Trusting my Instincts
I got the inspiration for this post from Angela over at her awesome blog, Oh She Glows. (Btw, she makes the most delicious looking breakfasts, I am constantly drooling over those pictures!).
She talks about encountering a sticky situation where her gut kicks in and tells her there is something wrong. I think she did the right thing when she took off and removed herself from the situation.
As women, I feel we are often people-pleasers, and we usually shy away from doing anything that may be offensive or make the other party feel awkward. This can be any situation, including encounters with friends and/or strangers. I, too, fall under this category.
What I’ve learnt over the years is that no one cares more about you, than yourself. No one cares more about your safety than yourself. So, if something is “off” and your body tells you so – it could be a gut feeling, your hair standing on ends, whatever it may be, trust yourself.
Sure, you may seem rude for leaving the situation, and maybe you left the other person feeling weird, but that is not your problem. Your priority is to keep yourself safe, and if that means stepping on the dainty toes of some other people, so be it.
I led a very sheltered life growing up in the sub-urbs around Toronto. So when I first started traveling abroad, I was probably too naive and innocent to see that not everyone has my best interests at heart, and that I needed to look out for myself.
I moved to Boston when I was 22 for an internship, and I would encounter people who would just come up and talk to me. My good friends saw this, and they saw that it made me uncomfortable, but they also saw that I didn’t know how leave the situation. They stepped in and pulled me (physically) away, and said something that I will always remember.
AM, you don’t have to speak with anyone that you don’t want to. If doesn’t matter if they approached you, or not. If they make you feel uncomfortable, just walk away.
When I asked them if that was rude, they responded, Who cares? If you feel uncomfortable or not safe, that’s more important than someone else feeling a little miffed.
They are so right.
Another story that stands out and I want to share was when I was on exchange term in Singapore in 2007.
I got into the habit of running at night. It was way too hot to be running any other time (except maybe before dawn). I lived on the campus dormitory, and there was always people on campus even late into the night, so I always felt safe running – until this one time.
I ran around a road that encircled my campus, and I stopped to catch my breath and walk a little. It just so happened that I was walking in front of our library, and a student stopped me to ask for directions to a dormitory. It just so happened to be the dorm that I stayed at.
I pointed him out to the appropriate on-campus bus to take and was about to be on my way, when he said that the buses were really complicated and asked if he could walk with me instead. I explained that I was running (if he couldn’t already tell from my sweaty self), and he pointed it out that I was walking at the moment.
I told him I was taking a break, and he asked if he could just follow me and I agreed but I wasn’t going to wait for him.
I know, I know. Alarm bells, right?
I felt something was a little “off” and I ignored it. It wasn’t until we got to a more deserted stretch of the road that my imagination started acting up, and I realized that following me was a stranger. So I picked up my pace and ran as hard as I could until I got to my dormitory. He was carrying a backpack and a bunch of text books, but I wasn’t about to underestimate his strength or speed.
However, when I got to the dormitory, I felt safe again. People were surrounding me, and there were lots of lights. And I felt that I had let my imagination get the best of me.
The stranger caught up to me, and I was about to leave since he had found where he was looking for. Then he asked if he could have a tour. I said that I was about to walk back to my room, and he could just look at the common areas, and he could back during office hours.
After the walk through the common areas, I was about to take off, when he asked me to see my room.
What was this guy thinking?!
At this point, I didn’t want to be rude, and explained that I just finished my run, and would be washing up and then going to bed, so he should really come back for a tour with the resident staff. I did not feel comfortable showing a stranger my room. Or, I could ask my guy friends to show him their room, if he really needed to see it tonight.
He responded by saying, he could wait while I took my shower, and that there was no need to call my friends. When we got to places where there were lots of people, he backed away.
Finally I listened to my guy and alarm bells. I said that I was leaving and he should go.
He asked if he could come up to my room. I refused. He asked again. And again. I told him I was going to call the police. And he finally left.
My dormitory has pretty high security, and you can’t get into the elevator without an access card. Then, you can’t get out of the elevator lobby without the right access card. And of course, there is the individual room keys.
When I got back to my room, it finally dawned on me what a perilous situation I had put myself in. And I felt both really stupid and relieved at the same time.
I called my friend and told him what happened. He made sure I was OK and the stranger hadn’t touched me, and from then on, we always ran together at night.
The next day, we discussed it, and I realized why the stranger had asked me so many times if he could come up to my room.
In Singapore, the girls are more docile, and usually feel embarrassed to refuse (especially so many times) and usually give in, even when they don’t want to. If I was a Singaporean girl, I might have caved and agreed. I think that’s what this stranger was counting on. Instead, he encounters a naive Canadian who is wondering why the heck he keeps repeating the same question.
Funny enough, my friend and I ran into the stranger at the library a few days after. Complete coincidence. But I wanted to show him that I recognized his face, and he better not try to pull this stunt again. We approached him, and I greeted him.
Hi, StrangerName. Remember me? I just wanted you to meet my friend, and if you ever want to see a room, you can ask him.
I never saw him again.
My story could have had a tragic ending. And I scare myself when I say it out loud – he wanted to rape me. I’m pretty sure of it now.
I was lucky. I should have listened to my gut. Now, I know better.
If I feel uncomfortable in the slightest way, I will leave. I have a right to do so. And if I seem rude, then that’s better than putting my safety at risk.
Do you have a gut feeling story? Do you listen to your instincts?