How The Light Shines Upon Them

The first time I walked into Lower Right, a scared new Lower, I thought to myself that this is the most intimidating place in the world. Surrounded by people who were taller than me, older than me, and had a look on their faces that just said, “I’m so done with this place”. The first time I walked into Upper Left, I felt discouraged from sitting down with my friends, for worry of disturbing the quiet white noise of the teachers and families. The first time I walked into Upper Right, I thought I had landed in some sort of a zoo- albeit a zoo in which my friends and I chose to spend our dinner times. The room was loud, the tables were dirty, and every few seconds or so, you would hear a Lower attempt to scream something all the way across the dining hall to his friend by the cutlery table. With the inner clean freak in me popping in, I realized that I felt genuinely uncomfortable sitting with my friends in Upper Right.

But then there was Lower Left. Lower left was a place so dysfunctional- in the way it was organized, by the nature of those who frequented it- that it became functional again through the common nature of the collective. Since Lower year, Lower Left has become my comfort spot, the place in Commons where I am not afraid to sit by myself, the place in Commons where I know with almost full certainty, that I will always have a place to sit. Fast-forward two years, and I realized that I was feeling perhaps a little too comfortable in lower left. I no longer concerned myself with the people who were sitting around me, only with the people I knew. I needed to see the dining hall again, without making assumptions. I was stuck in my own definition of the place, and that needed to change. 

So I threw on a hoodie, and plugged in my ear buds. I put on my meanest face and most intimidating stare. I sat at a table in the farthest corner of the room, unplugged my iPod, and just watched. Immediately I noticed was the way a group of three young girls, presumably juniors, kept glancing at the upperclassmen sitting at the high tables in the middle of the dining hall. It wasn’t a look of displeasure; on the contrary, the three seemed to be admiring their older peers. I was the same as a child, always looking for people to look up to, all of a sudden; I was reminded of how easy it is to forget when you are older. How easy it is not to care when you are the oldest in the room, how easy it can be to desire looking up at every step of the way, rather than looking down and helping someone else make the climb.

I kept looking. Never before had I noticed how the woman behind the counter in lower left hums to herself. Switching from a sad and melancholic tune, to a suddenly upbeat and cheerful sound, and back again. There were no rules, no set rhythms or guidelines to her music, the tune simply created a melody to which she would dance around the counter, deriving a sort of simple satisfaction from the small tasks in life. 

But perhaps most striking about the dining hall as a whole were its colors. Colors in every sense of the word. The room was bright, illuminated by the large chandeliers that seemed a little too big and imposing for the people who frequented the hall and the windows which stood tall as always, allowing the room to be flooded with a mix of natural and artificial light. The students, and teachers, and faculty were the most striking though. I spotted a mix, of young and old, short and tall, skinny and not-as-skinny people. I saw girls with long hair, boys with short hair, and girls with short hair, boys with long hair, and even some with no hair. Every conceivable hair color was represented in the room, even including some less natural shades, such as neon yellow and pink. Some of the students held my stare with brown eyes, some with blue, some with green, some with eye colors that I cannot even begin to describe, for I wouldn’t do them justice even if I tried.

There were people of countless ethnicities.  Virtually every shade of skin color was represented in the room. Even without knowing the people and their traits, I could see the room had personality. There was a strong character to the conglomeration of individuals and colors in such a concentrated space. The more I thought about it retrospectively, the more I agreed with my initial thought. The people in the hall created such a wide range of shades and colors, and yet they formed an entity. They belonged together. Like a spectrum of hues created by the diffraction of light from a single precious crystal. It was beautiful.