My parents always told me that the world can be a cruel place.
They would lecture me about being safe and making the right choices. They were always watching out for my well-being and offering all the quintessential parenting lessons.
Growing up, I wanted to believe that my world could be a better place than what I saw on the news on the television. I was particularly opposed to the stories where girls were taken advantage of by who they thought were friends. My world was not going to be filled with violent people and cruel intentions, and I wanted to make sure of that.
Being able to choose my friends provided me comfort. I would have a secure circle of friends to interact with and share my closest memories with. If anything went wrong, I would be able to say or do something about it without hesitation.
I would be judge, jury and executioner. Things don’t always work out that way though.
I truly want to believe that people have good intentions. This naivety stems from my desire to find the good in people and to celebrate those qualities.
Whenever someone is dubbed as “weird” by a majority of people, I say that person is quirky. There is no reason to equate weird with unapproachable.
I thought this no-judgement framing would make my parents proud. I would be kind to others and not judge people based on reputation or gossip. I wanted to think I had the ability to choose good friends.
This framing has undoubtedly put me in some bad situations. They always told me that I would find trouble being too nice.
Last Friday, I turned 21.
Amidst the first month of schoolwork, I was excited to have a night to celebrate with my friends. About 30 people ended up coming; although I am not close friends with all of them, I wanted to reconnect with people who I hadn’t seen yet this semester and enjoy a stress-free night.
As midnight rolled around, we decided to start walking to the bar. I always had reservations about going to bars, where there are large groups of people jostling around to blaring music. I was scared of getting lost from my friends or getting crushed in the crowd.
But I was with almost 30 people, so I should have been completely OK. There was no need to worry because every way I turned, I should have been able to see a familiar face.
I never would have thought that someone who was in my house, someone who I considered a friend could ever cause me distress or harm.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened.
Someone I knew had grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go, despite my protests and saying no. My vision was blocked by the person’s body. This person was trying to drag me from the bar while simultaneously trapping me from moving my head around to find someone. I tried pushing my hands to move the person but am admittedly physically weak and small.
I was frustrated and scared.
Eventually, with the help of a friend who saw me struggling against this person, I was able to finally leave. I never would have thought that I would choose to be friends with someone who wouldn’t listen to me.
I struggled with factoring in alcohol. There is always a gray area where people are unaware of their actions or give the excuse that, “oh, that person was just drunk.” I have let so many people get away with absolutely inexcusable things, and I can’t afford to do that any more.
A person who is a bad drunk does not always equate to a bad person sober, but there is a reason to be more guarded afterwards.
I spent all weekend thinking about the choices and judgements I made and how my “no judgement” attitude almost got me into an extremely dangerous situation. There is no reason to feel guilty for not trying to find the good in people who are simply not good people.
Of course, it’s important to be nice, friendly and optimistic. But at the same time, sometimes true intentions are difficult to ascertain until someone is seen inhibited in an uncontrolled environment. This cynical view isn’t ideal, but there is reason to be cautious, especially today.
Safety should be prioritized higher than giving people the benefit of the doubt. My parents would be happy that I have finally reached this conclusion, despite the difficult situation that forced me to reframe my thinking.
It may have taken me 21 years, but at least I got there.