Growing up, my dad used to say “Jennifer, the whole world isn’t looking at you.” This was usually in response to me standing in front of a mirror trying to get just the right hair style. (Ah, the years of big bangs. Thank god they’re over.)
A year ago, after spending the holidays in the States, I returned to Budapest to find a burglarized flat. It turned my world upside down. January 2014 passed by in a blur, and quirky habits were formed.
At the time, I couldn’t help but think of my dad’s words. People had been watching me. What if they continued to do so…waiting for the next time to invade my space, take my things, and strip me of any feeling of security?
I also couldn’t help but wonder what I would find when I returned this year. Fortunately, I found nothing new–my flat was exactly how I left it. To say it was a relief is an understatement.
My flat wasn’t the only thing that hasn’t changed. The quirky habits remain, although I was fascinated to realize that they only occur in Budapest. At home in the States, they don’t exist.
Because my return to Budapest was so different this year, it brought a clarity I didn’t have last year. I realize I took the burglary personally. These were my things: my world, my space, my items. But the fact is, it was nothing personal. The burglars didn’t pick my flat because I’m me. Rather, it was the type of person I am—an expat living in a flat without an iron gate. (It has one now!) The building management had announced on its website that it wouldn’t be around for five weeks over the holidays. There was construction in one of the flats for weeks beforehand, allowing for random access to the building, regular noise, and easy assessment of residents and their comings and goings. It added up to burglaries in three flats—mine being one of them.
With a smooth return and a new year, I find my perspective shifting. Dad was right—the whole world isn’t watching. But you never know who is. Yet, another burglary isn’t a foregone conclusion. Of course, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do what I can to make myself the least attractive target possible.
After all this, I’m reminded that there are some things I can control and some I can’t. I need to know the difference, embrace my quirky habits and all that makes me who I am, and know that not everything that happens to me is about me. These things aren’t always easy to do, but they’re definitely worth trying.