4 min read

The story I write

The story I write

I have been honest in all my blogs so far, revealing a piece of my emotional world, being vulnerable to learn from the experience myself, and hopefully touching you with my words and perhaps inspiring you to do something different or to challenge you to see things from a different perspective

This blog is my most vulnerable one to date, and for me to write it is probably the most helpful on a personal level. With this, I am creating a new story of the event, foremost for myself.

I am in Albania, in a coastal national park. The fear from yesterday's aggressive dog still lingers as I cautiously ride my bike through the park. It has an eerie atmosphere; in the middle of the park there are abandoned houses, perhaps what were meant to be holiday homes at some point, or maybe the remnants of kiosks. Like many things in Albania, it's rugged and raw, with the occasional tourist, a stray dog, or a local Albanian. After a ride on the open beach – how cool it is to bike on the beach – I start feeling more at ease. Then, I encounter a small elderly man on a bike. Even before he says anything, I analyse whether he could be a potential danger, and I conclude that I could handle him. In hindsight, I wonder if men also make such assessments. He asks if I've seen the pelicans. I reply, 'No,' and he signals for me to follow him. It's on the way, and a few minutes later, we arrive at the spot where the pelicans – which turn out to be flamingos – are staying. He gestures for me to take photos. Meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out an appropriate amount to give this man for his help. I try to make clear to him that I'm heading in a different direction. He doesn't speak English, and when I use Google Translate, I think I notice that he can't read either. He understands which way I want to go and signals to me to bike along with him a bit more as he takes the lead. In the meantime, I send Sebas a message – who is also in Albania – with my location and that I'm getting a tour but will check in occasionally because I don't entirely trust it. Not much later, the man tries to kiss me and touches my breasts. I act quickly, push him away, shout a loud 'no,' get on my bike, and ride away. As fast as I can, but on the sandy path with a bike full of luggage, it doesn't feel fast enough.

Adrenaline mixes with anger, fear, and sadness. Five minutes later, I come across a car with men who are about to go fishing; they are eating watermelon, and they immediately offer me a piece. Illustrative of the Albanian hospitality I experience daily. I don't say anything to them about what happened but gratefully take the moment to catch my breath and make sure I'm not being followed. That turns out not to be the case; I continue cycling and call Sebas. I cry, and he reassures me. I will see him tomorrow, which also gives me a comforting feeling. Fortunately, I'm out of the park; it's not far to the next place where I decide to book an apartment instead of camping and make sure that I create a safe place for myself.

Keeping it inside

When I'm back with Sebas, we have a good conversation about it, and I can see and hear that it has affected him too. For both of us, it's the feeling of powerlessness that is most frustrating. In the days that follow, it keeps coming back to my thoughts. A shiver literally runs through my body when I see his face again in my mind. I actually don't want to bring it up again because I don't want to make Sebas feel worse about it, so I keep it to myself. Until I decide to take the time and delve deeper into it. During one of the Challenge Accepted sessions, we talk about processing emotions, and I revisit the session and follow the steps. I start by writing down the facts of what happened, then analyse the lessons hidden in it for me, connect them to actions, and finally let go.

It immediately brings me peace. I notice I feel shame, one of the reasons why I write this, to break through that shame. I have zero guilt in this; besides, I don't need to keep myself strong, and it's indeed unfair that one person with bad intentions can make you feel unsafe so quickly.

I learn that I can take up space with Sebas by addressing this again, that I can let him support me and let him stay in his role. At the very least, not deprive him of the opportunity to be there for me, because I think it would make him feel bad.

Afterwards, I did a brief meditation on the beach, imagining how these feelings were all carried away by the sea.

The power of choice

That evening, I had a conversation with Sebas and made the decision to tell a new story. I have decided that I do not want to be led by fear; I continue to believe that most people are good. Although I am more aware that this does not apply to everyone. I now know that I can trust my intuition and will act upon it and that whenever I'm in danger I can trust myself to act quickly and powerfully. That is the story I remember and the lessons I take from it.

Finally, I have once again realised that by pushing away feelings, they linger in your body, but by diving into them, moving through them, you extract lessons and become ready to level up.

The lessons I take from it:

  1. Give space to what you experience and extract the lessons.
  2. Share your feelings and seek help when needed. In this case, this worked for me; if you have something you're struggling with and need professional help, seek for it. Know that you don't have to go through it alone.
  3. Ask yourself what story do you want to write?