Dear Stranger at the Park …

I’m sorry if I came off as rude.shades and rocks

No. I’m really not sorry at all. The only thing I’m sorry about is that my first instinct is to still say “I’m sorry” when I don’t do what someone else wants or expects me to do.

I had stopped to get some food, eat and read for a few minutes, then get on with my errands and my evening. Striking up conversation wasn’t part of that plan, certainly not with strangers who imposed themselves into my space and ignored every physical cue I was giving that I really wanted to be left alone.

I was fine with telling you where I got the food, but when you kept asking questions I just gave you a nod and looked away. Thankfully you got it and left.

You likely walked away with an unfavorable impression of me, but really I don’t care. I know who I am, and I am comfortable with that, even the areas that could use work. I can’t control what other people think of me, and it’s none of my business anyway. I like myself a whole lot. No other opinion merits much value, if any. I’ve worked very hard to get here.

There are a whole lot of boundary-less people out there, and I used to be one of them. I did things I did not want to do for people who were not always nice or respectful to me, sometimes for people I really didn’t even like at all. But, I felt like I had to do this thing, these things they were requesting of me. To refuse would mean I wasn’t nice. I really wanted you – ALL OF YOU – to think I was nice. If you didn’t, it was just confirming some of the bad things I was already thinking about myself.

But I’d do these things I didn’t want to do, and I’d get resentful. Sometimes it would make me not very nice to be around. I could complain that I was coerced, but that wasn’t true. I had said yes, and sometimes I had even volunteered without being asked. It was nobody’s fault but mine.

Back in those days it seems like I had a lot of unhappy people around me … people who tried to prove their problems were the worst or their achievements were the greatest or whatever. They aren’t bad people, but they are wounded, and they were looking to other people and other factors outside of themselves to heal those wounds. One day, I decided I couldn’t be in the healing business anymore. I found out it was a bottomless pit and a never ending battle. So I gave up and focused on healing my own wounds instead.

And what do you know! Now I’m mostly surrounded by positive and happy people. Respectful and kind people. Once I stopped acting like a victim, I stopped attracting people to prey on me.

And so, stranger at the park, I guess that brings us to our encounter. My intuition told me you were the kind of person who did not easily take no for an answer, and I knew if I gave you any sort of entry point, that would be my own fault. I’d be pressed to answer questions I did not want to answer, desperately searching for an escape from something I allowed. So instead, I didn’t even let the cycle start. That’s why there was no smile or air of welcome from me.

I’m not sorry about seeming rude or unfriendly. But I am thankful to you. Today you showed me how much I have grown.

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Andrew Hines

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