Category: Freshman Blog Contest

The Bluejay That Almost Wasn’t

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Name: Catherine Orlando

Year: Class of 2018

Hometown: Harrison, NY

Intended Path of Study: Neuroscience

The Bluejay That Almost Wasn’t

“I’m really starting to worry that you won’t fit.”

This one-liner has been playing on repeat on my house since the first college item was purchased. First, the implication is not that all of my worldly possessions won’t fit, it’s that me, my person, won’t fit. Second, the first item was a 3.5″ x 4″ wallet, so I’m not exactly sure why this item in particular had my family so worried about my ‘fit.’

Clearly I can fit into small spaces with adequate food and water for survival.

Clearly I can fit into small spaces with adequate food and water for survival.

These jokes led to seriously real closet clean outs. The first to go? Tee shirts from other college campuses. I mean why keep them? Going to the dream school, there will be plenty of tee shirts there, why keep a shirt from a school I didn’t even like all that much? But I stumble upon a few, from college road trips, that remind me of one thing:

Hopkins is the school that almost wasn’t.

Now, I know what you’re thinking–Catie found a shirt from Yale and well, Yale was her first choice Hopkins was her second, Yale denied her and Hopkins didn’t. Nope. Or, Catie found a shirt from Stanford and thought about what a tough decision it was after they both accepted her. Incorrect (I did not even apply to Stanford, for the record). Or maybe, she found a Duke sweatshirt and well–regardless, none of these things happened. I like to think that my story is much more humorous (in retrospect at least) and slightly less commonplace.

University of Pennsylvania. You go on a tour their and the guides wear microphones  on their jacket lapels because it’s an Ivy and every tour is jam packed, and they babble about that toast story—actually a good one if you haven’t heard it, but not my story, you won’t hear it here. My parents always pushed me towards the front of the crowd, “you’re young! Hustle to the front and tell us all that you hear,” so of course I was doing that on the 12th (12th?) college trip on a 2 week spring break. Fun vacation, right?

I get a call from my father (here, for a time, it gets moderately not so funny, but bear with me) “come back,” he says, “I’m sick.” I’m baffled. Sick? I turn and I walk back 100, 200 yards, I find him on a bench, and my mother at the famed blue light system. I go to her first. She’s frantic. “My husband needs an ambulance, he’s having a heart attack,” of course this is all news to me, but I’m moderately okay at this point, people survive heart attacks all the time, and more importantly the blue light system will pull us through! (Keep in mind, I was going on two weeks of daily preaching of the glory of the blue light system).

I go to him. He’s calm, “I’m really fine.” Well now.

What happens next is funny (not funny then, funny now, only in retrospect).  It’s been five minutes, the blue light has honestly failed us (if I were dying, I’d be dead!) and a security guard saunters out of a building, students are watching, I hate being a spectacle. “You need an ambulance?” The degree to which this guy was probably naturally aloof wasn’t helping him, because my mother, as I mentioned, was frantic, and he was not cutting it. “A truck is coming.”

A truck!

We turn, and there in the middle of UPenn’s quad is a fire truck, my dad’s name on it. Three firemen, again aloof, no sense of urgency, come on out, defibrillator in hand, and walk our way.

Aerial view oriented diagram of exactly what happened to us and where the truck was.

Aerial view oriented diagram of exactly what happened to us and where the truck was.

I’m pacing, I’m nervous, they’re making jokes. “You’re having a heart attack because your daughter’s going to college.” “You’re having a heart attack because you saw the bill!” “You’re having a heart attack because the Rangers can’t beat the Flyers this year!” (We are big New York Rangers fans). I was appalled, horrified, and only moderately amused.

Long story short, a day in the hospital to find there was no heart attack, maybe an arrhythmia, eliminated any chance of getting to Hopkins the next day, our last school to visit on spring break. And so we forgot Hopkins for some time.

August in New York isn’t hot, it’s encasing—it’s like walking through syrup every time you step outside. And it was only in this August heat that Johns Hopkins was remembered for the first time since my father’s heart ‘episode.’

Here I am, walking through syrup (not exactly what I meant earlier).

Here I am, walking through syrup (not exactly what I meant earlier).

Now when you’re applying to school you have parents and a counselor and teachers and friends and tutors all with opinions, so when the subject of Hopkins was breached with my dear college counselor, she sternly objected to it. “You need three SAT2s and you’ve only taken one and you’ve only studied for a second. You can’t apply there, don’t bother visiting.”

And just like that, my entire future could’ve been different. But I thought this was odd, it wasn’t one of he the schools well known for needing three subject tests, so we called admissions. “Oh no, you don’t need three, three is the maximum! Kids used to submit too many.”

So. Now arose a different problem, a crisis of self-esteem if you will. How can I possibly get into a school where kids are submitting ten SAT2s and I can barely take two? Why bother visiting when I won’t get in?

I have now, at this point in the story, my mother to thank for pushing the visit. We went, we loved it–everyone was nice; they all loved science and goofy anecdotes as much as I did and the general college details (urban setting, mid-size, etc.) were all right! And I decided I would ED to Cornell.

PLOT TWIST.

Not what any of you were expecting right? I know, I’m a loose canon. Gotta keep y’all on your toes.

So Cornell. I’d only visited a year before, and decided on a whim, really, and then I was set. I was all Cornell all the time. I wrote my supplement in a day, we visited again, I did research upon research. I was ready to be part of the Big Red.

But Hopkins was always there, in the back of my mind (an unscratchable itch, if you will). I still went to info sessions nearby (you have to show interest!) and at one point I found myself praying I would get denied by Cornell in ED, just so I could apply to JHU regular decision. Maybe a week before November 8th (not November 1st—the common app caused delays, remember?) everything changed at an information session in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Midway through I began reworking my Cornell supp, to see if it could answer Hopkins’ question. I started doing necessary research to add to my essay, I had an essay, and then I turned to my parents and said, “I have a better essay, it’s not for Cornell.”

And we were whisked into action and changing things and changing mentalities and being sure and what a midnight decision this was and was I sure I was so gung-ho on Cornell I’ve only see Hopkins once and we have to get an interview even if it’s after the application deadline then you can see it twice and…

On the morning of December 13th, 2013 (Friday the 13th, thanks, admissions for that extra dose of panic) I received an email from a Hopkins alumnus requesting an interview with me. I showed it to my parents and thought that it must’ve meant I wasn’t in (now I don’t really know why this was the logical conclusion but I thought it was a sign for sure).

Now, I don’t need to describe in full detail getting in and flailing and falling over and crying (I’m a spaz, picture a gangly spaz doing spazzy things while crying) because, well, y’all already know I’m in! There’s no plot twist at the end of this blog post, and you know the ending of the story before it begins.

But what you still don’t know is what I found hiding in my closet that reminded me of how close I came to not being a part of the JHU class of 2018. And I find, out of all the college paraphernalia, the UPenn shirt the most difficult to part with, as it is the beginning of my Hopkins story, the beginning of my Hopkins adventure, and very nearly the end. Ironic that a memento of the first place where the universe conspired against my going to Johns Hopkins, is found as I pack for my future in Baltimore.

The beginning and the end (I did eventually pick up some Hopkins gear as well–go Bluejays!).

The beginning and the end (I did eventually pick up some Hopkins gear as well–go Bluejays!).

Hello, my name is…

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Name: Huixin Liu

Year: Class of 2018

Hometown: Sugar Land, TX

Intended Path of Study: International Studies

Hello, my name is…

When I got my college letters, I thought it would be the hardest choice of my life. Though I knew near from the outset that I wanted to be at Hopkins, I had to conquer a lot of doubt from my parents, my friends, and myself before I gathered the conviction to commit. When I finally submitted the form, I felt as if an immense weight composed of tense conversations and doubtful queries was ripped clear from my body. For the first time in an entire month, I felt at peace. I thought I had made the hardest decision ever in my life.

You know its official when your mother redecorates the alcove.

I was wrong. Names are so much harder.

I was born in Tianjin, China. My aunt was the one who found my name. She submitted my birth details to a certain agency that used my information to calculate the most appropriate name possible. They came up with two options, 刘博 (Liu Buo), and 刘惠昕 (Liu Huixin).

My parents chose the latter, simply because it sounded more feminine, and I’ve been Huixin ever since.

I was an adorable (and fat) baby.

Well, that’s not quite true. In China, I was 惠昕. It’s a rather pretty name, pronounced “Hwei-shin,” holding meaning about things like “kindness,” and “blessing.” It’s not overwhelmingly common, but it’s not strange, either. Not quite the American “Mary,” or “Jennifer,” but no “Apple,” either. It’s a good name.

When I immigrated to the States, I became Huixin. It’s just the pinyin of my Chinese name, but it didn’t stay just a simple romanization. After years of trying and years of being called multiple incorrect versions of one name I quit trying and began asking everyone to call me by the most popular mispronunciation, “Hickson.” Yes, it rhymes with Nixon. Yes, it’s also a rather amusing way to combine both President Jackson and his nickname, “Old Hickory,” into a convenient homage. Yeah, it’s not just a simple romanization, it’s a complete wrenching of sound and meaning.

Yet, I couldn’t let go of it.

My parents have made intermittent efforts to get me to consider changing my name, but I’ve always refused, to their consternation. I wasn’t making the popular choice. Very few of my Chinese friends have kept their Chinese names. I don’t know why they do it, and I do not have a desire to make any assumptions. I only know why I kept my name. I kept my name out of a sort of desire to keep part of myself, to remain true to my origins after moving to a place that changed my life, my habits, and my beliefs so thoroughly. I kept it as an homage, as proof of my past.

However, I’ve recently realized that my name and I are not doing each other justice.

I don’t deserve a name that runs like a jagged piece of glass through every introduction I experience. I don’t deserve to have to hear former President Nixon brought up constantly in conjunction with my name. And I certainly do not deserve the certain snide remarks of friends and authority figures alike wondering aloud to me about why I didn’t get a “normal, American,” name.

My name doesn’t deserve me, either. My name doesn’t deserve someone who actively masks and defaces it for the sake of convenience. My name doesn’t deserve someone who, at the start of every first roll call, rolls her eyes and responds with the wretched mispronunciation in a curt tone that suggests that her name is nothing more than a burden, an annoyance. My name, the name that means “kindness” and “blessing” underneath it all, certainly deserves kindness towards it too.

And this is why, after over a decade as Huixin, I’ve made the hardest decision of my life. I’m finally going to change the name that has followed me for so long through thick and thin, through all the highs and lows. I’m changing my name to give the both of us a chance to be better to ourselves, and to each other.

Unfortunately, this is an incomplete Extreme Makeover episode, and I have no final satisfying name-reveal complete with sparkles and heartfelt music. This is because I still haven’t figured out my new name.

There’s a lot of things to consider for my new name. It can’t be the name of a friend in my close friend circle, as it would be too jarring. It can’t be a name my parents cannot pronounce, as they’ll be introducing me as that in polite company for the rest of their lives. I really want it to start with an H, just so I have a connection. And really, at the end of the day, I just have to really be able to see myself in it. I now truly understand why there are so many baby name resources out there, as I certainly need all of them and several days of further discussion before I finally fall on the right name. But, you know what, I’m not scared!

I used to think that so much of my identity revolved around my name, around its story, around its difficulties. It doesn’t! Sure, my name is a part of my identity, and it has probably played more of a role in my life than names generally should be playing. However, I’ve realized that my name isn’t the end-all be-all foundation of my personality. I made “Hickson;” “Hickson” did not make me, and no matter what I end up calling myself at the end of the day, I’ll still just be me, only with less X’s.

So, if you see me on campus this fall, feel free to say hi. I’ll be more than ready to say back, “Hello, my name is…”

But don’t ask me right now, I have no clue.

The Secret Waitlist

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Name: Joanna Schneider

Year: Class of 2018

Hometown: Little Neck, NY

Intended Path of Study: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Vocal Performance

The Secret Waitlist

On May 16, 2014, at exactly 11:00AM, my phone buzzed once, but I didn’t hear it or feel it.

So maybe it didn’t actually happen.

I’ve always told people that I like to live in this “place of not knowing.” It reminds me of the phrase “out of sight, out of mind.” It’s like the old cliché, if a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it really make a sound? It’s even a bit similar to the theory of Schrödinger’s cat (but let’s not debate that one because a cat can’t be alive and dead at the same time). I just like the idea of possibilities, hoping for the best, and living in ignorant bliss for a little while. It can work for the college application process, the SAT, a risky text message awaiting response, you name it.

When I was possessed to check my phone during the change between 5th and 6th periods on May 16th, I didn’t know that I was living in that place of not knowing. I was really just looking for something to pass the time, so I swiped my finger down the e-mail application to update it, and with one glorious buzz that signified an incoming message, my life changed.

That sentence seems a bit melodramatic, but there’s a backstory, and it really did change my life.

Now before you jump to conclusions, I was not put on the wait list at Hopkins. On Friday, March 28, I woke up on the most harrowing day of my life with 20,000 other hopeful applicants, and my voice was 100% gone. Not only was this the day that Hopkins released its decision, but it was also the opening night of my school’s annual opera. I was completely unable to sing and I couldn’t voice my terror to anyone. The stress was so exhausting that I fell asleep on my friend’s couch after a half day at school, but not before setting an alarm for 2:58PM so I could get log on to the Johns Hopkins decision site at 3:00PM. I accidentally logged in a minute early, but instead of the error screen I was expecting, I saw the biggest, happiest, most perfect “Yes!”

Some variation of this face and dance combination was happening for hours.

I was filled to bursting and honestly did not think that life could get any better when I let out the strangest, most blood-curdling victory scream of my life. It signified the end of a horrible period of stress and sadness and loneliness to make way for joy and relief. That was also the moment that I realized my voice was back. I cried tears of joy with my two best friends and called my mother, my voice now hoarse from screaming. We exchanged happy tears and promptly told everybody we knew (which is only natural, as I quite possibly have the loudest family on the planet). Only a handful of teenagers across the country shared my Hopkins-induced happiness that day, and for that I could not have been more grateful.

Before you think that this all sounds like a fairytale ending, here’s where it gets interesting. I was not just waiting for a decision from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences or the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University — I was also waiting for my decision from Peabody Conservatory. I have been singing classical music — yes, opera — for almost ten years, and I’m one of those crazy kids who refused to decide between a life of music or academia, so I applied for the Double Degree program.

As if applying to college hadn’t already been hard enough.

On April 1st, I received an e-mail notifying me that I was accepted into Peabody Conservatory and another that promptly followed it, rejecting me from the program that would allow me to combine the two.

What.

I had been accepted to Homewood and Peabody, but I couldn’t do both. I hadn’t been expecting to get in to my two dream schools, but I also wasn’t expecting to get so close.

That was when I realized I had to make the choice for the first time in my life. I was lucky enough to attend an arts high school, where it was completely normal to fangirl over both Neil deGrasse Tyson and Neil Young. It’s been a balancing game between music and science for as long as I can remember and here was where it would abruptly end. It was entirely out of my hands, and in the end, I decided to accept my place on the Homewood campus.

Don’t get me wrong, I was ecstatic to be accepted into Hopkins in any capacity, but the thought of not singing in a choir every day and never having to learn how to pronounce the lied of a German art song again made me feel hollow. SOHOP, the beauty of the Homewood campus, and my music teachers were all reminders of the limitless possibilities that the future held. I was finally beginning to come to terms with my decision when May 16th rolled around.

Unassuming, insignificant little May 16th.

The subject line of the e-mail read “Acceptance to JHU Double Degree.” I tapped it with one shaky finger. The message was short and simple.molly1

It was too surreal to believe.

It was too surreal to believe.

I flew out of my math class, my friend Rachel following suit in mid-text with my friend Izzy, who appeared moments later. I ran a lap around the floor and collapsed in a stairwell to catch my breath. I ran back to class where my teacher was still setting up the projector to put on Mel Brooks’s “Young Frankenstein” like it was a normal day. My friend Jared turned to me to ask what happened.

Igor knew how I was feeling.

“I got accepted into the Double Degree Program,” I managed to squeak.

“What? Congrats! I didn’t know you were on a wait list!” he replied.

“I wasn’t.”

And it was the most wonderful reward after a month and a half of living in that place of not knowing (without knowing it).

Superstition, Biomedical Engineering, and America’s National Pastime

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Name: Tony Wang

Year: Class of 2018

Hometown: Toronto, Canada

Intended Path of Study: Biomedical Engineering

Superstition, Biomedical Engineering, and America’s National Pastime

On December 13th, I got admitted to Johns Hopkins University for biomedical engineering, my top choice program, and it was probably the happiest moment in my life so far. While most people only managed to witness me bursting into Chemistry class, out of breath, clenching my phone, or walking around the school with friends congratulating me on my acceptance, I want to share some of the thoughts I had while waiting for that one letter.

I love baseball. I’ve never played an actual game of baseball, nor do I watch or follow it religiously. The extent of my baseball prowess is the ability to throw a ball around with a couple of friends in the goose-poop-infested backfield of my school. However, I find it one of the most fascinating sports in the world. I think my affinity for baseball begins with the fact that the star major league hitters, the best of the best, only hit the ball about 33% of the time. Wait, I can sign million dollar contracts with billion dollar franchises just by hitting the ball a third of the time? If I only needed to make 33% of my free throws to become the face of an NBA franchise, I’d be the next Lebron James.

For those of you who might not be very familiar with baseball, the role of a batter is riddled with variables and uncertainty. Even when a batter crushes a ball that gets pitched at them, there’s still a chance that a fielder just happened to be right where the ball is heading. Likewise, even when a batter hits poorly, there’s still a chance of a fielding error and he’ll make it scot-free. Unless it’s a homerun, anything goes in baseball. And it’s precisely because of this unpredictable nature that baseball players are some of the most superstitious people in the world.

Almost all baseball players, pitchers and hitters, have some sort of ritual or routine that they follow. Some will wake up at a certain time, eat a certain meal, wear the same jock strap they did during the last winning game, tap their bat twice on both sides of the plate, etc. I submitted my application on November 8th and every night, for the next 35 days, I would recite to myself 3 times “I’m going to get in,” before going to bed. As I was letting all these thoughts swirl through my head, I would plan my decision day out, down to my very reaction if I got accepted. Walking home from the bus stop every day, I would also chant the same thing, pumping myself up and jumping up and down, much to the amusement of neighbors passing by. Lucky underwear became uniform for the next 5 weeks. Never in my life did I want something so bad, so I stayed diligent with my rituals.

Baseball players also believe in taboos, which are things that they would abstain from or avoid in order to prevent bad luck. Some refuse to eat certain foods, refrain from shaving, or avoid certain numbers or phrases. I remember as a kid, my parents and I were driving through a neighborhood that was populated mostly by Chinese immigrants. As we continued down the street, I noticed that there was no house number 4, 14, 24, or 34. In their place were house numbers 3A, 13A, 23A and 33A. I asked my parents why and they said it’s because the number 4 in Chinese is bad luck because it sounds like the word “death”. I scoffed at their ludicrous belief and immediately regretted it as I got lectured for the rest of the car ride. But during this period of weakness, what I considered absolutely baloney became an immutable law of nature.

I consider myself a man of science. I’m not easily swayed by ghosts or the supernatural, nor do I generally believe in superstition. However, everything that happened during this period became a sign of my impending fate. My first heart attack came when I received an email from Johns Hopkins saying that they would be releasing the decision on December 13thinstead of December 15th. Friday the 13th. To me, this was like hearing that they didn’t even receive my application. What chance do I possibly have at getting in now that the decision would come out on the unluckiest day ever?

I was also declined an interview due to no alumni being available to conduct one. Even though it says very clearly on their website that interviews are not mandatory and most people get accepted without one, this was as bad as a rejection. I eventually did some more research and found out that the interview was more of an extension of their tours, giving applicants a chance to learn more about Hopkins from an alumnus, which eased my pain a little. But deep down, there was still that doubt. I mean, how am I supposed to get accepted as a student when I’m not even worthy of a measly interview?

The morning of the decision release day, I had a dream where 3:00pm, came by but I didn’t check my decision because I was still in chemistry class. I would be trying my hardest to pay attention to the board, when I got a text message from my mom that read, “I’m so sorry Tony, you didn’t get in. It’s okay, I’m still proud of you.” I woke up in my panic to find that it was just a dream. My mom was waiting for me at the breakfast table when I came downstairs and she asked me if she could have the login to my decision release so that she could check for me. OBVIOUSLY, that dream was some sort of omen, and so, I told her I couldn’t. She said she understood, gave me a hug, and drove me to school.

Naturally, all of my rituals and taboos were my only weapons in my fight against this unseen creature known as “bad luck”. But my rationality would kick in ever so often and I would always think to myself, why am I doing all this? Does any of this actually work? Why am I trying so hard at things that won’t do me any good? I asked myself, what can I do that would actually help my chances? And then it hit me.

My life doctrine has always been to live life without regret. Almost all of the risks that I have taken in my life were a result of that belief, that the pain of “what if” would be far worse than any other outcome. And yet, I had contradicted myself entirely. I put so much effort into all of my superstitions because I wanted this so badly. But why didn’t I study harder for my SATs? Why didn’t I try harder for my IB exams in May? Why didn’t I start researching earlier? If I really wanted this so badly, why didn’t I do everything that I could have while I had the chance? All of these regrets that I had during my high school career hit me. Hard. Now it was too late, so why should I believe in all this superstitious crap?

I started to think about baseball again, which prompted a smile. I can’t change the past, but maybe I can change the present with my routines and rituals. I did it for the same reason that baseball players did. In a world filled with chaos and uncertainty, filled with competition and admissions officers who are trying to extrapolate our life stories out of 500 word essays, why shouldn’t we try to gain a little more control of our lives? Why can’t we believe in something that gives us hope after we send out our applications into an infinite black hole, which spits back a letter that changes the next decade of our lives after 5 weeks of gestation? And so for the next 5 weeks, I continued with all of my routines and rituals because I wanted to get in so badly that I’d do it by wit alone.

Getting admitted to Hopkins was just one step in the journey, and this isn’t going to be the last time I’ll have to wait on an admission decision like that. So to those of you who will be applying to med school, grad school, business school and many more, it might not be a bad idea to avoid some black cats and the number 13. When you feel as powerless as I did, as if the whole world is against you, it’s nice to feel like you can still do something to improve your chances.

As for me, I’ve learned a lot about myself over those past few weeks. I don’t see this acceptance as an excuse to coast through the rest of the year. This was a wakeup call, that I’m not living life the way that I intended to. I have plenty more hurdles to overcome in my life and next time, I might not be as “lucky” as I was this time. So for the rest of the summer, I’ll be preparing myself for a grueling first semester at Johns Hopkins. And who knows? Maybe I’ll learn how to hit a baseball too.

Hopkins: A Conversion Story

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Name: Molly Young

Year: Class of 2018

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Intended Path of Study: Writing Seminars

Hopkins: A Conversion Story

I didn’t know I wanted to go to Johns Hopkins.

No one in my family had gone there, it sounded a bit too prestigious for my resume, AND like every other person who has only ever heard the University’s name in passing, I assumed you were supposed to be a pre-med science devotee if you really wanted to go there. Have I made you wince yet? Please bear with me, dear reader, as I slowly bring you around to my far-more-enlightened present, in which I could not be more excited about being a Hopkins Blue Jay.

All my life, I’ve watched my older siblings grow up, excel in school, and eventually find their places in the professional world. A doctor, an engineer, and a quantitative statistician (aka the swankiest of all the titles for a financial advisor.) What do all of these jobs have in common? For one thing, math…science…MORE MATH AND SCIENCE. To be shamelessly melodramatic, just writing the word “quantitative” makes me feel…well…

ms_scarlet_clue_flames_gif

In all fairness, my siblings are totally awesome individuals whose mathematical and scientific endeavors I respect — from a safe distance. Overall, we’re a very nerdy bunch. WE all love Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Jane Austen, BBC America, PBS, you name it. We all like to imitate just about any movie star out there, and when the beat drops, you will find us unabashedly freestyling across the dance floor despite our relative lack of dance training as a group. But then they have all these interests about medical stuff and MATH stuff and building bridges and other such stuff, and that’s where you’ll catch me awkwardly electric sliding out of the situation, with my dignity and hopes for being a humanities major clutched tightly to my chest.

Perhaps that was a bit melodramatic. My family has always been extremely supportive of my passions, and I’ve never been pushed to “become” the next version of any of my siblings. While benefiting from their example and advice, I’ve also been encouraged to carve my own path. And that’s where Hopkins comes in.

Naturally, my sister (the doctor and Jane Austen enthusiast) originally suggested Hopkins to me last summer when we met up in Baltimore during a health conference she was attending. Side note: if you’re ever running low on pens, notepads or water bottles, GO TO A HEALTH CONFERENCE. Just sneak in. Get one of everything. Never go school supplies shopping again.

Anyways, I brushed off the suggestion with something like “Right, ok. I’d never get in,” and “HAH. Don’t wanna be a doctor.” (Don’t give up on me yet, reader. DON’T YOU DARE.) She rolled her eyes, and calmly said, “Well, Hopkins is a great school. You should think about it…” Praise to the forces that be for older sisters like this one. This beautiful ethnic sunflower. This intellectually stimulating butterfly. This splendiferous shot of — I just really love my sister.

On the left, living dangerously. On the right, staking our claim of Young family land in Yosemite National Park. It’s ALL ours now.

Long story (somewhat) shorter, I looked into Hopkins, poked around the website and suddenly felt the need to monologue to the comoputer in the climax-of-a-RomCom kind of way. You know the one. “I love the way you brush your hair, the way you overcook your pasta, the way you wildly gesticulate when you speak, the smell of your shampoo. I’ve loved it for the past 8 years, but I’m JUST realizing it now. Marry me.”

Except mine was more like, “Writing Seminars…History…International Studies? Theater minors and Music at Peabody? I was so blind, curse my foolish ways!”

Fast forward several months and a full 24 hours after the acceptance decisions were posted. It’s Saturday morning. You’ll find my sister and me sitting at the table, both a little bleary-eyed. I nervously opened the decision “portal”, as they called it in a successful attempt to make me feel like I was in some sort of sci-fi thriller, potentially hurtling into “the portal of despair”.

Instead, my sister squealed in a “YES! THE EAGLES HAVE COME TO SAVE US!” kind of way (see aforementioned comment about the family Lord of the Rings obsession).

The eagles coming to save the Gandalf Gang, metaphorically parallel to the idea of the Blue Jays saving me from the Portal of Despair.

The eagles coming to save the Gandalf Gang, metaphorically parallel to the idea of the Blue Jays saving me from the Portal of Despair.

I got in. Fast forward another month or so, and I’m fresh off of my final college tour, Johns Hopkins. For the first time, I was feeling like a bona fide college kid as I strolled along on those red brick paths, straying away from my family on several occasions and essentially Live Action Role Playing that I was just casually walking to my next class. Total college student here. Psh. I had a backpack and everything.

A beautiful day for a tour. Notice the golf cart in the bottom left corner. I assume all Hopkins students receive one during orientation to drive around campus? Yes? Splendid.

A beautiful day for a tour. Notice the golf cart in the bottom left corner. I assume all Hopkins students receive one during orientation to drive around campus? Yes? Splendid.

That day really felt like high school’s end for me. I left campus thinking, “This is my school.” Here I was, floating in some weirdly awesome version of limbo — at once fulfilled, and yet full of great expectations (melodrama part 2). I had spent the day on a picturesque colonial-style campus, interacting with down-to-earth Hopkinss students, several of whom were loving their experience as humanities majors (cue Molly swooning). Also, they gave us a DELICIOUS lunch (swooning again). Most importantly, I felt grateful for the awesome and humbling prospect of joining the Johns Hopkins Class of 2018. It’s always such a dorky adrenaline rush to type out that last part.

You see? I told you it would all turn around. Hopefully, my conversion story inspires millions of people around the world to discover that Johns Hopkins is way more than “that school for doctors”. Frankly, I’m just glad my family gets a kick out of it. I smile in the face of the standard “Hopkins? I had no idea you wanted to be a doctor!” response. “Oh, you,” I reply to my unsuspecting counterpart, “I, too, was once as naive as you are now. Allow me to school you in the ways of the Blue Jay.” My name is Molly Young, and I live in the pursuit of good music, great food, and the Fountain of Youth (I kid. My last name keeps me fresh as a daisy for all eternity.) I’m passionate about my beloved humanities, and I’m pretty darn excited about getting to campus this August. I’m a Hopkins convert if there ever was one.

And I think that’s just grand.

I'm on the left, backstage at the high school variety show, unafraid and unashamed of embracing the real me. Who is evidently full of "intrigue".

I’m on the left, backstage at the high school variety show, unafraid and unashamed of embracing the real me. Who is evidently full of “intrigue”.

Torn

0

Name: Caitlin Dwyer

Hometown: Northport, NY

Year: Class of 2017

Intended Plan of Study: Writing Seminars

“This is the train to…Penn Station. This station is…Penn Station,” the monotone automated voice blares over the loudspeaker. I groan, realizing I have to open my eyes, not because I’m awake, but because in less than a minute, I’m going to transform into a speed-walking, fast-talking, “move or I’ll move you” New Yorker. Whoever coined the phrase, “concrete jungle,” was truly brilliant. The commuter scene is comparably tame, but once you descend those foul-smelling yet surprisingly magical subway entrances, you might as well sign up for the Hunger Games. As the train comes to a halt, I hop out of my turquoise vinyl seat, sling my black tote over my shoulder, and take a deep breath. Ten hours from now, I’ll be searching for a seat on the train back to Huntington, Long Island. Slipping through the sea of suit jackets and oxford button-ups, I find myself facing a poster for Bloomberg Businessweek, advertising the fish market in Japan. Chuckling to myself, I remember SOHOP, where the tour guides pointed out the Bloomberg paths. Bloomberg went to Hopkins. I’m going to Hopkins. Maybe that’s why I’m spending the summer in New York City, interning at one of the largest publishing houses in the world. While my friends are lounging around, sleeping until noon, and corralling eight-year-olds at summer camp, I’m going to be working in an office building. Some days, I miss last year’s job teaching at a creative camp for children with special needs, but other times, I’m glad I chose to step out of my comfort zone.

Sometimes, for lunch, I'd go to Eataly, this incredible Italian marketplace. They had the best coffee!

Sometimes, for lunch, I’d go to Eataly, this incredible Italian marketplace. They had the best coffee!

As I climb the stairs connecting Penn Station to New York City, I inhale the aromas of stale peppermint gum, cigarettes, and garbage frying on the city sidewalks. Right away, I see that the area surrounding Penn is a contradiction, walked by wingtips and workboots, characterized by briefcases and bag ladies. My eardrums are ambushed by the piercing sounds of brakes being hit too soon, horns hollering, and the resounding voices of street peddlers “ten dollaring.”

When I was younger, I hated the city. I hated the noise, I hated the traffic, but most of all, I hated the smell. Now, those things don’t bother me as much. I find New York intoxicating, because no matter what you do or where you go, there’s a measure of uncertainty, an element of doubt.  I remember this one time when my friends and I went into the city for a birthday. We planned to go to this cool taco place in Nolita (“It’s LITERALLY Mexico!” my friend Kevin exclaimed), see my friend’s older brother at work, and go to the Strand bookstore. No one bothered to check the weather beforehand—it was warm and sunny on Long Island—so when we emerged from Penn to find ourselves in a hailstorm, we were surprised to say the least. After four hours of battling the storm and sidling against buildings to keep dry, we finally crashed in a tiny coffeehouse near Gramercy Park. Looking at each other’s faces, drenched with cold sweat and raindrops, our eyes settled on my friend Lara, who was wringing out her hair. There was a sizable puddle beneath her ponytail.

“What?” she asked defensively as we all burst out laughing.

New York is the kind of place where you need to take everything one step at a time. You have to be able to adapt to missed subway trains, keep your cool in traffic, and brush off any “talkers” (those sketchy guys on the subway who compliment your purse and explain how “you’ll make a helluva wife one day”). The city is a college in itself, where life skills are exchanged by the passerby. But its most famous class is “Independence 101.”  New York has bestowed upon me a new definition of self-sufficiency, one that extends itself to life at Hopkins: functioning in the real world, without parents. I feel like an adult each morning as I button my blouse, zipper my pencil skirt, and step into my trusty beige flats.

Despite my valuable quotidian lessons in street smarts, I can’t help but wonder what I would be doing now, if I were home. It’s the Monday after high school graduation, three weeks into my internship, and technically my first Monday as a “college student.” I’m pretty sure (based on last night’s Twitter feed) that the majority of my classmates are sleeping in. During the three weeks between the last day of high school and graduation weekend, I had been looking forward to graduation. Working toward graduation. But now I’m graduated, and I don’t feel any different, I realize as I swipe my MetroCard at the Herald Square subway station.

My high school has a tradition where seniors, at 3:00 on the last day of school, can toss their notes into the Commons. By the time we were done, there was so much paper on the floor, it felt like walking through a foot of snow!

My high school has a tradition where seniors, at 3:00 on the last day of school, can toss their notes into the Commons. By the time we were done, there was so much paper on the floor, it felt like walking through a foot of snow!

I still feel torn, I decide, as I pass through the turnstile. Torn between relishing the last moments of childhood and diving headfirst into adulthood.

On the last day of school, I had the following conversation with a fellow student:

“What are you doing over the summer?” he asked.

“I’m working,” I replied, finishing my signature in his yearbook.

“Where?” he absent mindedly asked as he signed mine.

“The city.”

That certainly caught his attention.

“Like an internship?”

“Yeah.”

“Why would you do that?”  Not exactly the reaction I was anticipating.

“I’m really interested in publishing.”

“You’re a writer right? That might be cool, to get your new book published.” If only it was that easy…

“That would be really cool,” I agreed, “but, um, my job’s in educational publishing, not trade. You know, writing multiple choice questions and stuff.”

“You’re the only person I know who would start writing textbooks the day after you turn them in.”

“It’s just for experience. For the resume.”

“But you’re giving up your last real do-nothing summer. When do you start?”

“Monday.”

“Today’s Friday.”

“I know.”

“But what about prom, and graduation?”

Prom and graduation were a few weeks after school ended. I started commuting, and then took off a few days of work to finish high school. Prom was on a Thursday. I wore a teal chiffon one-shoulder dress, silver heels, and jewelry that combined motifs of crystals and pearls. I was going for a neo-Gatsby look. My town has a pre-prom celebration in the Village Park every year, where the kids pose for photos and wait for their limos and party buses. Even though I was with my friends, my family, and an entire community of familiar faces, I felt out of place posing for a prom portrait. I felt as if I no longer belonged at my high school. After spending days in the city on my own, living in the “Real World” between the hours of seven a.m. and eight p.m., prom no longer seemed like such a big deal. Prom is supposed to celebrate the end of high school, but for me, high school ended on the last day of classes.

“So where did you do your undergrad again?” one of the editorial assistants asks as we grab our morning cups of coffee. She takes Decaf, while I opt for Strong.

Caught off guard, I pause, and tell her, “Johns Hopkins.” My pencil skirt is suddenly constricting, and tiny beads of sweat form on the back of my neck. Feeling like a little girl playing dress-up, I wonder if everyone in the office (besides my supervisor) assumes I’m a graduate student. Deciding not to lie, I come clean, and she looks at me with disdain, though she tries to mask it with a practiced smile. To her, I’m no longer the go-to-girl for copy editing, multimedia searches, and question-writing.

I’m a little girl playing dress-up.

First day of kindergarten, first day of work.

First day of kindergarten, first day of work.

Seuss, Shakespeare, and Sickness

0

Name: Will Krause

Hometown: Linwood, NJ

Year: Class of 2017

Intended Plan of Study: History

I haven’t vomited in over a year.

The last time I puked was during my Literature Class; we were having a roundtable discussion comparing Huckleberry Finn with Conrad’s Heart of Darkness when I realized that there remained, in my book bag, a thermos full of cold coffee from lunch. Not really thinking about anything other than how much of a weirdo Kurtz was, I drank it in less than thirty seconds and quickly excused myself to the bathroom once I realized the crimes I had committed against my innards. While that night’s assignment came out of Ms. McLaughlin’s mouth, twenty-four ounces of coffee and a fried eggplant sub from Rose’s Garden Grill came out of mine.

Some puppies, to help get that image out of your head.

Some puppies, to help get that image out of your head.

Vomiting, like eating, is a primal human experience–anyone who has ever been a person can attest to the initial queasiness, the feelings of hopelessness and submission leading up to the vomit, and the relief afterwards that all characterize the event of throwing up.

My friends and family tell me that I vomit more frequently than other people do, and they are correct; when a normal person eats something that disagrees with them, they lay down, close their eyes, and just feel better (I suspect ghosts are involved). For me, the Road to Feeling Better is a long, scary one, and getting to the destination almost invariably requires me to drive the porcelain bus (or the pavement bus, or the metal bus, or the ceramic bus–I have a very colorful vomiting history). My stomach is weaker than most.

The first battle in the War Against my Gag Reflex contains all the tragedy of a Shakespearean drama. It has the unity of time (all taking place on March 16th, 2001, otherwise known as my Kindergarten classes’ Dr. Seuss Day), the unity of place (it went down in the lunchroom and only the lunchroom), and the unity of action (there was one main conflict: William versus Lunch).

Can you spot the differences between these two pictures? Hint: There are seven.

Can you spot the differences between these two pictures? Hint: There are seven.

Act One introduces the vigorous young hero, a Kindergarten me. Like the Scottish King or the Moor of Venice, I achieve fame by taking what is rightfully mine–my lunch to be specific, which consists (tastefully) of Green Eggs and Ham; the green dye in the eggs symbolize my blissful ignorance to the events unfolding.

Act Two involves me, like the Prince of Denmark, resolving to overcome a certain hesitation; in this instance, I ignore the atypical color of my meal and choose to enjoy it regardless. Act Three–the climax–opens with me consuming my lunch. In the midst of this feast, I happen to gaze upon a boy whose name I will change to Rhymes-With-Shmyler (for legal purposes). As I watch my companion enjoy his respective Green Eggs from across the table, something awful happens in stomach, and as quickly as I had downed those eggs, I up them–all over Rhymes-With-Shmyler and his godforsaken unborn chicken. Acts Four and Five involve mops, nurses, and me, never ever eating eggs again.

Like EVER

Like, EVER.

Instead of killing all of the characters like Shakespeare would, the author of my tragedy simply killed my hopes and dreams of ever being able eat an egg without feeling nauseous.

This incident was just the beginning of a lifelong trend involving not being able to hold my food and then developing taste aversions. I stopped eating ham after one particular rewound-meal when I was six, and then I stopped eating meat all together when the mere smell of it would make me sick to my stomach.

I was eight.

During well-visits, my family would always inform the doctor of my unusual pickiness, to which the doctor would reply something along the lines of, “Eat better!” or, “See a nutritionist!” and then I would go home and eat one of the five foods that I could/would eat. Whenever I would try something new, my parents would always joke, “So does this make food number six?!”

I only liked the foods that I knew wouldn’t make me sick, and I took solace in plain and non-threatening meals. This lasted well into middle school, where, by eighth grade, I started to make slight progress in terms of my diet: I stopped ordering pasta salad “without the salad”, stopped declining offers to try things, and started bringing new foods into my diet.

AND I started eating the onion part of my onion rings.

AND I started eating the onion part of my onion rings.

My real progress happened within the last two years, during which I accepted taste-testing as a sort of hobby. My friends and I would root out the tiniest, most “hole in the wall” type restaurants, where we would pick the most bizarre items on the menu just for kicks. Weird foods soon became an integral part of my life. In the eighth grade, I wouldn’t even be able to identify what a tofu, quinoa, and avocado quesadilla was; now I can’t go without my weekly dosage. It goes without saying that I am much healthier.

As silly as it sounds, expanding my diet was a crucial part of my maturity. At some point during high school, I acknowledged the fact that, yes, I do have a weak stomach, but no, I shouldn’t allow that to dictate what I will or won’t eat. In truth, everyone has their taste aversions, whether they be to chocolate-covered pretzels, peanut butter, or iced tea. I am not special because I couldn’t hold my food as a child, and I knew that, sooner or later, only eating pasta and pizza was going to catch up with me. There are things in life that we simply have to stomach, despite how much we don’t want to; I wasn’t going to allow my fear of foods control my functioning. By shedding my incredibly plain diet, I essentially let go of a part of myself that was still clinging on to the comforts of childhood. As a child, I would never think that I would be the type of person who would compile a list of must-go restaurants in the Baltimore area before college, yet here I stand, eager to try new things and to further step out of my comfort zone.

Last week, I had eggs for the first time in twelve years (sunny side up, with toast). Truthfully, they weren’t that bad.

How Hopkins Kept Me Out of Handcuffs

1

Name: Maggie Weese

Hometown: Bel Air, MD

Year: Class of 2017

Intended Plan of Study: Biology and Global and Environmental Change and Sustainability

There were three things I wanted for Christmas last year:

1.      To win an aluminum can collection competition. My school was competing against some local rival schools and nothing says Christmas like creaming your rivals in recycling aluminum cans.

2.      The second season of Parks and Recreation because I want to be Leslie Knopp when I grow up. Also, that show is hilarious, and I enjoy laughing.

3.      To get into Johns Hopkins University.

I love Leslie so much that I dressed up as her for Halloween.

I love Leslie so much that I dressed up as her for Halloween.

My mom would laugh and sarcastically say, “Wow Maggie. You are really shooting low” and believe me, I knew I was asking for a lot this year. With winning the can off came the stench of fermenting soda cans for a whole month; with getting Parks and Recreation on DVD came my incessant laughter and distraction from everything else; and with getting into Hopkins came its $62,000 price tag. But I was hopeful.

Well, December 15th could not approach any slower. Every day I would check my email “just in case” they chose to let me know early. But they never did. Apparently the whole 15th thing was set in stone. Well, after weeks of “patience” (or as I call it, freaking out a lot), the 15th had arrived. Everyone I had ever talked to (including two random strangers at Panera) knew that to me, this was more than a date. It was a declaration of my future, with or without Hopkins.

Now I should mention, I am a very superstitious person. It has gotten to the point that I will wait until I feel like it is the “right time” to check grades, scores, or even college letters. What determines the right time? It always varies. If I have a really great day sometimes I cannot help but think “Oh wow! This luck will never slow down” so I check. Or a really bad day, “Wow today is horrible. It only makes sense to get better,” so I check. But a lot of times I am wrong. It is not a sure fire equation but it makes me feel better about checking things. For example, I waited about two weeks before checking my AP scores last year, not because I did not care but because “it was not the right time.” Call it insane, call it pointless, it is just a weird thing I do (and probably also insane and pointless).

So when the 15th came it is an understatement to say I was nervous and being over analytical. That day I had school (oh the days of high school) and then a Christmas party at five with the members of the research lab that I worked in. I decided that I was going to wait until the right moment to check my Hopkins status whether that was at the Christmas party, the moment the clock hit six, or a week later.

So there was school, a blur of numbers, figures, and cell membranes. Then getting ready for the Christmas party, grabbing anything red and green and throwing it on. The drive to the Christmas party, the reality beginning to set in that I was approaching the finish line of my waiting. Then the Christmas party. I cannot really tell you anything significant from that party. A lot of eggnog and Christmas sweaters. People constantly asking me if I had either checked or gotten in. My constant “Uh I have not checked yet. It does not come out till six o’clock.” And then came six o’clock. At that point no one else remembered. But I did. Still, it did not feel like the right time, so I continued to wait. Presents were exchanged, hugs shared, cookies offered. I just sat and waited.

Finally the party ended, and I hauled my way back to my car. The drive was about 40 minutes and I knew it would be pure agony sitting and waiting. But I began the journey. I was 70% into the trip when the moment came. I realized it was time. I was ready to check my status. All I could think about was Hopkins. The beautiful campus, the hilarious math professor I had met on my first visit, the delicious chicken sandwich I had eaten at CharMar. It was all hitting me at once. I had to check! To get home! To..

“Whoop-whoop-whoop”

My face when I heard sirens

My face when I heard sirens

That was when I got pulled over by a cop. You have to understand, I am a rule follower. I do not jaywalk and I think bank robbers are bad. But it was 11:35 and it was dark and I guess I did not really notice that the speed had changed from 55 mph to 40 mph. The cop sauntered over to my car and asked his question. “Where is it that you were headed in such a rush?” He wanted to make sure I felt guilty, and he was succeeding. “And please tell me why you were going 15 mph over the speed limit? What was so important that you would risk your life?” I choked up an answer “Uh I was coming back from a Christmas party. I was on my way home.” He turned to me “A Christmas party? Have you been drinking ma’am?” I felt like I was going to throw up from nervousness. “No sir I have not. You can check me if you want!” He looked at me puzzled, “No I believe you, but why are you so frazzled.” I felt like this was kind of a rhetorical question because I had, for the first time in my life, been pulled over. Was I not supposed to be freaked out? But instead of giving him sass I brought up my other fear. “I find out tonight if I got into Johns Hopkins, the school of my dreams.” He shook his head, asked for my license and registration and turned away.

So more anticipation. Now I waited for both my Hopkins status and my ticket. It was clear that I was getting one. A few minutes later (or possibly centuries) the cop walked up to my window, turned to me and smiled, “Ma’am you should never be going that fast. You could die and then never get to go to your dream school, which, by the way is an incredible school.” He told me I was receiving a warning (by some Christmas miracle) and to slow down next time. He walked away and as he did he shouted “Oh and good luck with Hopkins.”

So then came the drive home, going five miles under the speed limit, the sprint into my house, the quick login to my email and my acceptance into what the cop had called an “incredible school.”

My face when I found out I got into Hopkins!

My face when I found out I got into Hopkins!

I am grateful for that cop because he gave me the luck I might have needed, but I am also grateful to Hopkins. And not only for accepting me and making my Christmas. My school did win the can off and I did get season two of Parks and Recreation, but nothing tops Hopkins. Not only for giving me the chance of a lifetime, a chance to find myself amongst the walls of Mudd Hall or the hill that is the beach. But for keeping my record clean. For getting me out of a ticket.

 

 

Just Fine

2

Name: Allison Comotto

Hometown: Towson, MD

Year: Class of 2017

Intended Plan of Study: Political Science and Writing Seminars

“So you want to be a doctor?”

We’ve all heard it. The second the word “Hopkins” flies proudly from your mouth, your listener’s brain does its whole awesome forming connections trick, and you might as well be standing there with a scalpel in your hand and a surgical mask across your face. For some of the Class of 2017, this vision predicts the finale of a dream that just became fully in reach. And for others, like me, this vision just has the capacity to make things a little awkward.

I knew from a very early age that I wasn’t going to be a doctor.  I remember the exact moment of decision vividly, which is surprising, since although I’m scary-accurate when it comes to the memorization of The Phantom of the Opera song lyrics, I can never, for the life of me, find my darn house keys.

Like, ever.

But this moment is etched into my mind with the type of clarity that always accompanies a good mental scarring.

Picture, if you will, your typical fourth-grade sleepover, equipped with an overwhelming amount of chocolate ice cream and Disney Channel movies. We hold out until ten o’clock, feeling super cool for disregarding our bedtimes, before passing out on the couch. Not ten minutes into my slumber, I am suddenly reacquainted with Ben and Jerry in the form of an unmistakable warm, wet wave splashing across my face.  It took my sleepover, and all thoughts of becoming a doctor, with it. No matter how much I would love to help people in need, dealing with a fair amount of bodily functions is in the job description, and my squeamish self belongs far from a sick room. Far.

And that’s really turned out to suit me just fine. Middle and high school yielded a true passion for English and a general distrust of math and all math-y sciences (*cough* physics *cough*).  My college search was defined by the presence of a phenomenal writing program, and, after months of sitting through information sessions consumed by talk of sports’ teams and graduates’ starting salaries, I found my dream school sitting a mere twenty-five minutes away. I applied, ate an entire bag of Crab Chips in the minutes before decisions were released, and attempted my first cartwheel upon finding I’d been accepted.

I was so relieved to finally have an answer to the once-dreaded “so where are you headed next year?” But I quickly discovered that I had a new question ripe for the dreading. Which brings us full circle. “So you want to be a doctor?”

It wasn’t that I didn’t have a valid reply. I’ve known since day one that I’d find my home in the Writing Seminars department, nerd-ing out with fellow metaphor enthusiasts and getting to do what I love each and every day.

It was more the subtle hints of disappointment and confusion in their faces when I told them no. Like maybe they’d misheard me. These subtle hints morphed into very blatant displays of disbelief when I revealed my Writing Seminars plans, and suddenly I was just another foolish teenager preparing to pass over stellar academic opportunities in the name of irrational passion.  I was smart, but not that smart. Not Hopkins doctor smart.

After the fifth or sixth “so you want to be a doctor,” and one very uncomfortable “wait, you can still go to Hopkins if you don’t want to be a doctor,” I found myself starting to feel a little ashamed of the path I’d chosen. Ashamed that I couldn’t love something practical or lucrative. Ashamed that I was rejoicing over never having to take Calculus ever again. Ashamed that I was falling so short of everyone else’s expectations.

So I avoided the questions as best as I could and kept my details to a bare minimum. But I knew my less-than-proactive strategy would only prove effective for so long. The highlight of my summer is an annual family reunion in Ocean City. The Comotto clan comes from far and wide to spend one week together playing music and cooking authentic Italian cuisine. This year there will be a startling fifty-three in attendance. To me, that number meant fifty-three inevitable questions about my plans for medical school and fifty-three inevitable let-downs. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly quaking with excitement.

cousins

A week before the trip, my mom sent me an email with a link leading to one of the few Hopkins sites I hadn’t already perused. It was a story appropriately entitled “Storytellers,” written about the Writing Seminars major by a Writing Seminars major. By the end of the first paragraph, she had already acknowledged the horrors of “so you want to be a doctor” and the pressures we place on ourselves to do something important at a university like Hopkins, where everyone has an incredible contribution to make. Her advice to a student considering creative writing as a major and profession was both simple and powerful: “Take courage.”

And that’s precisely what I’m going to do. I’m going to own the eccentric, literary part of me that despises chemistry and faints at the sight of blood. I’m going to revel in the path I’ve chosen, because that path shapes the contribution I get to make. And there’s seriously nothing cooler than realizing your future is yours to do with as you please. Suddenly I can’t wait to see all fifty-three family members and answer all fifty-three questions.

No, distant cousin twice-removed, I’m not going to be a doctor. I’m going to be just fine.

photo

From Koenig and Cake to Anticipation and Acceptance

2

Name: Anjani Patel

Year: Class of 2017

Hometown: Duvall, WA

Intended Plan of Study: Applied Mathematics and Statistics

From Koenig and Cake to Anticipation and Acceptance

As the guttural, gnashing sound of a lawn mower ripped through the most vivid dream, I woke up with a start. (Fine, since you’re all dying to know, I will share: I was eating chocolate cake with Ezra Koenig in a sun drenched meadow filled with dandelions. It was nice. No, it was rather spectacular.) With one eye, I glanced at my alarm clock. 7:03 a.m.

Ezra Koenig...

Ezra Koenig…

and chocolate cake. My two loves!

and chocolate cake. My two loves!

One of our neighbors has a strange propensity for mowing his lawn at 7 o’clock every Saturday morning. I am almost certain he’s a nice guy, but unfortunately, I could never get past that particular character flaw and find out for myself.

Nearly crying with exhaustion and frustration, I hauled myself out of bed and toddled downstairs to find some comfort at the bottom of a cup of coffee. Just as I was pouring my java, I remembered.

Today is Saturday. Yesterday was Friday. And the day before was Thursday. (I’m starting to sound like Rebecca Black.)

Bellatrix, for once you actually make sense.

Bellatrix, for once you actually make sense.

Admissions decisions for Johns Hopkins came out on Thursday.  Even the memory of opening the email informing me that my “Johns Hopkins University admissions decision is ready” had my heart racing.  Two days later, my stomach still clenched at the mere thought.  The hand that was pouring coffee was shaking, and I willed it to stop.  After I’d finished pouring, I sat down.

It was time.  I’d put off checking my admissions decision for a good 40 hours or so and it was time to put my big girl pants on and check.  I mean, how hard could it be?  I just had to enter an ID and a password, which I was 107% sure I still remembered.  I could do that.  I could.

With a little laugh, I flashed back to yesterday and last Thursday and thought about what had happened then.

I could not do that.  Checking that account was not so easy.

Trust Staples to hook you up with the perfect button for every occasion.

Trust Staples to hook you up with the perfect button for every occasion.

I didn’t even try to check my decision on Thursday, knowing the system would crash.  I also knew my blood pressure couldn’t take it.  And I had to babysit after school.  In the case of a rejection (and let’s face it, a majority of the decisions are rejections), I would not be able to properly take care of my neighbor’s children if I was lying on the floor in a fetal position wearing a sweater made from my tears.

“I made this one with my tears.” Spongebob understands.

“I made this one with my tears.” Spongebob understands.

Yesterday, I took a tour of the University of Washington (UW) because my parents are convinced that it is “the school of [my] dreams.”  So, like the obedient daughter that I am, I went to check it out.  Actually, they just threw me out of the house and told me to come back only after I’d “soaked in the UW atmosphere.”  Once at UW, I quickly gave up on actually touring the campus because I was too preoccupied to notice much around me.  Instead, I decided to end the suspense and went searching for Wi-Fi to check my JHU admissions decision.  In my question for internet, I spent an hour and a half in a UW bathroom because apparently “blanket Wi-Fi at the UW Seattle Campus” means “adequate Wi-Fi in one stall in the bathroom at the Visitor’s Center and absolutely no Wi-Fi anywhere else.”  (Yes, I’m cheap and don’t have a data plan.  And even if I did, my phone wears the pants in our relationship and does what it wants to… which is to say, nothing much.)  Yesterday, I spent five minutes attempting to access my ISIS account to view my admissions decision and the rest of the time trying to muster up the courage to actually look at the decision.

After I had spent way too much time accepting the surprising amount of terms and conditions set forth by the university (It was hard clicking on all those little boxes when my hands were shaking as much as they were.), I managed to connect to the university Wi-Fi.

Heart pounding, I checked my email and got my ISIS ID.  Surprised and energized by the progress I was making, I quickly went to the ISIS login page.

Things started to go downhill from here.

Things started to go downhill from here.

 

I went on to the ISIS login page and entered my ISIS ID and password.

And then I froze.  For the life of me, I couldn’t click that “Login” button.

After several deep breaths, I tried again.  Nope.  I was stuck.

I just needed to tap the button.  Then, I would know.  I’ve been waiting for my decision for three months.  Just do it.  Just do it. 

I told myself that in the bathroom mirror for over an hour, seriously wigging out all the other women filtering in and out.  Just do it.  Just do it.  

I will never look at the old Nike slogan the same way again.

I will never look at the old Nike slogan the same way again.

After upwards of an hour had passed with me standing in the same spot in front of the mirror and my mantra no longer made even a modicum of sense, I decided to give it a rest and go home.  I had psyched myself up too much to get much done tonight.  As soon as I got home, I changed into my pajamas, put the covers over my head, and willed myself to sleep and dream of cake and Ezra Koenig.

And now, it’s Saturday and I need to stop being such a scaredy cat.

And here you go: A requisite cat picture for ya’ll.

And here you go: A requisite cat picture for ya’ll.

With a calmness I had not possessed yesterday, I poured myself more coffee and went to the computer.  (Coffee makes me calmer, and happier, and nicer, and… functional, but moving on.)  I had realized just now that though my admissions decision was ultimately out of my control, how I reacted to the news was very much in my control.  The realization did wonders for my frazzled state of being.  The time had come for me to face the facts.  No matter how much or how hard I ran, the decision would not change.  The house was quiet.  No one was leaning over my shoulder, no one was breathing down my neck.  Though my hands and legs were still a bit shaky and my heart was going faster than normal, I was ready to press the “Login” button.

After taking a final deep breath, I clicked the button that had caused me to sweat off two pounds the day before.

“Yes,” what?

“Yes,” what?

“Yes,” what?  Yes, that I’d logged in successfully?

Or “Yes,” I was accepted?

I refreshed the page.  And again.  And once more.

“Yes,” what?

“Yes,” WHAT?

I leaned back, waiting for the screen to change.  Then, the screen switched to my acceptance letter.

I let out a breath that I didn’t know I was holding.  There, in that chair, in front of our family computer, I was truly happy.  After almost two days of running away from this exact moment and two days of hysteria, I was finally still.

In the days (and hours) to come, a lot of decision making would go down.  There’d be many loud calls made to California, Philadelphia, Texas, Oregon, New York, and India informing friends and family of the news.  I’d be fielding several calls loaded with congratulations, advice, worries, and requests to watch The Wire.   Sitting in that creaky computer chair, I almost ran upstairs to tell my parents and brother and start the whirlwind that the next few days were sure to be.  But I reined myself in and took a few minutes to contemplate the future.

When I woke up this morning, my future was murky.  Now, it is still undecided, but at least I know where I will be heading next year.  As soon as I saw my acceptance letter from Hopkins, I forgot about all those other colleges (sorry, Mom and Dad).  And so, quietly whistling “Good Morning Baltimore,” I headed to the kitchen, donned an apron, and started to measure out some flour and sugar because it was time I whipped up some cake for Mr. Thompson, the owner of the lawnmower that had woken me up at the crack of dawn this fine Saturday.

It was time to bury the hatchet and thank him for jump starting the day my life changed.

 Now can ya’ll see why chocolate cake is one of my loves?

Now can ya’ll see why chocolate cake is one of my loves?