The Collegiate Laws of Life Essay Contest asked Penn State students to explore ethical values and intercultural issues, and their talent for expressing their views in writing. Grace DePaull, ’22 Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Honors Scholar, Global and International Studies, won Honorable Mention for her essay, “An Observance of Humanity,” in response to this prompt:

“Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else.” David Foster Wallace
What makes us the same?

An Observance of Humanity

When I sit in the library at 11:45 pm on a Thursday, stealing glances over the top of my laptop to rows upon rows of students, concentrated faces become illuminated by the glow of fluorescent lamps. Noses are buried deep in books while glasses reflect the screens of laptops and earbuds deny the entry of distraction.

I know that we are the same.

We all desire the success and greater knowledge that propels us towards everything that we are destined to become.

When I make the corner of a musty basement of a local café my home, cases of yellowing paperback books hug the walls, and I watch the intricacies and nuances of people who become buried deeply in a paperback novel.

I know that we are the same.

We all want to escape reality by getting lost in an alternate universe before quietly touching back to the ground to carry on with the remainder of our day.

When I walk down the cobblestone streets, I see a student walking blindly with only a white stick to lead him to his destination. Stumbling along, becoming lost amidst the masses, an older woman grasps the unknown student’s hand and safely guides him along the way.

When two strangers sense the need for help and guidance, I know that we are the same.

We all are in need of a little help sometimes.

When I find a seat in a robustly crowded restaurant, chatter filling the airways, incomprehensible vocabulary compiling to form gibberish, I witness a group of friends laughing hysterically, unable to contain their joy. The group, uniting from various countries, speak with unique accents that accidentally slip to the surface of their speech. Even being beside those who physically differ from ourselves, it is evident that we are the same.

We all want to find people who welcome us to fit in, while simultaneously allowing us to stand out.

I walk down the street and a flag bearing the colors of the rainbow is grasped by individuals whose faces reveal the feeling of being free and overjoyed at who they are and who they have grown to be. While waving the colors proudly, collecting cheers from cars that drive by, I know we are the same.

We all want to love and to be loved.

When I open my door to find myself stepping on a pamphlet that had been gracefully slid underneath the crack with the words GO VOTE plastered across the parchment, I know this is preparation for the power of the future. Megaphones cut the air with reminders to register and voting has become a necessity, not just a privilege.

I know that we are the same.

We all crave the power, plead, and pain for our voices to be heard.

In a world where our differences have made it fairly easy to call upon the quirks and variances that we all possess, we are given the power to identify the similarities that are within us. Accepting the simple task of becoming a spectator to the intricate happenings of the world, one comes to recognize differences that set us apart, yet gravitate us towards those who feel cast beyond the imagined norm in the same ways.

Human life is gathered from uniquely shaped experiences, backgrounds, human interactions, passions that set the soul ablaze, and tragedies that hit in the deepest of ways. Human life is comprised of a billion intricately placed instances and occurrences that we are often times unaware of. Differences that sprout amongst humans are cast aside in the presence of the commonality of goals, desires, and interests that emit a gravitational pull that has the power to unite.

If you pause for a moment, you can witness it with your very own eyes.

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