At BELL I had a revelation. One moment I remember so vividly was when we began the second day of working on “group togetherness.” For one part of it, we were supposed to lift one person in the air, keeping them laying straight as a board. The moment I was lifted, I felt like I was free. Anything that made me self-conscious went away in the five seconds I was lifted. That was the beginning of really knowing I was in a safe place. That was when I knew I was in right place.
I believe a new situation can help define who you are. I believe this because I was presented with a new situation this past summer at the Brown Environmental Leadership Lab (BELL). When I first applied for the summer program, I did not give much thought to it, it was something to do and I was obsessed with Brown University. Its prestigious location on College Hill and its accomplishments in academic excellence called out to me. The course would take place, however, in Bristol, Rhode Island, otherwise known as the Haffenreffer property.
I was quite nervous. My insides ran laps around my body, my stomach doing jumping jacks inside of me. I was still terrified of being around strangers and the idea of making no friends haunted me. In school, I am known as “the shy girl,” the girl who does not speak up in class and who people tend to ignore. I have a lot of great friends, but I am far from “popular.” Shaking in the Silver Toyota, I opened the door hesitantly; fearful of what was to come. It was bright out, and the sun radiated warmth, slowing down my breathing. As I entered the brick Summer Programs Building, I was welcomed immediately and thrown into a group of individuals, all unique and intelligent. My once flush face began to go back to its normal, very white color.
The protective shell that I had created my freshman year began to crack and fall from my shoulders. This “shy girl” had transformed. Within twenty minutes of the bus ride from Providence to Bristol, I had made my first best friend on the trip. She was from Maryland, and like me she was nervous about being away from home. The tension and fear slowly ran out of my body through my fingertips. Throughout the first few days at the Haffenreffer, we went though bonding and trust exercises. I had done them before in school but I did not take them seriously because I thought I knew my class well enough not to trust them.
I believe that new places can help figure out who you are because BELL gave me a new identity, one that I had inside me all along. BELL brought out the best in everyone and made sure the stereotypes that were given to use, by choice or not, disappeared. From the two-week experience BELL gave me, I learned that fresh starts are real and that a person is defined by the confidence they exude. The “shy girl” image that my classmates at school defined for me evolved to that of a woman people could respect and trust. This gave me the power to defy what others stereotype me as and I was also given the confidence to believe in myself.
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