I feel very uncomfortable when people try to fix me by telling me what to do. This is especially true about my beliefs in religion and my boundaries emotionally, physically, and sexually. I was taught that there is right and wrong, and I believe this is true. But I was not taught how I can learn for myself the differences between right and wrong, without talking to a religious leader within my community. This bothered me. So to all of those who want to fix me, I really only have one thing to say to you, “Leave me alone!”
Allow me to introduce myself. I am a Chinese girl in my mid-twenties. Internationally the world doesn’t use the word girl to describe me. I realized this while living in Europe for high school and university. More often, the world calls girls like me “young women.” I now remind myself that “I am an intelligent and beautiful young Chinese woman who can do anything.” Rick encouraged me to remind myself of this often, so now I believe it. A few years ago, I didn’t believe this.
I was one of the lucky Chinese students who was fortunate to study overseas in the UK, but I often did not feel so fortunate during those years. My religious Chinese culture, which is Christian, simply had not prepared me for a small list of cultural differences that I was introduced to within my first year of high school. And it only got more interesting (scary) as time passed.
After my second year of high school, I felt like a foreigner wherever I went. I realized this when I visited my hometown in China for the summer. What I didn’t understand was why I was feeling this way, but now I know. I learned two important lessons about me and how this world really works.
First, the vast majority of parents are struggling to raise their children in this modern time. This is not a cultural concern of any particular country, it’s global. It doesn’t matter what your religious or political beliefs are. Raising children is hard work, so kids (me included), realize your parents don’t hate you, although sometimes it feels that way. They love you but they show it the way that they are comfortable showing it. For example, spending a lot on your education or working 80 to 100 hours a week at their jobs, which often they don’t even like.
Second, if society (like our schools and religious institutions) were able to help parents and children communicate better, this world would be a much better place. However, these institutions are often trained in everything accept how to raise children which includes encouraging students to be their best. But kids don’t get angry, get even. You can start learning what I’ve been learning.
I am one of the lucky ones because I met a few people that had a profound influence on my life before I was even twenty years old. One was Rick. It took me about two years to really trust him, but when I did, that is when my life changed. It is easier than you think to find people to trust, but more on that later.
More than two years had passed since I met Rick, so I had built up a strong trust. Since I also guessed that coaching fees can get expensive, I decided to use my coach and therapist favors for the right time—a last resort.
I will never forget the moment when I dialed him. I was in France and I felt threatened emotionally, physically, and sexually by the people who were supposed to be my host family. I was a mess. I wasn’t sure what I was going to say when Rick answered, but I knew memorizing a speech would not work. One strategy that usually did not work for me was using memorized speeches. When I feel connected to a particular event emotionally, giving a memorized speech does not work for me.
English had become my primary language in Europe, so when I heard the phone connect and Rick’s “hello,” my first sentence felt memorized, but then the emotions took over.
“I don’t know how to begin, so. . .”
He could hear the panic in my voice and how I was holding back the tears.
“It sounds like you are calling because you are feeling distressed, perhaps frightened. Do you mind if I share a few things with you first? It might help.”
It was obvious that he had tuned into my emotional state. I exhaled, “Yes. Go.”
“I have been listening and coaching people for years, over fifteen years, so there is nothing you can say that will surprise me. I’ve heard it all.” Then he spoke a short list of common issues people ask him about. A few items on the list caught my attention: sexual pressure at school, the desire to rebel against my parents, and feeling uncomfortable in a place, such as a foreign country. He was a bit more graphic when he spoke his list, but I got the idea quickly and stopped him mid-course.
“Ok, you don’t need to go through the list—I know it.” I felt a little rude for cutting him off, but he didn’t seem to mind a bit. “So how much do your coaching or therapist services cost?”
He paused, pretended to add some numbers and answered. “For you, free.”
I noticeably exhaled again. “Wow.” I would have happily paid any amount he had said. I paused and realized it was now or never. “As you know I went to France. Well, I met up with a family that is really messed-up. I mean, they are very open sexually and they often yell at each other, especially the husband and wife — this is different from my Chinese culture. My job here in France is a nanny. The host woman is divorced, but her ex-husband is around a lot because he likes to visit his son. The kid acts a lot like his father. They, the father and son, make all kinds of sexual comments at me, things like ‘you have a nice butt’ and the boy even tried to sit on my face — long story, hard to describe — I know, it sounds crazy, but I really feel strange being here. I have never had someone talk to me this way. Since they told me what they are thinking, sometimes I feel it when they stare, although, sometimes it might be my imagination. . .I’m too afraid to look over at them when I feel them staring at me. You know what I look like. I know guys look. . .”
I knew I could say so much more, but I stopped. Either he would tell me I was overthinking it or he would tell me I wasn’t. I had made my case. I was no longer afraid of his answer because I knew I could handle and accept whatever he said.
“Are you feeling a little better now?”
I grunted, “Yes—a little.”
“You’ve been through a lot recently. I have heard similar stories from others. . .they ended well. I am trying to imagine what you described, like the little boy trying to sit on your face and how uncomfortable you felt when the man told you about your “nice butt” in front of his son and ex-wife. If these have made you feel uncomfortable, that is understandable. Good?”
“Sure.” I wasn’t sure where he was going, but so far I was feeling better than I had even three minutes earlier. At least I had someone to talk to who seemed a little saner than me.
“Good. Allow me to gain a little more understanding about your setting. How does your mother feel about this? I am guessing you called her.”
“I did but she told me I was over-thinking it. She told me I should not be thinking such bad thoughts because as a Christian I should see the good in people, or something like that.”
“So, it was hard for you to understand her advice because you are feeling too much emotion right now. Correct?”
“Ok. Let me remind you of a rule or two I have that we discussed in the past. At any time, you can choose not to answer a question I ask. And sometimes it’s better to just answer it quietly to yourself.”
“Also, I do not need to know the details on most questions to help, especially if they are of a sexual nature. Good?”
I felt myself wanting to cry in relief. Both his tone of voice and the words he chose were calming my nerves as the seconds passed.
“Got it. I know that I can stop the conversation or change the topic at any time. You are the only one who gives me that freedom. It’s weird but it helps me to be more honest with myself.”
“Ok. You are in a foreign country. If you needed to, could you leave that place immediately? For example, call a friend or get a cab?”
I paused. “Umm. . .Yyyes.”
“Ok. Have you recently, especially in the past year or two, had an experience where you felt pressured emotionally, physically or sexually by someone.”
I paused again. “Kind of.” I am a beautiful young Chinese foreign student in western Europe, and I was surrounded by non-Chinese friends during high school and university, so the answer was a resounding “yes.” Rick knew this, but he didn’t challenge my response.
My answer to Rick’s question was a partial lie, but he didn’t care. He didn’t ask the question for his benefit. He asked it for mine. The fact is I had a boyfriend in Europe who, on more that one occasion, tried to pressure me to have sex with him, so I upset him when I said no. I was shaken by this relationship because my boyfriend had acted as though I owed him sex. His insistence led to me break up with him. He had even told me that many of his friends were having sex, so it was expected. I felt as though he placed more value on how sexy I am compared with my other attributes. I immediately felt better the day I ended that relationship.
As I answered each question, some I spoke to him and others I whispered to myself. As the time was winding down, I literally felt myself breathing easier and relaxing. I knew good news was coming, so I decided it was time to be rude again.
“So?. . .” He laughed. He expected the interruption.
“First, I do not think you are over-reacting, or over-thinking. You are a lonely young woman in a France and the host family is not aware of how their behavior is making you feel. Does that sound fair?”
“We can look at that more later.”
“So. . . what does that mean? Like, do you think I can just leave?”
“You can make that choice for yourself soon.”
Although calling my mother and other friends had not helped, in less than ten minutes, I felt very different. I was rethinking who I was. I realized that I was a young intelligent woman who had the ability to make good choices. The others had treated me like a little girl who should be told what to do.
As my heart slowed, I realized I had just come down from a panic attack. I had not felt this safe in a long time, so the laughter mixed with tears began to flow.
A question I used to have came to me: Isn’t the world responsibility to look out for me and make me safe — to make all girls like me safe? The sad answer is no.
As we continued our talk, he asked me to describe the French family in more detail. After this, he predicted how they would act after I told them why I felt uncomfortable.
I did have a talk with my host, the wife, soon after I spoke with Rick. I felt very good about it all. My conversation with her had a few rough moments, but she came around. I think it was a good learning experience for both or us. The goal of the meeting with this woman was not to tell her everything she had done wrong. After all, she had enough pressure with her out of control son and ex-husband, who was not supporting her parenting style. The goal of our meeting was to explain to her how I felt about being in the strange environment. The conversation ended with us agreeing on things we could both do together and we gave each other a hug.
I wasn’t too surprised that Rick’s predictions came true. He is part of a global network of professionals who are able to predict people’s behavior. The truth is we all want to feel respected and accepted.
As my conversation with Rick was coming to an end, he told me that I would laugh about this event in the future. As time passes, his prediction is coming more true, and my memory of France is becoming more pleasant. Although on occasion I still cringe a little, I am laughing more.
I am sworn to secrecy on most of the details of our conversation, but I will tell you that even when my mom and other friends did not have the training to hear to my heart and my fears, Rick was happy to help. He respects my parents and reminds me how difficult their job is. I believe it’s true.
“Leave me Alone.” What does this mean to me? When someone tells me what I should do and tries to control me, I remind myself that I have choices. I do not typically tell people “Leave me alone” now. Instead, I listen, say “thank you,” and move on.