Transferring to Binghamton University was the the start of it all, really — I can’t believe they let me do that, but they did. I felt like a loser for not liking my big out-of-state school, but I realized quickly that I couldn’t spend three years feeling sorry for myself. I threw myself into all of the things I had been scared to try during my freshman year — Pipe Dream, Greek life, WHRW — and I found that I could piece together a life and person I am proud of. After a challenging time in high school, I began to make real, true, amazing friends again, people who have loved me so unconditionally I can’t believe it.

There are a lot of things I didn’t do, too, like studying abroad and not going out often, but people didn’t seem to care. Every college student I’ve met has been so self-absorbed that they don’t care about that kind of stuff, but so generous that they want to really get to know me. I doubt I’ll ever find an environment quite like this again, but college has taught me that I can build my own community and safety net. I am a product of everything I’ve been through, everything I’ve done and everyone I’ve met, and Pipe Dream has been a huge part of that.

I have learned that I can defend myself fiercely, I can use my voice in powerful ways, I can be funny and be taken seriously and that I can share myself with others and become better as a result. I think back about the amount I learned at BU and it seems like so little of it came from the books I read and the classes I took; instead, it came from everything I wrote and read in the pages of Pipe Dream. It has been my classroom, my therapist’s office, my bedroom, my kitchen and everything in between. More than that, though, it has been the place where I met my best friends and the place where I have become myself.

During my time in Pipe Dream, I’ve learned that once you print a newspaper, you can’t take it back. You can print a correction and you can change the online version, but the paper has already gone into the world. Life is kind of like that, too — you can’t go back, but there’s always tomorrow. You never know what you’ll get to read next — you have to pick up the paper and see it for yourself.

To my parents: Mom, you said you’d get me through it, and you did. Dad, thank you for coming to get me in Amherst and for always letting me come home when I need to.

To Lily, Kenneth, Phoebe and Paul: Thank you for being my best friends and for teaching me how to give and receive love.

To Hannah, Lauren, Amy, Shauna, Tori, Jill and all of my other “littles”: Thank you for letting me baby you, hug you and cry on your shoulders and thank you for teaching me how to open up.

To Molly: You’re the OG homie and a finsta genius.

To Rachel and Kara: Thank you for standing by me always, even when I did something wrong. Your unconditional support is priceless and you two inspire me.

To Katy and Nikki: You girls are so smart and so capable and I cannot wait to see what you do next year.

To Emily, Bridget and the rest of next year’s staff: Never forget how important your voices are. Use them for good and take risks.

To Odeya: Thank you for being the best editor, big and friend I could have imagined. I don’t know what I’d do without you.

To Noah: You’re the smartest, kindest and most thoughtful person I know — you’re my person. I’m so excited to show everyone last year’s Basketball Issue when you win your first Pulitzer (yes, I saved it).

And, to Pipe Dream: You’ve been my best friend and my worst enemy, but I’ll miss staying up late, getting ink all over my hands and crying and laughing (usually at the same time) in the office. Thank you for introducing me to the best people I’ve ever met and giving me the best years of my life — so far.

Georgia Westbrook is the arts & culture editor. She was an assistant arts & culture editor from 2016-17.