Ever since I was young, I’ve always had this tendency to conflate the trajectory of my life to that of a book or a movie. In my mind, everything would always have to fit into a beginning, middle and perfect, sensical, satisfying ending. The idealized pursuit of that ending, however, often came at the price of stressing myself out about literally everything.

For most of my life, college was that ideological, satisfying end I was trying to reach. In my teenaged mind, everything led to college — every test I took, essay I wrote, extracurricular I took on and Friday night spent in would get me to this ideal-world, amazing, wonderful, exciting college. Obviously, this goal was likely something that I was conditioned to anticipate from years of school and my family telling me how it should be, but it was a big motif for my high-school self, however nerdy or obnoxious that may sound. After that, it would just be the next book in the series, with a clear-cut beginning, plot development and the end goal of graduation, and then onto the next book. Even if it meant I was anxious and stressed all the time, it would lead to a result that had to pay off.

Then, I got to college. I reached the goal that stuck in my mind for 18 years, and I didn’t feel all that much different. There was no triumphant novel ending — life just went on. Things were fun, and I enjoyed this new environment, but I had absolutely no idea where to go next. I didn’t know what I wanted to do — like, at all. And not having an end goal in sight for the first time in my life freaked me out. And I wasn’t stressed out all the time — did that mean I was slacking or falling behind?

I know that sounds incredibly basic — who doesn’t change in college? Who doesn’t need to spend that time figuring themselves out or confronting what it’s like to not know what you’re doing?

But, for me, learning to be OK with going with the flow and to not place my self-worth in having everything planned out was big. To see that there’s more to life than school and studying and obnoxiously attempting to overachieve, and to disassociate stress as a necessary component of success, was a really important lesson for me. To prioritize time for myself sometimes, to allow myself a break from working and to spend time with friends were things I needed to understand as necessary balance, not just privileges to be earned. Taking the chance to enroll in classes and join activities I genuinely liked without the sole motivating factor of my life’s next steps has allowed me to actually discover the things I love to do without the goal of a definite ending clouding my every thought and motive.

Though I may have gotten one of the most common trajectories of change for a college student, learning to become a more independent and comfortable version of myself had a truly profound effect on me and my own self-image. Prior to college, I not only was tightly wound about my academics and dead-set on my concrete view of life, but I often tried to seem as invisible as possible. I felt I needed to walk on eggshells, make myself unnoticeable in social situations, overthink each one of my words.

One activity that helped me to grow through doing what I loved was Pipe Dream. And somehow, I managed to work my way from a Copy Desk contributor to the Editor-in-Chief.

I never thought I would be here, either. My freshman year, for some weird reason, I was absolutely determined to not join Pipe Dream. And then, I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday, I was sitting in the Pipe Dream office, training to become the next Copy Desk Chief, looking at the Editor-in-Chief at the time, and thinking how crazy it would be if I ended up in the same role. Two and a half years later, I am writing my senior column, crying, heading into the last production night of my Pipe Dream career, about to pass the torch.

Pipe Dream taught me so much, both about myself and the world around me — being a part of this wonderful organization as its Editor-in-Chief changed me in so many ways. Pipe Dream helped me to find my voice, feel a sense of purpose and learn to stand up for myself and the people and things that matter to me. I no longer fear cracking those eggshells or feel the need to become invisible in a room. I’ve learned how to assert myself when necessary, be proud of myself without feeling indulgent, not be embarrassed by every word I say and feel more confident in who I am. Though we are just a student-run newspaper staffed by roughly 30 people and a few more writers — something people like to say is “apparent” when they don’t like what we report — Pipe Dream occupies an important place at this University and in our community. With each member pouring hours into this paper each week, it is astounding what this group of students has been able to accomplish. And I am so happy I got to be a part of it.

Of course, I haven’t learned everything yet. And, of course, Pipe Dream was generally not all sunshine and rainbows — those sleepless nights and stressful crises were really difficult, especially with a website in constant disarray as my personal enemy, and I was far from perfect as an Editor-in-Chief. I am still an unorganized person, and I’m still a little tightly wound about academics. I cannot plan ahead for the life of me, and my procrastination-perfectionism cycle has not been improved. In fact, I still have no new perfect novel ending in mind for the conclusion of college. I’m graduating summa cum laude with departmental honors in English, having completed a run as Editor-in-Chief, an honors thesis and long-form research paper in one year — a not-so-subtle brag — but I have no clue where I’m going to be after graduation. And honestly, I’m quite OK with that, and can’t wait for what comes next, whatever that may be.

To Professors Jessie Reeder, Diana Gildea, Leigh Ann Wheeler, Stephen Ortiz, Wendy Stewart and Amanda Licht, thank you all for the support you provided me along the way. Whether you advised me or taught me or were just there when I needed to talk throughout these four years, I cannot thank you enough for everything you’ve done for me. You have all pushed me to new levels and believed in me even when I doubted myself, and I will carry that with me for the rest of my post-college life.

To all of this year’s Pipe Dream staff and contributors, thank you for giving me the honor of being your Editor-in-Chief and for making it an absolute pleasure. I am so proud of everything you’ve all accomplished, functioning at a professional level of journalism while balancing the responsibilities of being students. You are all amazing!

Jenna and Alexis, I am so proud of the incredible job you did with Copy — I could not have picked a better team to run the section and uphold the rule of the singular “toward.” You two will be sorely missed in the Pipe Dream office next year, but I know you will do fantastic things now and going forward.

Kate, Lakhsmi and Joe, there is no one I would rather spend Editorial meetings brainstorming and laughing with. You are all so brilliant and kind, and I am so glad we became friends over the course of this year — I love you all!

To Hamza and Harry, I know that Pipe Dream is in safe hands with you. You are both such talented, intelligent individuals with so many exciting ideas for the future. I’ve loved getting to know you and seeing you grow into the people you are now — and I can’t wait to see where you take this next.

To Mom, Dad, Tommy and Meghan, thank you for always supporting and cheering me on — even in my neuroticism and constant soapbox rants. I am so lucky to have such a wonderful family. I would not be where I am now without you all, encouraging me to remember how to laugh at myself and uplifting me when I start talking myself out of trying something new. I love you guys!

To Matt, Sarah, Hanna and Kayla, thank you all for being the best roommates ever! From our hungover breakfast table recaps to The Game, I’m so glad we got to spend this year together.

To Nicole, thank you for being such a wonderful friend in my life. From debate class (where we obviously deserved to win) to sitting in your U Club Binghamton apartment at 2 a.m. with Nirchi’s Pizza to keeping me sane through online production last year, it feels like we’ve known each other forever. I am forever grateful that you’ve become one of my closest friends — I know you are going to excel in every single one of your future endeavors.

To Laine, thank you for pursuing a friendship with the quiet girl in the backseat on the way to a debate tournament. You are one of my best friends, and I will always cherish our “Avatar” wine nights, gross conversations at Manni’s Donuts and random FaceTime calls. You will absolutely kill it in law school — never forget how truly smart and amazing you are.

To Sarah, thank you for being my roommate, quarantine little sibling, partner-in-crime at Pipe Dream and best friend. You are so artistically gifted, funny, kind, smart and an incredible friend. My senior year would not have been the same without our late-night tea sessions, telepathic conversations, Chipotle runs or TikTok spams. I am so grateful I girl-flirted with you on Slack all last year — who knew that I would be meeting my best friend? I know you are going to do amazing things in the future, and I may even start following baseball just to keep up with your awesome graphic design work!

To Matt, words cannot express how much of a blessing it was that I met you. You’ve seen me at my worst, at my best and everything in between, and have made me feel more loved and cared than I could have ever imagined all the time. You always have the right words to say when I’m feeling down, and we always have the best time together, now and for the last four years. I would not be who or where I am now without you. Thank you for everything — I love you so much.

Lastly, because the “About” tab on this website was never updated, I want to use the last piece I write for Pipe Dream as an opportunity to name and credit Pipe Dream’s incredible staff for the 2021-2022 year. Thank you all for being amazing.

Editor-in-Chief: Ciara Lavin, ’22

Managing Editor: Sarah Teper, ’22

News Editor: Hamza Khan, ‘23

News Assistants: Mark Kotowicz, ’23, Kaitlyn Hart, ’22, Melissa Cosovic, ’23

Arts & Culture Editor: Lakhsmi Chatterjee, ’22

Arts & Culture Assistants: Makoto Toyoda, ’22, Krishna Patel, ’22

Sports Editor: Joe Tonetti, ’22

Sports Assistants: Ian Mills, ’23, Jack Oh, ’23

Opinions Editor: Kaitlyn Liu, ’22

Opinions Assistants: Doris Turkel, ’24, Willa Scolari, ’22

Copy Desk Chief: Alexis Yang, ’24

Assistant Copy Desk Chief: Jenna Mirchin, ’23

Photo Editor: Harry Karpen, ’23

Assistant Photo Editor: Michael Golann, ’23

Fun Editor: Gigi Mitchell, ’24

Assistant Fun Editor: Marty Dolan, ’23

Design Manager: Alvaro Gonzalez Reynaud, ’22

Assistant Design Manager: Zachary Hiller, ’22

Business Manager: Hunter Seaver, ’23

Tech Manager: Chris McBorrough, ’22

Assistant Tech Manager: Steven Yeung, ’23

Digital Editors: Kim Gonzalez, ’22, Kevin Cox, ‘22

Ciara Lavin is a senior double-majoring in English and political science and is Editor-in-Chief. She was previously Copy Desk Chief from 2020-2021.