Since moving back home, I’ve probably had way too much time to myself. It’s not hard when all you have to focus on is getting through the 3-day DIY juice cleanse. Let me rephrase that because it actually did take a lot of concentration not to drool over Pinterest food porn. Rephrasing isn’t gonna happen today, my wit reserves have dried up.
For my whole life, people (parents, teachers) have been warning me about being taken advantage of. As a child, in pre-pre-school, my mom would drill into me the word “mine” so that I wouldn’t be bullied in school when another child wanted to steal my bear. (Let me tell you, it worked. No bear of mine was ever kidnapped.) Throughout the rest of my adolescence, every time I brought up a favor I did for a classmate, people would ask me if I was doing too much. If the kindness I was giving exceeded the norm from one human to another, crossing that short bridge into “being used” or “naive.”
So, as overcompensation, I grew a little paranoid. I started to think everyone had an ulterior motive. That girl that wanted to befriend me during 6th grade—she was just using me to get closer to one of my guy friends. The guy that said hi in the hallways on my way to class—he was going to make fun of me or ask me for help on homework. I did this for years, not allowing anyone behind the barriers because I didn’t trust them enough not to take advantage of me.
But I began to realize something through this thick wall that I erected between myself and other people. I was missing out on making myself vulnerable to others—the kind of vulnerability that has potential of progressing a relationship to a whole new level. The kind of wholesome trust between two people was denied me because I was too cautious to let anyone get that close. Even with my oldest, closest friends, my heart would stutter when I was about to tell them something private.
This changed, of course, mostly because it wasn’t as rewarding. All the friends you make end up just “surface friends” and you start to crave connections on a whole different level. So, with difficulty, I was able to tamp down that voice in the back of my head that poured doubts in my mind about people’s motives and really enjoy the relationships that I forged throughout my life. Every once in a while, when things got too real, I revert back a state where I fear others are asking favors not because I’m their friend, but because they can use me as a stepping stone and never turn back.
I like to think that I’ve found a certain balance on the bridge. But, as I stand on the cusp of my 5-month adventure abroad, I can’t help but worry. Have I really found a balance or am I simply too tired to care anymore? And why do I have to worry about this all the time when all I really want to do is to give people something in good will?
It’s exhausting, you know, to constantly fear whether people are being real or not. To constantly have that bullshit radar ready to go. I fear that one day I will fall, but neither side of the bridge is a healthy place to be—you either shut everyone out or you let people in unscreened to ravage and use whatever you have to give.
Today, I am boarding a plane that will take me to London Heathrow. And then to Lyon where I will take a bus to my final destination. To an adventure I’ve always wanted to have.
So, although there are many frightening things coming my way, I choose to focus on the positive.
I’ve decided to open myself to new experiences.
The world is a scary place, but I don’t want that to stop me from experiencing it.