Trusting strangers is a funny concept. It’s something we are told from day one not to do. Don’t talk to strangers. It’s engrained in our tiny minds and, as we get older and meeting strangers is something we have to do, we are forced to do something so unnatural for us. For me during this abroad experience, I was pretty trusting of strangers. I gave everyone the benefit of the doubt and assumed that they were all like New Yorkers (maybe not the friendliest on the outside, but definitely having a big heart and general care for other people—this is my perception of New Yorkers, at least, I’m sure many will disagree. Regardless, I trusted the strangers I saw on the street and in the metro despite warnings to watch my things and beware of pick pocketers, strangers who you could not trust. Eventually, my naivety caught up with me and I got pick pocketed. Unfortunate, yes, but at least I was safe and it was just a phone. But in this process, I was shaken awake, forced to face the reality that, like Mom and Dad told me, strangers are sometimes actually people to beware of.
The fact that people aren’t necessarily just minding their own business is something tricky to have to grasp. After that incident, I felt vulnerable and scared even. It was hard for me to feel comfortable going to class on the metro, or walking down the street, or passing through large crowds. I’m sad to say that this uneasy feeling has stayed with me because I really can’t let my guard down. I can’t trust these strangers like I have been doing all of my adult life. It’s a weird thing to have to come to terms with. I have gone up to so many strangers and introduced myself, some of whom are my best friends now. I’ve dropped my wallet and had it returned by strangers on the street. I’ve networked with strangers who have eventually become my bosses. We are taught to be cautious of strangers, but quickly let our guard down as these people become more than strangers. For me, I have always given people the benefit of the doubt and have always pretty much let people into my life. While getting pick pocketed is much different than forming some emotional relationship with a stranger, it still makes me cautious about trusting strangers.
Of course there is a difference between trusting strangers and putting myself in dangerous situations. I’m able to identify the difference here very clearly, but I can’t help but be cautious in every regard now which is odd. Being able to walk around New York with my phone in my back pocket is definitely going to take some used to again and not having to double check all of my belongings every time someone bumps into me will be refreshing, but I will still definitely have some sort of precaution approaching and dealing with strangers.