For the last two years, my friends and I have lived in a grey house on the West Side. It’s got a porch with Edison bulbs overhead and a rose bush out front. The walls of my room are painted mint green, and there’s a window overlooking the street. The past two years, I’ve spent countless moody nights gazing out the window and watching Leroy Street down below.

I spend a considerable amount of my time daydreaming, people watching, observing and contemplating. I reset by going for walks, journaling in coffee shops while watching people come and go. I sit on park benches with a book and disappear into the crowd. I gain satisfaction from small things. Smiles from strangers and the lilacs blooming at Confluence Park. I can’t help but be overcome with childlike joy and wonder by the stars on a clear night. Four years ago, I came to college nervous about everything I did and painfully concerned with what others thought of me. I defined myself with the words that came out of other people’s mouths. If someone I barely knew called me smart, then I believed it. If they called me pretty, then I was pretty. If someone said I was too emotional, I’d make an effort to appear expressionless and steely. I had very little understanding of myself beyond other people’s definitions of me.

In all honesty, the last four years have presented me with some of the toughest challenges I have ever faced. Having experienced interpersonal violence, I quickly lost grip of my sense of self. The teenage spunk I carried into freshman year was shattered. I turned my back on the things I loved. I stopped dancing, worried about how my talent would compare to those around me. I stopped picking wildflowers and waking up for the sunrise.

In yoga and meditation, we often use descriptive imagery of calming scenes, locations and experiences to bring peace to our bodies and minds. I frequently refer to descriptive images from my journal and personal life when I lead meditations. Even though the scenes are imagined and will never materialize no matter how much we try to manifest it, simply activating our imagination the same way we did when we were kids has the power to uplift us and make us comfortable in our own bodies again — something survivors often struggle with.

Through the pandemic, I resorted to simple pleasures all over again to find excitement and joy. As I acclimated to life during COVID-19, I found myself slowly beginning to heal. Sitting on a city bench and imagining the lives of the people that go by, or standing barefoot on damp grass with the sunlight on my face, simplified life even for just a moment. Those small moments allowing my imagination to overtake my mind had significant healing power for me. I slowed down my thoughts and learned to live my life moment to moment. I impressed myself with emotional and mental strength and independence I never knew I was capable of. I learned to embrace myself as I am: a sensitive and curious person, who frequently gets lost in their own thoughts and loves to dance in their kitchen late at night.

When I graduated high school, I made a promise to myself to never lose touch of my inner child or the smile on my face. I even wrote it in my high school yearbook. Four years later, I can proudly say I’ve done well on that promise. As I continue into post-grad life, I look forward to more nights spent gazing up at the stars and more bouquets of stolen flowers on my nightstand. I know I will continue nurturing and healing my heart and mind as I continue to grow and learn.

Neel: Thank you for being my best friend since day one. When we were younger, I looked up to you in every single way. I wanted to do everything you did, be just as smart as you, just as witty, just as cool. I wanted to light up rooms the way you do. The past four years, living farther than just a train ride away from you, I’ve had the opportunity to grow into my own person using the stepping stones you laid for me. As I grew up, you have progressed beyond merely an older brother to a guardian and friend. Through every heartbreak, you were my shoulder to cry on. For every accomplishment and milestone, you were the first to know. As I begin work at Paramount this summer, it is in no small part due to your constant support and guidance. Thank you for giving me the confidence to believe in myself, respect my own intelligence and inspiring me to pursue a career as a woman in finance. I can’t wait to be back in the city with you as I embark on my next chapter. Thank you for being the best big brother ever. I hope I made you proud.

Lakhsmi: Working alongside you has been a blessing. I have immense respect for you as an outspoken, intelligent and highly talented leader. Even on your hardest days you never failed to bring a smile to my face. I admire your work ethic and the passion you pour into everything you do. If anyone is going to fly high, it will be you.

Makoto: I don’t know if I would have made it through Binghamton without you. I will miss our late nights at Bartle, chaotic State Street outings and the hours passed at our kitchen table in endless conversations. You’ve experienced me at my best and worst. You’ve made me laugh to the point of stomach cramps, and you just as easily cooked me up food to make it through the rough nights and tears. You radiate beauty both inside and out and have been nothing short of an amazing friend. I love you so much.

Sam, Jamie and Eli: All three of you are such characters in your own way, and I love you for it. You joined our team and matched our energy, making production something I enjoyed going to. The Arts & Culture team truly felt like a team this year. Getting to watch you guys blossom as writers, people and leaders has been my favorite experience on Pipe Dream. I have no doubt that the Arts section will be in good hands. I am so proud of each of you and cannot wait to see how you continue to grow. If you ever find yourself in the city, you know you can hit me up.

To my writers: You were the best team I could ever ask for. Each of you displayed your talents brilliantly and never failed to amaze me with your writing skills. Thank you for letting me know which album drops were valid and which movies were worth watching. You guys were the highlight of my Mondays. It was a pleasure getting to know you all and being your editor.

Krishna Patel is a senior majoring in economics and was assistant Arts & Culture editor from 2020-2022.