Free to be me

Haley Bunnell, Featured Columnist

     My eyes were fixed to the fierce, bold girl leading songs unknown to me as she yelled at the top of her lungs, “Y, YO, YOU, UNITY, UNITY, WE ARE THE YOUTH OF UNITY!” She screamed and the group repeated her after every word. People were jumping up and down, with the most exuberant facial expressions I had ever seen. Everyone looked happy and confident, except for me. Now, after going to Unity Church of Dallas on and off my whole life, it was the year to be a part of YOU, a group for High school students. I had no idea what to expect, nor did I know anyone. I walked into the red house, cautiously and shyly when I found my way into a new room full of new people.

     My hands fidgeted by my side, and I repeatedly looked around to make sure no one was looking at me. I felt extremely self-conscious and alone, until the girl whom I had admired before came up to me suddenly after the lesson and introduced herself. “Hey, I am Erika, what’s your name?” “Haley,” I finally managed to respond with a stutter as I twirled my hair. She looked at me intently. Not in a staring kind of way, but in a loving way. I didn’t feel judged like I usually feel at school. I felt loved. Loved by someone I had just met. She then opened her arms wide, reaching for a hug. In that instant, for the first time, I felt accepted and cared for by other teenagers.

     From that day on, I went to YOU every Sunday, and became a new me, a changed person. Yes, I was still Haley Alise Bunnell, but I was also confident. I was happy. I was friendly. I was in an environment that was completely accepting of different beliefs, races, sexuality and appearances. Everyone was unique in their own way, loved themselves, and accepted each other.

     That was when I knew what my purpose in life was. I didn’t think it was possible to just know what you were born to do, but after meeting Erika and all of the other teenagers, I had a dream. I knew I had a mission to accomplish. It was to help those who were like me before I entered the YOU room that day. Those who need a friend and someone to talk to.  Those who don’t know how to get help, or feel invisible.  My dream was to help individuals feel like they belong and are accepted no matter what they look like, talk like, or act like.

     I honestly don’t think I would be who I am today, if it wasn’t for the spunky girl who gave me a hug. I wouldn’t look in the mirror, and sincerely love my reflection like I do now. I probably wouldn’t have the guts to lead the chant go up to random people and introduce myself like Ericka did. Thanks to YOU I feel loved and accepted, and I am free to be me.