Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 14, 2024

A letter to my freshman self, plus cicadas

By RUDY MALCOM | May 27, 2021



Malcom holds the last print issue of The News-Letter.

Fully vaccinated and hoping to feel something, I went to Power Plant Live! last Thursday for the first time since the pandemic started. As I squeezed past peers I hadn’t been indoors with in eons, I was reminded of the Brood X cicadas that have descended upon the nation. With life seemingly returning to “normal” in the United States, we are emerging en masse like those horny, red-eyed banshees. We’ve spent what feels like 17 years underground, and we are loud, emotionally starved and half-dead shells of who we used to be. 

In the past two weeks, I, with the energy of a cicada, have tried to do as many things and see as many people as possible. While I didn’t ride the bull at Power Plant last week, I am trying to live my life to the fullest before I graduate. It’s similar to what the cicadas are doing before they all die. Like them, we will be replaced with a new class of students, and those students will also be replaced, and eventually so will those students, and so goes the “cicadian” rhythm.

Besides everything that has happened since COVID-19 struck, so much has changed since I was a freshman living in a single in AMR I. I would say to that version of me: Keep your door open. You should do that not only because there is no air conditioning (we love cross ventilation) but because two people will come by during Orientation Week and ask you to explore the dorms with them. The three of you will repeatedly vandalize a floormate’s door and whiteboard. Two of you, along with the first person you come out to at Hopkins, will found the satirical co-ed sorority Mu Sigma Epsilon (MSE), which lays its foundation on sleep deprivation and collective suffering.

You will make other friendships less organically. You will slide into people’s Messenger DMs to roast classmates’ short stories. A floormate will force you to get Starbucks with her and you will force someone else at The Black and Blue Jay to get Uni Mini with you on a Tuesday night. You will invite yourself over to her room and the two of you will leave the The Black and Blue Jay for The News-Letter, where the person who led your campus tour after you got into Hopkins will suggest you write a guest column and eventually teach you how to be a journalist.

Looking at the articles I’ve written over the past four years, I can trace a lot of my growth in college. I now worry less about being pigeonholed as gay and more about communicating needs and setting boundaries in relationships. I’ve become more authentic and identified my values and my passions. Largely due to the pandemic, I’m learning to live more healthily and purposefully.  

And though I’m sad to be graduating after a surreal, isolating, mostly virtual year, I feel ready to leave Hopkins, an institution that is also hopefully evolving. We graduating seniors are not dying cicadas but instead Blue Jays with our whole lives ahead of us, whatever that means. We will take what we’ve learned about ourselves and society and make the world a better place. 

So here’s to Sigmund Freud and Mary Ainsworth, to Vinny Manicotti and Karla Somerset. To Cabot and Roy G. Biv. To Oberon, Titania and Golden. To my chancellor, to my larynx and to my professional soulmate. To leaf sheep and meerkats and martinis and rugelach. To frolicking at Stony Run and Sherwood Gardens. To performing on M-level and at the farmer’s market. To saying the word “performative” a million times.

To everyone I’ve gotten to know at this problematic and beautiful place, through The News-Letter and otherwise. I hope to see you all at Power Plant in 17 years.

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