The senior column was a tradition I had heard about since my freshman year in Pipe Dream and have looked forward to writing for a while now. As I sit here and finally attempt to reflect on my time in college, I can’t help but be plagued with the same thoughts that made me procrastinate writing it in the first place. What if I have nothing good, profound or relatable to say? Everything that could be said has already been said. Is my article going to be corny? What if it’s bad, and people read it and say that it is? It’s nauseating to think about, and the self-imposed pressure makes me want to run for the woods.

As is true for many, overthinking is something that has ruled my life for as long as I can remember. Although people have told me that I seem mellow, or easygoing, the me I know is a completely different person. Retreating to my room at the end of the night or having a slow moment alone quickly leads to an onslaught of questions: Do they like me? Did I just say something stupid? Am I being a bad person? Am I going to be happy? The list goes on and on. There have been times when I have laid awake, questioning everything from the validity of my emotions to what my purpose is, over and over, until I was paralyzed and nothing felt real. The inside of my head feels like a washing machine, with my thoughts endlessly tumbling and sloshing around. Countless times throughout my childhood and into young adulthood I replayed certain memories, psychoanalyzing every action and every reaction until I was convinced everyone hated me. If you ever wanted to give me advice or listen to my dilemmas, chances are that I had already thought of every single possible scenario. Although my indecision and worrying were masked by the general insecure demeanor that most teens experience, after high school, I knew something needed to change.

Humor is something that has, quite honestly, been the only reprieve from my own brain. Growing up, I was always jealous of the class clowns and the people in my grade who were known to be funny. I admired how they could capture the attention of a room and instantly lift the mood. I myself got a taste of the power of making others laugh, as my monotonous voice and deadpan expression at times made for a funny delivery. Although this was something I wanted to do all the time, I was often in my own ear, self-monitoring my actions and tiptoeing over every word.

In college, I was able to grow into myself, becoming comfortable enough to be silly or make weird jokes without fear of judgment. I met my people, and together we made so many memories: practicing certain accents and impressions together, sharing embarrassing stories, rolling around in the dorm study lounges, faces wet from tears of laughter. Moments of deep sadness and loneliness slowly became overshadowed by memories with friends where we were hunched over from laughing about obscure things no one else would find amusing.

College has not been an easy ride — it is one of the first times many of us have the freedom to explore who we are, but it can also be one of the first times we are faced with life’s hardships. Few of us will leave without difficult experiences surrounding identity, love, loss and trauma, and with the impacts of the pandemic and the state of our world today, the feelings of fear, insecurity and stress are compounded. We as young people are expected to be able to solve the world’s problems, all while being successful and making the right choices. It is a lot to think about, and at times, it can feel suffocating.

This is where humor comes in. I love to be ridiculous because life is serious and challenging sometimes and it will continue to be serious and challenging. When the room feels heavy, and I crack a joke and people laugh, it feels like things are okay, even for just a second. I can turn that embarrassing moment in class or mortifying interaction into a hilarious story. I can acknowledge my pain but translate it as sarcasm. There is obviously a time and place to have fun and times where you need to be serious, but one thing that humor grants us is the power to not let things define us, even if it’s a temporary facade.

Cracking jokes and entertaining a room have been my way of coping with the nagging thoughts that seem to dictate my every action. It is like a safety blanket. People walk away thinking you’re relaxed and having a good time, concealing when you’re not. Despite my love for making other people laugh, there have been a number of times I felt like an imposter. My ridiculous acts in public are worlds apart from my obsessive thoughts and worries in private. Reconciling these two parts of myself has been and continues to be a challenge. However, what I do know is that laughter is…a decent medicine.

There are countless people I would love to thank in my college career, but here are a few:

To my housemates Meagan, Netali and Krishna: you are what makes college special. Thank you for the therapeutic car rides, the teas and the shared experiences. I love our chaotic whiteboard and our screaming in the kitchen late at night about God knows what. You are each so unique in your talents, interests and abilities, yet you are all such loving, passionate, genuine people. I cannot wait to see what you do in the future, and I hope you remember I am your number one fan. I love you all endlessly, my half-house besties.

Lakhsmi: Thank you for being such an amazing section head and fun friend. I am in awe of your ability to bring such warm, positive energy to Pipe Dream and our section, your no-nonsense energy with Design and Photo and your multitude of talents. It’s been so nice to get close to you in the last few years, and I cannot wait to see you in the city post-grad.

Krishna: You are the reason I am even writing this column in the first place. Thank you for being one of my first friends at college, and for sticking through with me all these years. I can’t believe three years ago I was crying about you wanting to transfer schools — look where we are now! We survived. I love your laughter, your sweet energy and your hugs. Thank you for letting me copy your extracurriculars, and thank you for being a beautiful and amazing friend all this time.

Sam, Jamie and Eli: I will miss you so much next year. Sam, I’m going to miss your dancing. Jamie, I will miss our weekly bus rides together. Eli, I will miss you leaving because your stomach hurts. You all have such distinct and special personalities that I am so grateful to have experienced in the last two years. I am so excited to see the three of you work together and the direction you take Arts & Culture in. I know it will be great 🙂

My friends at the Women’s Student Union: I can’t even begin to express the gratitude I have for the space this organization has provided. I have never met such intelligent, genuine, compassionate and talented people. You all have taught me so much about the world, about being there for one another and about myself. You all make me feel so accepted, understood and inspired, and you challenge me to be better each day. I will miss you all dearly, and I can’t wait to see what everyone does, because I know you will all be impactful wherever you go.

Makoto Toyoda is a senior double-majoring in sociology and political science. She was assistant Arts & Culture editor from 2020-2022.