I don’t think I “found myself” in college. And that’s OK.
For most of my time at Binghamton University, I’ve struggled with multiple parts of my identity. I came in planning to be a physics major and ended up learning Arabic and studying political science. I was an A+ student throughout high school, but now I’m graduating with a C- in one class and a withdrawal from another. I’ve even dyed my hair at least five different colors in the last two years. Nothing went how I expected.
I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. No one could pronounce my name correctly on the first try. It’s “LOCK-shmee,” by the way. I never felt “brown enough” for some to fit in with other Desi students. I’d share my culture with my white friends, but I knew there were parts they’d never truly understand. I am what some would call a coconut — brown on the outside, white on the inside.
With the organizations I did become a part of, I still felt out of place. At times, I was the only person of color in a meeting. I’ve had to point out problematic language to others who were blissfully unaware. I felt alone in my pushes for conversations about diversity in leadership and changing environments on campus. Honestly, I didn’t feel l belonged or like I was wanted.
This is a classic feeling many women and people of color face known as impostor syndrome. According to the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, impostor syndrome is “the feeling that your achievements are not real or that you do not deserve praise or success.” Even though I’ve worked my way up to some prominent positions in a few campus organizations, and I wanted to be there, I still didn’t feel like I belonged there. I didn’t think I connected with others. I thought to myself, “I got here by mistake. Someone else deserved this spot.”
As it turns out, I just wasn’t white. I rarely stood up for myself because I didn’t think I had a voice worthy of doing so, and when I did, I overanalyzed my every move and stopped myself before I could really do anything. And it’s because I never thought I was the right person to do it.
It wasn’t until last year that I started to embrace my uniqueness. I kept better touch with my friends back home who understood my past and celebrate my future. With my friends in college, I started talking much more candidly about my experiences and they have become my strongest support line. I started going to therapy for the first time in my life and started to unpack a lot of my trauma. It’s only recently that I realized how much of a people pleaser I was. I would never put my needs first, because I always wanted to fit in or make those around me more comfortable. I’m breaking that habit, slowly but surely.
College is a time when you can explore new things and figure out who you are, but that doesn’t mean you have to be done at the end. I’m graduating, but I’m definitely not done with my journey. This is merely a stepping stone. I’m going to keep dyeing my hair and awkwardly trying to speak up until I find my voice. I’ll keep overanalyzing my every move for some time, but hopefully not for long. At the end, I am where I belong. I worked hard to be where I am and will continue to do so. I’m not an impostor all along. I’m just figuring it out.
And with that, let me thank everyone.
To Krishna and Makoto: The best assistants anyone could ask for. Thank you for just being there and listening to me ramble on about life during production. Words can not express how much you both mean to me. After two years on this team, I can’t imagine doing anything else without you. You have such bright futures ahead of you. If you’re still in the city, we have to keep in touch.
To Sam, Jamie, Eli and the rest of next year’s Pipe Dream staff: You’ve got big shoes to fill. Kidding, I have the utmost confidence in you all. Arts & Culture is going to flourish under your lead. Thank you for making production so fun with all your music recommendations, stories and opinions. Keep the meetings entertaining and you’ll be fine.
To my mom and dad: Thank you for every opportunity you’ve presented to me. I know I’ve had my ups and downs with you two, but I can’t imagine everything you had to sacrifice when you moved across the world to raise us here. I’m grateful for the good and the bad.
To my housemates and closest friends, Allison, Chloe, Rachel, Jake, Michael, Mark and Pohlson: I can’t imagine college without you. You’ve all been so supportive and kind to me. You’ve helped me get through some of the hardest points of my life, whether you’ve realized it or not. Thank you for all the conversations, nights out, whiteboard polls, meme tapestries and much, much more.
To Liz: I would not have survived Pipe Dream last year without you. Your support meant the world to me. From joking about taking shots during editorial to pushing diversity initiatives, you’ve been through it all with me and I appreciated every second of it. Being a social justice warrior with you was the greatest honor of all time.
To Kim: You’re my favorite person to vent to. All those late-night car rides, laughing and crying brought so much clarity to me when I needed it. We each have our own struggles, but at the end of the day we’ve been there for each other. Who would have thought that we’d get so close out of nowhere junior year even though we lived on the same floor freshman year? Thank God for our breakups bringing us together. Keep on blading.
To the Q Center: Thank you for making me feel seen. I’m going to be honest, I didn’t enjoy being an intern freshman year, but the people there now made my experience as a student manager so enjoyable and therapeutic. Talking to other queer students and being a resource for others made me feel much less alone.
To Katie, Moen, Diana and everyone who is a part of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP): Thank you for giving me a renewed sense of importance and hope this year. Restarting SJP was such a rewarding experience. I hope we can keep the momentum going and encourage others to advocate for what they believe in without spreading hate.
To the fencing team: Sorry I wasn’t that active this year, but hey, I still won a bout at nationals. Freshman and sophomore year, fencing was very important to me and became my first real friend group. I’m grateful for all of you making me feel included.
To Stephen Ortiz: You’ll always be CP Steve to me. You and the international relations learning community were my first impressions of BU, and thank God it was. You have been so supportive of my work, and I’ll always remember it. You have been an inspiration for many students, and I hope you know how much we all love and appreciate you.
To the Editorial Board: Thank you for making Sundays and Wednesdays bearable. While I’d constantly complain about having to be in the office longer for these meetings, they gave me such a sense of importance. I’ll cherish the hours we spent discussing issues that affected students and just goofing around. The judge will always be with us.
Lakhsmi Chatterjee is a senior majoring in political science and was Arts & Culture Editor from 2020-2022.