A Storm of Thought
Isabella DeClue, Division 2, 10th grade #ws17e-s1d2

As I started considering an answer to this question, the current world population was 7,488,725,129. With such a massive number of people living in places and circumstances I could never imagine, I won't lie, it's hard to point out one thing I do differently from the billions of souls that make up “everyone else”. There is a countless number of people in the huge expanse of the world who share my gender, ethnicity, age, and even some of my personality traits. And that's a scary thought, for both me, and the many philosophers that have considered this question in the past. What really does make me different?

Even if I haven't met her yet, another dancing Argentine girl is out there, lacing up her faded, barely pink pointe shoes while simultaneously trying to get through a massive pile of textbooks and worksheets. As she leaps and stretches, she is distracted, the perfectly printed, Times New Roman words from the pages still drifting around in her mind. There's a girl doodling away in class, maybe drawing a lizard with a fierce glare, hoping her father will be waiting at the mahogany door when she gets home. Tentatively knocking, she brushes her wild, wispy hair out of her eyes, surrounded by the storm, the tornado, of dread and hope. We've faced common struggles; we both know the feeling of our toes burning after a particularly hard turn, and the frustration when a new ballpoint pen suddenly disappears.

So what does set me apart, if so many of my experiences are shared? The answer is one word: thought.

Only I have lived through the past 15 years as Isabella Lidia DeClue. Only I have gained the memories and felt the pain and joy which shape the way I see the world. Of course, everyone has their own version of those two sentences, which is why I'd like to return to the number I first mentioned: 7,488,725,129. It’s so massive that it's impossible to even imagine. But despite the fact that this number is growing constantly, I notice a startling conformity surrounding me every day. Sometimes, it seems like nearly everyone I see fits effortlessly into same mold. Together, they hear the same voices flowing into their minds through a colorful pair of headphones. They refresh the same accounts over and over again, hoping to hear something new from their friends, as they walk into the same department store with just enough extra money to buy the latest trending fashion item. And so I wonder, do they notice this, too? Do they think about how we are living in a society that, under the pretense of embracing individuality, pushes out those who attempt to express it?

I think differently because I spend as much time in my mind as I can, even at my own expense. I notice, I observe, and I consider, from the peonies that stopped growing in my neighbor’s yard, to my friend’s hesitant look as she steps onto the annoyingly bright orange school bus, to a news update about foreign policy in Thailand. What seems to be the smallest detail can, and often does, have a huge impact on the lives of those around me, and noticing these details opens my eyes to the problems they face. Sometimes, I’ll try to guess as much as I can about the relative strangers in the crowded, red high school hallways I pass by each day, or the faces that appear on the thick, watercolor paper of my sketchbook in blue and black ink. Each one is its own mystery, the creases of worry embedded in their forehead or the faint look of hope in their eyes just waiting to be solved.

I try to make the most of every spare moment in my mind, because rational thought is the first step to a solution in a world full of so many problems. Maybe someday, I’ll even get a chance resolve a few of these. But today, too many people are spending their lives going through the actions others have taken thousands of times, without even realizing it. Too much time is being wasted trying mindlessly to fit in, and not truly developing originality. What all 7,488,725,129 of us feel we each do differently, we must embrace, in order to prove that difference is strength, and a world of conformity is not only a bleak and boring one, but a dangerous one.
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