Being Sheltered

And Being All Right With It

Tonight, on the subway back home, I was with a friend, and she looked at me and said: “You’re sheltered.”

It was not a negative. It was not a judgement. It was not pity.

It is the truth.

I hear it all the time from my mom, and I try to act older to make up for it, however unconsciously. I look so young already; I don’t want to be treated as a child when I feel so ready to be a grown up. I try to use a higher vocabulary (and stumble at times). I try to carry myself straighter (but look down when I meet someone in the eyes). I discuss my future prospects with my friends, about one day having a husband and children and a mortgage… and then abruptly switch on my cute, Asian girl act. (Let’s be honest, the cute Asian girl is a part of me as much as the mature, practical Asian woman.)

It must be known that my friend’s “You’re sheltered” did not just come up out of nowhere. Earlier this evening, I planned a birthday dinner for my friend. There were five of us and we had a great time. When it came for our bill, we didn’t tell them to put or orders on separate bills, so we took a while to calculate our separate orders. Our waitress was elsewhere, so the waiter saw to our bill. He was in a rush, so I quickly calculated my portion on my cell phone and gave him a little more than my total. I wanted to ask for change to give him the tip, but he was so rushed that I just left it.

A minute later, he looked me in the eye and said (and I’m paraphrasing): “Do you want to add to your tip? It’s not even 10%” I felt so bad that I quickly scrambled for more money. Most of my friends were looking down and I thought I embarrassed them. One of my other friends looked me in the eye, and emphatically shook her head and mouthed: “NO. DO NOT PAY HIM.” But he was watching me and I handled over a couple of more dollars. I didn’t want to seem cheap or rude.

After the waiter was gone, my friends totally thought he was the rude one and felt so sorry for me. They couldn’t say anything at the time because they were so shocked at the waiter. One friend got so angry that she complained to our waitress! All my friends were so nice that I was very close to crying. The one who told me not to pay more money said that I shouldn’t feel guilty and that it wasn’t my fault, but I can’t help but think it was.

Because I could not bring myself to be indignant or offended or even to defend myself, she said that I have been sheltered. (This was also bolstered by another story I told her that I cannot tell you.)  Usually I would be offended by this, but surprisingly: I wasn’t. I was so opposed to the idea of being sheltered for so long that I’ve overlooked the fundamental part of me where I like being sheltered.

I like being oblivious and naive and innocent and free and optimistic. It seems such a happier life to live than a life full of pessimism and knowing. I realized that happiness is a choice, and I should choose things that make me keep that inner peace in myself rather than to seek facts and information that would blind me and turn the world into a bitter place. I know that I cannot ignore the harmful realities of the world, but that does not mean I must throw away my youth and innocence.

I like the idea of walking through a field of goldenrods, of sunflower gardens in the wind, and naked feet bathed in a cool stream. I like the feeling of no worries and the belief of good in everyone. I don’t want to think that I am always being tricked, being talked bad about, being betrayed.

I’ve been sheltered by my parents all my life. They took care of me, fed me, and held me. I don’t expect that to continue, not after I’ve entered university, but I expect myself to take care of me, feed me, and hold me.

I must choose to be happy, and if happiness means to be naive and innocent and trusting, then I shall continue to be so.

Life is hard as it is. There’s no reason why I have to make it harder for myself.

甄雪清

Baby’s Breath | Innocence, Pure of Heart

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