I think I speak for a lot of people when I say this: this past year has been the worst year of my life.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a paradigm shift in just about every fundamental understanding of how we live. The virus infected and killed millions of people worldwide, shut down businesses, schools and attractions and isolated everyone from their friends, family and loved ones. Though an end to this horror show seems to be in sight, nothing will make up for the traumatic experiences everyone has endured this past year.

For me, the pandemic revealed how I treated myself in regards to my own physical and mental health. On top of this, I was in an unstable home for the fall semester without any solid internet, hot water, proper kitchen supplies or laundry machines. I had lost some personal relationships as well, and for the cherry on top, I contracted COVID-19. I was going through all of this hardship while being Pipe Dream’s Editor-in-Chief.

This is not a pity party, but becoming Editor-in-Chief seemed like a pipe dream — no pun intended — to me when I first joined the organization in fall 2018. As someone who had no prior leadership experience, I joined Pipe Dream with the intention of doing something with my time at Binghamton University. I had never shown interest in journalism before, but given my history and English double-major background and my love for reading and writing, I felt it was the best choice for me. I joined the News section and was immediately intimidated by the formalities of editing, AP style, beats and the fact that your article would be printed and posted online with your name forever. Though I was intimidated at first, I grew to appreciate how much work was put into every single production, and why Pipe Dream was so special to the campus community.

That intrigue compelled me to become a News intern and later, an assistant News editor. At this point, I became a production staff member, witnessing every moment of production as it happened. From editing news stories at my desk, to seeing the copy desk check and proofread, to witnessing the Editor-in-Chief give the final approval, my mind was blown. However, as an assistant editor, there was quite a lot of downtime. The interest I had in the Pipe Dream process began to die down as I would find myself sitting in the office for hours doing nothing. Yes, it was still cool to see everyone hard at work, but it would make me question if I was doing enough in my capacity as an assistant editor. I doubted my skills so much at this point that I decided I would leave Pipe Dream at the end of my junior year.

Then, COVID-19 struck.

Every day was a different story or explanation. Some would say this pandemic would last only a few weeks, and we’d get back to school shortly. Some would say this pandemic was a farce and that school would open again in a matter of days. The uncertainty of the situation drove me crazy.

At this point, Pipe Dream had moved online, publishing articles once a week. Though it made my dissatisfaction with the assistant position worse, it reinvigorated the reason why I joined the organization in the first place. In the face of uncertainty, Pipe Dream staff adjusted flawlessly as everyone took initiative with their respective sections and adapted to the new, unfamiliar production format. It was at this moment I knew I wanted to become a greater part of Pipe Dream by running for Editor-in-Chief.

I won the election and immediately began training for the position. However, nothing could prepare me for what this year reaped. There were sleepless nights, numerous staff changes, countless emails and anxiety over finances, on top of balancing my own sanity through personal hardships. The question remains — would I do it all again?

Yes, I would.

Thinking about this whirlwind of a year in reflection makes me remember when I jumped from at least 40 feet into a lake last semester. I was staring into a cloud of uncertainty from a height that I had never jumped from. But when I mustered the courage to make that leap, I felt an adrenaline rush I had never felt before. Though Pipe Dream did not give me such an adrenaline rush, it gave me the confidence that I can do anything.

To those anxious or self-conscious about their abilities and ambitions that seem unattainable, make that leap. Apply for that internship you’re unsure you’ll earn, ask that professor for a letter of recommendation, shoot your shot with the person of your dreams. I don’t think I need to quote Wayne Gretzky, but you get the idea.

Yes, COVID-19 sucked and distanced everyone from each other, but I realized over the course of the year that you can’t let things out of your control bog you down. There were moments where I doubted myself and nearly gave up, but I would again remind myself of that leap I made a year ago. The unknown is scary, but once you unapologetically immerse yourself in it with motivation and determination, you will succeed. You will continue to make more leaps and once you do, you will achieve anything.

Being Pipe Dream’s Editor-in-Chief has been the utmost honor, privilege and challenge of my college career. While it certainly stressed me out at times, I came out as a more confident, more daring and more ambitious individual. My time at BU isn’t quite over, because I will be attending graduate school here, but as hard as closing this chapter is, I feel prepared to face anything now.

Before signing off, there are quite a few people I would like to thank for their support over the past few years.

Mom, Dad, Anthony and Tommy — Thank you for being the most amazing and supportive family I could’ve ever asked for. I know I may stress you all out from time to time, but knowing you always had my back no matter what is something that I will be eternally grateful for. I love you all so much.

Sasha — From training me as a News intern to training me for Editor-in-Chief, I cannot thank you enough for being my mentor in Pipe Dream. You inspired me to hone my skills as a journalist, and judging from how far you already have come in your career goals, I am glad I had the best mentor to guide me.

Nicole, Gillian, Jackson and Hamza — My News babies! I felt like a proud parent seeing you all take on the News section this year. It feels like just yesterday when you all sat around me, Jake, Val and Leora learning how to edit articles. Thank you for all your work this year!

Sid — I don’t know how we’ve only known each other for four years, but I am very glad I had you as an amazing friend and as my Photo editor. It feels like we’ve had a lifetime of amazing and hilarious experiences together, especially when we lived in a spider-infested basement apartment. Thank you for always being there for me, and I cannot wait to come to the city and annoy you this summer.

Olivia and Julia — Growing up with two brothers, I never thought I would have two sisters. I am so glad that I do now. Thank you both for being so awesome and supportive of everything I’ve done.

Brendan — We’ve come a long way since we played soccer together in middle school, and the fact that we coincidentally went to the same college years later was a blessing in disguise. Thank you for the late-night conversations, the drunken escapades and the anime binge marathons. You and I are gonna conquer the world together, and I am glad to call you the Eren Yeager to my Zeke Yeager.

Jake, Val and Leora — The News team dream team. You guys made production so fun when I was a wee assistant News editor. I’ll never forget the pains of doing briefs and writing down Jake’s quotes of the day on our whiteboard for the whole office to see. Thank you all for making my first year on staff enjoyable.

Ciara and Sarah — Pipe Dream’s soon-to-be queens! You both are incredibly talented, determined and hard-working, so I have no doubt in my mind that you will accomplish great things next year as Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor. It’s hard work, believe me, but I am excited to see what you both will accomplish, and I am confident you’ll do anything you set your minds to.

Ariel — My god, what would I have done without you this year? You were the best co-captain, “rock” and Managing Editor I could have ever asked for. From feeding me Russian food, to driving me everywhere when I was a nomad, to sitting in the office for hours sorting through archives, you helped me out so much this year, and I am glad to call you one of my closest friends. I look forward to visiting you in Colorado soon, and thank you for everything you’ve done this year as the “mother” of Pipe Dream.

To my incredible, hard-working staff — This year was tough, and not being in the office together was sad. However, I am so proud of each and every one of you for your commitment to Pipe Dream this year. Doing everything through Slack and Zoom was difficult, but you all managed to pull through and produce some damn good content. From the few amazingly fun moments we did share together in person this year, I am confident you will all go so far in your careers and be an inspiration to many. I extend this appreciation to all of Pipe Dream’s contributors who really stepped up this year to push the paper forward. Thank you for letting me be your leader, and I am really proud to say this was the best staff I’ve ever seen.

To everyone in Delta Sig — Thank you for giving me a home these past few years and some incredible memories I will never forget. I am thankful that I inspired some of you to get involved with Pipe Dream!

Finally, to everyone who has read Pipe Dream this year — Thank you so much. You are the voices of the University, and I hope we amplified that. We weren’t perfect, but I thank each and every one of you who read, praised or criticized us. It is because of you that this job gave this staff and me so much meaning.

As this chapter in my life comes to a close, I am back at that ledge more confident and experienced than ever before.

I am ready and proud to take that next big leap.

Jeremy Rubino is a senior double-majoring in history and English and is Editor-in-Chief. He was assistant News editor from 2019-2020.