So this happened…
Long ago…when I was just barely 16 years old, my grandmother took me to Hawaii for 2 weeks as my birthday gift.
Yes, that was a pretty awesome bday gift—I even got to miss school. The catch was, I was going on the trip with 35 other seniors. In other words, I, a teenage girl, was on a seniors tour.
Now when you stop laughing, there is more to this story.
I actually ended up having a lot of fun for the most part. It’s true that having 35 grandparents along to chaperon you can be a bit stifling to a 16 year old, especially way back in the olden days when we didn’t have smartphones or the internet to entertain us. However, I did get to see 3 different islands, go to many cool and interesting places, eat amazing food, and I even convinced them to let me try surfing lessons (that’s a whole ‘nother story).
But today, I want to share with you something that happened on that trip that wasn’t so pleasant.
A story that, in fact, until today, I have never told a single person. Not my parents, my friends and definitely never my grandmother (may she rest in peace).
It all happened during the one time I was permitted some time to myself.
You see, in case you have never been on a seniors tour, pretty much every minute of your day is scheduled. It was driving me nuts, so one evening after supper when we finally had nothing planned, I just had to get out and go for a walk.
I can’t remember exactly where we were but it was a city. It could have been Honolulu, but I’m not positive. The thing is I was allowed to go out into this strange city on my own for a short walk. It was heaven.
It was pretty early, maybe only 7pm, but it was dark (it was February—side note…I TOTALLY just realized that many of the most important events in my life have happened in February…weird!!).
The city lights were bright and everything was so ALIVE. I was wandering around the shops along the street outside our hotel, just really experiencing all the vibrancy of island life.
I guess I walked pretty far though because somehow I ended up mostly alone on the sidewalk as I headed back to our hotel. Things had quieted down considerably. It really didn’t bother me. I’ve always loved traveling and exploring and spending time by myself is pretty much a necessity for my sanity.
So I was completely fine and comfortable, until…
A man in a jeep stopped right beside me and asked me if he could take my picture.
My first thought was, “Wow, he must think I’m really pretty to want to take my picture. I do look really good today in my pink miniskirt.”
My second thought was, “Really, Heather, this is how girls get abducted, just keep walking.”
Part of me was flattered that he had singled me out but my intuition was telling me to run like hell.
Now back then, I wasn’t so good at listening to my intuition. In fact, ignoring it had gotten me in trouble more than once.
However, I managed to politely tell him no and kept on walking (but I also thought how the hell could one picture hurt, right?). He proceeded to follow me along the sidewalk in his jeep and kept talking to me, trying to wear me down and convince me to let him take my picture.
The entire conversation to me is now a blur, but I do know now, that if I had stopped or agreed to a picture, I probably wouldn’t be here today. The longer he followed me, the more afraid I got. I told him no many many times.
The only thing, I believe, that saved me was that my hotel was suddenly there and I ran into it. You can guess, I didn’t take any more alone time on that trip after that.
It wasn’t until AFTER the incident and even to this day, that I realized how much I really was in danger at that moment. Sure, there is the odd chance the guy really just wanted my picture, but I highly highly doubt it.
My intuition had most likely saved my life (even though my brain didn’t think there was anything wrong with having a picture taken).
Yes, it could also be called common sense. But there aren’t very many 16 year old girls that I know with much common sense, and I am pretty sure that I didn’t have much way back when either. Or, maybe the whole “stranger—danger!” thing we learned as kids really did sink in.
Whatever it was, I thank my guardian angels (aka my intuition) that day for keeping me safe.
You may be wondering why I never shared that story before.
Because I was ashamed.
Yes, I was embarrassed because I felt like I had been an idiot to be in that situation in the first place, that it was my fault. I had made a poor choice. And, that if I told my grandmother or parents, I would never be allowed out again until I was in my 30s.
I also somehow from that experience came up with the bizarre belief that if I looked good, or stood out in any way, that bad things would happen; that I wouldn’t be safe.
For the rest of the trip, I didn’t wear cute skirts or shorts. After I got home, I started wearing blah neutral colours instead of fun colours like I loved. As the years went by, I subconsciously gained weight, and pretty much tried to blend into the background as much as possible; to hide.
It took me a good chunk of my life to finally understand and even recognize that I had that belief. That I was hiding myself to stay safe.
Yes, that night I was wearing a mini-skirt and I was a pretty cute teenage girl, but that didn’t mean I was instantly inviting someone to harm me. I wasn’t doing anything wrong; I was shopping and walking like everyone else on the street that night. It took me a long time to see that and to forgive myself.
Funny, isn’t it, how we can blame ourselves for the actions of others? And, how we can let an event that happened to us in the past, colour our future and change who we are.
I went back to Hawaii in 2005, completely on my own.
I was fresh out of a 10 year toxic relationship (a time I didn’t listen to my intuition) and needed to prove to myself I could do something worthwhile. I went there to complete the Honolulu marathon (see here for that story), but I also needed to come to peace with many of the demons from my past.
This story was one of those.
It was once again on the streets of Honolulu that I realized that what happened when I was 16 was not my fault and why was I making such a big deal about it? Yes, I carried that around with me all those years. When I got home, I lost weight and started adding colour back into my wardrobe.
My message today for you is this, events from our past can haunt us our entire lives. Small events, big events, things we did, things that happened to us, things we did to others, etc.
But in the end, they are just events. It is up to us to forgive ourselves, learn the lesson, and let it go so that we may live today as fully and as happily as we can. If we don’t, we just end up crushed by the weight of our past when all we really have is this moment right now.
P.S. Sorry for the crappy photo quality. These are scanned from actual pics from long ago before digital cameras.