The Most Disorganized Catalogue

Name: Miriam Grossman

Year: Class of 2013

Hometown: West Orange, NJ

Intended Program of Study: Writing Seminars


I’ll be honest. At this point—even after the requisite purchase of Hopkins bumper stickers and sweatshirts and t-shirts, the health insurance forms filled out, the classes (German 101, 4.5 credits, 4 days a week, and—I’m already picturing this—trudging to class at 9 am) registered for, I have no idea how to feel about the fact that I’ll be rooted in Baltimore come August 29th. I sit and wait and try to carefully peel the surface off of my feelings. (The surface is composed of pure Miriam1 anxiety, in case you were wondering). I find it’s impossible to continue. I stare around blankly.

It probably isn’t the most helpful reaction to college anxiety, but here is what I do: I shuffle through The Catalogue that sits in my brain. (Now that the days are rapidly melting off July, I go through the catalogue at least three times today. Preferably with meals).

The Catalogue: A.k.a what Friends and Acquaintances and Parents’ Friends and Teachers and Near-Strangers and Those Awkward Semi-Strangers,  (e.g. your brothers’ friends’ parents) and Just Plain Random Strangers have to say about Hopkins.

I just hope you won’t study so much that you’ll forget to eat. Really, Miriam. You need to remember to add variety into your diet. I think it’s great that the dining dollars apply to places outside the cafeteria. Don’t worry, though, it’s just a train ride away—and I’ll appear on your doorstep to bring you shopping bags of frozen soups and baked goods from whole foods all the time!

response #1: Did you know that lacrosse originated as a native American game? Villages would play against each other, it would go on for weeks, and team members were killed in the process all the time.

response #2: Go Blue Jays!

If you don’t visit me, alone at home with mom and dad, I will probably have to kill you.

There isn’t as much partying as in Wisconsin…or as much cheese…

— Clearly my family is concerned. Clearly I have a very Jewish mother. I can’t dispute the accuracy of any of these statements, especially David’s (my brother)… and I’m trusting my dad on point #1. Which I did find mildly interesting.

Pre calc teacher of junior year (genuinely disturbed):
Johns Hopkins! Miriam, how have you done so well for yourself without taking AP Calculus with me?!?

Sister: Yo, Baltimore’s where “Ace of Cakes” is filmed. I will be visiting you even more often.

Random Stranger #1: That’s great! So what kind of doctor are you going to be?

Random Stranger #2: John! HopKIN! Wow!

— Seriously, I think I might soon pretend I’ve been dreaming of being to be a neurologist, not an author, since the womb. I bet I could whip out a scalpel from my purse and they’d be totally sold.

Others continued:
Random Stranger #3:
Baltimore?? You look like a small girl. Will you be able to avoid the street violence?

Countless teachers/parents’ friends/random neighbors: Oh, my mom/dad/sister/aunt/great-aunt’s son’s cat’s walkers’ owner’s child went to medical school there!


I finish flipping through.

So okay, peel back the layer of anxiety and I’m still nervous. Not about what vegetarian foods I’ll consume in the dining hall (Mom) or whether I’ll paint my previously unathletic face black  and blue for a lacrosse game (Dad). Not about the “dangers” of the city. Not about the fact that apparently random strangers will mistake me for surgeons for the rest of my life.

I’m nervous and excited, I guess, about the big and small things. I’m nervous about being a writing major in a school that’s world-renowned for it; I’m nervous that I’ll be wedged in tiny classrooms with lots of glasses-wearing intellectuals who write serious stories about serious philosophical things. I’m nervous that the act of majoring in writing could swallow up the spontaneity of it or prove once and for all I’m not actually meant to be a writer. I’m nervous about losing my way on campus in the second semester (I have a horrible sense of direction) or having to ask people where the library is.

I’ll even miss the tiny annoying things. It’ll be weird that my Dad won’t tell me, quite cheerfully “Knock ‘em dead!” when I’m walking out the door to take an AP Latin exam or the SATS or a challenging Chemistry final. It’ll be weird that my sister won’t sidetrack me from studying with chocolate-covered popcorn and the House finale on TV. It’ll be weird when random dishes of food (slices of cake, peanut butter crackers, etc) don’t appear on my desk at random intervals throughout the day (thanks mom!) It’ll be weird, of course, not seeing my friends every day: not laughing about the neon sign I pass everyday: it now reads “Burge” (as opposed to Burger King). My friends and I have included this word into our personal dictionaries (he/she/it burges, burge, burgee: One who attempts an extremely awkward social manuever at  a large party).

There are so many details. So many details of my life now: irreversibly written into my makeup, the quirks that make my life unique and comfortable. Going to college strips me of all of that. And I guess the lack of knowledge makes it difficult to think about the fact that I’ll be in college in a year, or corroborate any of abovementioned peoples’ opinions with my own. Or find my emotions at a time when everyone’s so excited. But I guess that’s the point of college: it fills in those myriad details that you’d taken for granted,  and by that you begin to learn.  And build new details, even the ones you did not expect.

Though I still doubt that an encounter between myself and a scalpel is all that likely.


The last page of the catalogue reads itself, warbling from the wrinkled lips of my four-foot-eleven (five feet, she rounds) grandmother as she sits at our Shabbat table, looking at me past her deep eye wrinkles and puffy cloud of blonde hair with an assured, grinning smirk on her face.

You’re my granddaughter!  Of course you’ll do wonderful! I’ll be your publicist when you’re famous.


When it comes down to it, I guess it’s always good to save a detail to laugh about next year.

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One Comment

  1. Miriam, this blog entry made me smile the whole time. Great job. The random stranger remarks are my favorite, and is there any way I can hire your grandmother to be my publicist. Enjoy the start of your JHU experience.

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