Nov. 2: When was the last time you did something brave? What happened?

To be brave is to endure or face (unpleasant conditions or behavior) without showing fear. I have always had a difficult time seeing myself as brave. But when I think back on my life, I can think of several situations in which I was. That’s not to say that I wasn’t scared, because I was, but I put forth a facade of fearlessness and pushed forward.

This isn’t a recent example, but it is the one that comes to mind:

Back in 1999, I was 18-years-old, and staying at home with my parents for a while, trying to save up money to move to California. I was working two full-time jobs at the time. I was constantly exhausted and almost never home. The never being at home thing was actually a blessing, as the situation in the home was dangerous. I had two drug addicted parents, one of whom was physically abusive, and three younger siblings who were completely out of control. I stayed out of the way as much as I could. I was anxious to get out of there and start my own life. 

One night I got home, and my step-dad was making the rounds, which is how I referred to his tendency to go from person to person in the house to berate and/or physically intimidate or abuse them. This was all completely normal, and typically I would ignore it. My previous attempts at intervention were never well met by any of the parties, even those whom I was attempting to help. So I typically just kept to myself when I was at home. 

This particular evening I listened to him make the rounds. He started with my mom. I heard a loud thump and peeked out into the hallway where I saw him choking my mother and telling her that he would kill her. After a few seconds of this, he approached my little sister who was like 13 at the time, and started in on her. He told her she was a stupid, ugly, lazy piece of shit. He then went on to tell her, “You are the stupidest person I know.”

I don’t know what it was about this comment that pushed me over the edge, but it did. I totally lost my shit. I raced out into the kitchen and started going off. I screamed and raged at him. I told him that, in fact, he was the stupidest person I had ever known, and that he was also a bully, piece of shit, crack-addicted scum bag, among other things. He stepped right up to me and his nose was touching my nose. When he talked, he was spitting all over me. He said, “I should knock you out right now and teach you a lesson.” I said, “I wish you would because I’m not going to break. I will press charges against you and make sure you end up in jail where you belong.” We stared at each other for what felt like an eternity, but was probably only a few seconds. Eventually, he went back and sat down at the kitchen table. I simply said, “That’s what I thought,” and turned around and walked out. 

The cops had been called. I’m still not sure who called them, whether it was the neighbor or one of my siblings. When Ferguson PD arrived they ascertained the situation, got all versions of the story, and eventually placed my step-dad under arrest for a number of outstanding warrants he had around the Saint Louis area. As they cuffed him, he looked at me and said, “You better not be here when I get back.” I replied, “Don’t worry, I’m leaving and I won’t be back. By the way, I hope you fucking drop dead.”

After he was carted off, my mother looked at me, crying, and said, “Jennifer, why do you always have to cause trouble?”

I packed my shit and I left that night. I moved to California two days later. I never went back to that house. 

This isn’t the example most would use to illustrate my supposed bravery, as few people know this story. I suspect most people would say enduring breast cancer treatment. As most already know, I had a bilateral mastectomy, 8 rounds of chemo, and radiation back in late 2012, early 2013. I don’t see that as an act of bravery, however. Cancer treatment was simply something I was forced to endure if I wanted to survive. Is something still considered brave if you don’t have a choice? This is something I’ve spent some time contemplating, but I’m no closer to an answer.


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