I love so much.

To Sophia and Zoe, thank you for helping me through the worst year of my life. If that year didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have met you. I wouldn’t trade that for the world. I love you both.

To Kayla and Matt, y’all are fun as hell. Thank you for the best living situation I could ask for. I’ll miss the chaotic pregames in the kitchen but more importantly I’ll miss having you as my roommates. I couldn’t be luckier to have you in my life. I love you guys.

To my Plainview friends, thank you for your endless support and lifelong friendships. You all mean so much to me.

To Ciara — that’s right, even though we are going to fight on State Street, you get two thank-you’s. I saw firsthand how difficult being Editor-in-Chief really is, and you killed it. You are one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. I’ll miss our rant sessions, cracking up in the kitchen and standing in your doorway silently like I’m your little sibling. Thanks for letting me try every meal you’ve ever cooked and for the mental telepathy when we both want takeout. I can’t wait to see where you go from here. I’m so proud of you.

To Mom, Dad and Ethan, I cannot explain how lucky I am to have a family as loving and supportive as you. You were there for me when no one else was. You always believed in me, no matter what. You answered every phone call, whether it was to ask questions, share news, cry or complain. Thank you for the late night FaceTime calls just to show me Ethan’s teddy bear and for the playful arguments over who is best at Wordle. Your unconditional love toward me is mutual. I don’t know where I would be without you.

Sarah Teper is a senior majoring in graphic design and is Managing Editor. She was previously Fun Editor from 2020-2021.