How the hell I pulled off two majors in three years is beyond me. What I do know, however, is that I’ve grown. I remember walking into my linguistic anthropology class freshman year covered in mud from rowing practice that morning. I remember walking around at midnight with my friends, pints of Ben & Jerry’s in hand. I remember walking across the Spine in a leotard and tutu for ballet on days when it was too hot outside to put on warm clothes. I have so many stories from my three years here, and 600 words is nowhere near enough to sum them up. But I want to try, and in doing so, I want to share a few of the lessons I’ve learned.
Number one: You are good enough just as you are. You do not have to pretend to be another person or hide whatever passion feeds your soul. My life opened up when I started ballet again for the first time in years following injuries. Do whatever it is that brings you joy, whether that’s riding in the back of your friend’s Jeep with the cover off or sitting in your bed on a Sunday morning with your laptop and Hulu.
Number two: Stop worrying so much about your body. As someone recovering from anorexia nervosa, I’ve come to realize that college is a breeding ground for conversations about how to get that perfect summer beach body, how someone feels guilty for eating ice cream at a birthday party or how someone labels themselves as “fat” — as if this is a derogatory term rather than a part of your body; fat is not a feeling — when they nourish themselves. In these last two weeks before graduation, I’m not looking back and remembering the times when I ditched plans to avoid food. I’m remembering and holding onto those late-night runs for McFlurries with my roommates, the Korean food from Man Nam that reminds me of home and all of the time that I spent worrying about things other than food.
Number three: You are not your struggle. You have an identity outside of your anxiety/depression/apathy. Be honest and accepting not only with others, but with yourself, too.
Number four: Ask for help. You have more people on your side than you know, both when you need to have a party for the half-assed paper that you didn’t think you would finish and when the worst possible thing happens. You are not alone.
I’m running out of ways to say thank you to the people who have been there, whether it be in the form of therapy, tough love or laughter. Thank you to my freshman year resident assistant — and all those following — for putting up with me. Thank you to my rowing friends for tolerating all of my complaining and celebrating when we got close to medaling. Thank you to my ballet friends for checking my pirouettes for me and getting me back to my triple. Thank you to my roommates and my team and my cat.
I have screwed up the ideal image of college in more ways than you could imagine, but I’ve defined myself, too. And to the surprise of all of my anxiety, things seem to just fall into place sometimes when you relax a little and let go of your plan. Your mental health, sanity and, oftentimes, relaxation are more important than having a 4.0. I have been a part of Pipe Dream for every semester that I’ve been at Binghamton University and can’t imagine my college experience without it.
I am absolutely terrified for what comes next. I have a future at Columbia University for the next two years studying for my MFA in nonfiction and Spanish translation, and an entirely new life awaiting me. And God knows I’m nowhere near ready to leave the world of education quite yet. So I’m diving in head-first and letting go of the familiar to have a brand new perspective ready for me to experience. I hope you can do the same.
Kara Bilello is a senior double-majoring in English and Spanish.