Courage is a Choice

This post may not seem to be relevant to our topic but for me it was a very important life lesson. It would be a lesson I have carried with me throughout my security career. It taught me that in the face of adversity and extreme pressure you have a choice about how you deal with situations. In this situation I realized courage is a choice.

The Neighborhood

At 14 years old I looked 18, with facial hair and standing almost 6ft tall. Across from where we lived, was a senior gang members house (Pres) which eventually became the hangout for his chapter of delinquent rogues. There were loud parties, the constant rumble of V8 cars, congregations of leather clad men and drunken fights out on the road. Generally they kept to themselves, and it was a normal weekend in my neighborhood anyway.

That was until one night running an errand to the shop. On this night I began being taunted by a young gang prospect. Well when I say young he was probably in his early 20’s. It was natural for me to just let these things go but it had gone on for couple of months.

There were the stand overs stopping me from walking up my driveway, letting his dog off the leash to chase me home. It even bit me one day. Some evenings he’d be outside on their lawn in a drunken state with other members throwing beer bottles on the road as I walked past, sometimes he would take my space invader game off me while I was still playing it.

I would get knots in my stomach leaving the house, afraid of what would confront me down the driveway on my way to the bus stop or at the shops. I’d never told anyone about it either, it just wasn’t my way. The guy was a bully and sometimes there would be threats and relentless name-calling for his entertainment and of his fellow prospectors. Sometimes the senior gang member and house owner would simply tell him to leave me alone, but he never actually did anything about it,

Your Kung Fu is Very Good

I realized the only way to stop it was to confront it head on. Going to my parents particularly my father would look weak and elicit a look of “what the fuck do you want me to do about it?”, I’d made a conscious decision. I had to handle it myself.

For the next few days with an axe handle a couple of Bruce Lee and Shaolin Kung Fu movies I began a vigorous training regime including fancy stick fighting moves as well as nun chukus training. With Sugar Hill Gang and GrandMaster Flash bellowing from my “ghetto blaster” I started visualizing how I would destroy my attacker the next time we met. My confidence grew as I focused on how I would make him pay.

For some weeks I had avoided going to the shops. OBut this one late night, as if my father knew what was about to happen, he ordered me to the shop. I went to my room heart beating out of my chest, I had already had the clothes I would wear, rugby league shorts, a T-shirt, running shoes and a black overcoat jacket long enough to conceal my weapon.

The Gauntlet

I made my way down the driveway, I could hear a party at the gang house growing louder. When I got down to the bottom of the drive, I quickly glanced across the road put my head down a started my walk to the shop. My sweaty palm clenched the axe handle under my jacket firmly. I was afraid they could hear my heart pounding in my heart as I walked. I could faintly hear the music and voices over my heavy breathing.

The anticipation of what could happen was overwhelming. Before I knew it, within seconds, I was welcomed by the bright fluorescent lights of the diary. I ‘d arrived without incident, I walked in with a relieving smile and took time to browse aimlessly around the shop before buying dads cigarettes. Soon the inevitable reality dawned on me – the walk home.

The walk home seemed to take forever, my mind whizzing a hundred miles an hour. Approaching the corner of the street a few meters from my homes driveway, the scene was set. There is music in the background. I notice a hunched silhouette of a rangy male standing outside my neighbors house. My heart began beating in my throat. As I drew closer to the silhouette, I could see the guy was urinating on the neighbors mailbox.

He looked up and caught my glance as I approached him.

“What the fuck you looking at?” he said with a drunken slur. There was no mistaking the voice. The voice that has tormented me for such a long time. It was him. Every muscle in my body began to tense and my knees began to tremble. I could feel adrenalin coursing through me I knew the time had come to man up.

I stood there unflinched this time. Like a possum in the middle of the road hypnotized by the glaring headlights of an oncoming vehicle. The voices of doubt were screaming in my head. But there was that one, calm, determined voice getting louder and louder until his was the only voice I heard. “YOU. GOT. THIS!!”

Without thinking the axe handle dropped to from my jacket, clasped at the ready for what was to ensue. He realized who I was, turned to me as he fumbled with his fly…

”Well, well, well,… what the fuck you gona do with that boy”

I froze in silence. he repeated himself.

“What the fuck you gona do?!!” he exclaimed.

He was echoing the same words uttered in my mind only seconds ago…

I raised the wooden axe handle and clumsily replied “come any closer and I’m gonna fuck you up” A common phrase of the decade from action movies.

I felt empowered, I felt strong

I remember thinking “what the hell are you saying just swing at the fucker”

“is that right?” he said as he swaggered toward me…

The Defining Moment

THUD!! I let loose, I’m not sure where I hit him but he fell to the ground, I didn’t stop. I hit him about the body over and over again the adrenaline surging with every strike. Then I abruptly stopped, looked around, looked at him squirming in agony. I collected myself concealed the axe handle under my jacket again and hastily proceeded homeward. 

As I walked around the corner I became paranoid about being seen or heard, I kept my head down and headed for my driveway praying nobody else would stop me. I briskly walked up the driveway and into the safety of home. My father asked why I had taken so long asking for his cigarettes. A thwart across the head for my troubles.

When I handed the cigarettes over I realized I had bought the wrong ones. That was met with one of dads fits of anger but it didn’t matter to me I was feeling euphoric and on top of the world. A great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. That was soon replaced with the immediate realization that and angry mob of revenge thirsty gangsters were about to come through the door or I would have to go up the shops again and surely die on the street. It was not to be, the shops were about to close.

I knew there were going to be consequences for what I had just done. The way I looked at it though was, they couldn’t give me a hiding better than my father could, and that was where I found my solace. It also helped except my fate. I slept well that night.

Accepting The Consequences

The next morning I was awoken from my slumber for what I thought was a wake up call for church, it was for another dairy errand. The reality of the possible consequences of what I had done last night suddenly began to suffocate me. There was a nervousness an anxiousness but nothing like the stress imposed by my tormentor. I found peace in that.

As I reached the bottom of my driveway the after math of the gangs festivities was evident. There were still members holding beer in hand others lounging around on furniture brought outside. Some sitting on beer crates and some slouched under bonnets of cars including the senior gang member Pres. A prospector who saw me alerted Pres of my presence. I put my head down and nervously walked for the dairy.

“Hey boy!!” was called out from under one of the bonnets, I pretended not to hear…

“Hey Boy!!” was called out again. I turned to see who was calling out to me. It was Pres gesturing to come to him. 

The time had come to get my beans. I put my hands in my pockets body tense with anticipation. I looked up and noticed my tormentor standing next to Pres with his arm heavily bandaged in a sling. It almost brought a smile to my face.

There I was standing in front of Pres surrounded by a few of his henchmen. There was nothing for me to say.

“Did you do this?” he asked pointing at the prospector, I braced myself for the beating ahead,

“You fucken deaf boy, did you do this?” he exclaimed

I wasn’t going to deny or explain. I raised my head looked him in the eye and said,

“Yeah” I put my head down. There was a long silent pause when from under my gaze a giant grease covered palm appeared “Good on you boy”

I raised my head and looked at him, he gestured me to shake his hand. His huge hand enveloped mine. “Good for you bro”

I didn’t know how to reply nodding my head nervously. I looked over at the prospector who looked less impressed. Pres disappeared under the bonnet barking out orders to the members to clean the yard. I wasn’t sure, but I took that as my cue to get the fuck out of there. Fast. 

As I turned to walk away a couple of the polynesian members gave me a nod of approval. Walking to the shop I felt 10 foot tall and the sense of pride and relief that came over me is indescribable. It was obvious the other gang members had told Pres of what had been happening. For the next few months of the gang being there I was never touched or abused again and Pres would always acknowledge me when he saw me.

The Lessons

There were a few valuable lessons I learned here. The first one was, under seemingly impossible circumstances I could stand up for myself. It was also my first encounter with what is known as Flight or Fight syndrome. In hindsight It also showed me how important it is to thoroughly weigh up situations and consequences before acting since this scenario could so easily have gone pear shaped.

Can you recall experiencing something similar in your lifetime or even in your career. Please feel free to share it.

8 Replies to “Courage is a Choice”

  1. Great story, I read it from beginning to end and know just how you felt, being a constant victim of bullying all my childhood life. It makes you dread going to school and facing those people and generally just makes your life a misery.

    I never got to take my revenge like you did. I was way too timid for that, but I must admit I was relieved when I left primary school and went on to high school and the bully went to another school.

    Well done on your courage and bravery.

    1. Yes it certainly was one of those defining moments in my life and that lesson impacted me many years later and still does now. I was quite a shy and timid kid anyway and being a monster didn’t help either. I was a different lad after this day and it has definitely kept me in good stead in my security career.

  2. Amazing story! Every time something like that happened to me, I just froze. Later I would beat myself up and taunt myself what I could have done. But the next time something similar happens, I’d froze again. I don’t know how not to freeze under those situations. Do you think taking lessons on confrontational sport would help?

    Your courage is inspiring and thank you for sharing your story.

    1. Hi Wei, Thank you for your kind words. We’ve all experienced this in one form or another. Please read my article on Flight or Fight to gain more insight.

      Here it is:

      Safety is what is the most important thing in any given situation. In my case something had to be done to stop the rlentless bullying. Even when I tried to walk away. Thats the reaction I chose at the time as a 14 year old. If I was older I probably would’ve just called the Police, but I have to deal with a new set of problems.

      We train ourselves to not freeze in these situations and over time you become conditioned. Even under pressure our training kicks in and we know what we should do. Have a look at the related article and let me know if t helps.

  3. Great post. You described everything so well and you give us some lesson. I had a similar experience in high school and now I am sorry why I did not act like you. It is not funny at all when you suffer and do not have courage to come out and face that person. Today, we live in that time where courage is more than necessary.

    1. Hi Daniel, Please don’t have regrets about what should have happened or could have happened in your situation. You dealt with it the best way you could with what you knew at the time. 

      Your personal safety comes first. It takes just as much courage to walk away.

      Please read the following related article which might help..

      Thanks Daniel

  4. Yes, I have had this experience but my story is not as admirable as yours. i always had girls picking on me and one day a girl decided that she wanted to fight me. To this day I still don’t understand why. Maybe i looked at her the wrong way. who knows? But I had never been in a fight before and my confidence was pretty low. She had been in numerous fights and yes she kicked my butt. i probably got one punch in and that’s it. I admire your bravery. I wish I could have been as bold as you.

    1. Hey Kye, I commend you on your bravery and courage. I bet though she had more respect for you standing up for yourself otherwise she would have continued to bully you.

      Its all about life experience and how much we are exposed to these situations that help us deal with them better.

      Thanks Kye

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