You did what! (The Miss Demeanors discuss bravery)

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done? This is the sort of question I love to ask my students because it brings up such great stories, which you can then turn around and use with your characters. When I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors, this is what they roared!

Emilya: Since I’m afraid of many things, there are probably lots of times I do what others might consider normal, but to me is “brave”. Two stand out:

– My husband and I traveled to Amsterdam once and got into a fight inside our hotel room. I grabbed his cap and threw it at him, but, being absolutely awful at throwing, instead threw it out the window.

We were on the fourth floor and the cap landed on a teeny, tiny ledge right outside the window of the third floor room. I ran downstairs and asked the desk clerk to let me into the empty third floor room, climbed out that window, and rescued the cap. I’m hideously afraid of heights, to the point that I have to gird my loins to change a lightbulb, but I was willing to literally go out on that ledge three floors up above a cobble stone street to avoid continuing that argument. (we made up)

– At Disneyland with our then nine-year-old son, I promised him I’d go on a roller coaster if he would go to the haunted house. I haven’t been on a roller coaster since I was nine myself and had no wish or desire to go, but since he was afraid of the dark, I made this deal with him. My fear for his fear. I went, proved to him it was possible to conquer a fear, and he STILL didn’t go to the haunted house. He’s much braver now though.

Sometimes bravery is a decision

Michele: The bravest thing I ever did was when I was a very young woman and the leader of a group. It may also have been the most naive thing I ever did. I’m being vague deliberately because what I did was reveal a secret to the group in order to protect a member and asked them to assist me in helping that person. I was asking a group of young adults to act honorably and keep the secret in confidence. 

To my knowledge they did, and so did I. I took a huge risk, but saw no other way. It was terrifying. 

Tracee: Michele, I’m sort of in the same vein as you. I can’t say what happened, but I had to approach a much older person (meaning an adult) and ask them for help for someone else who was in a true mental and physical crisis. I felt like I was way out of bounds doing this, but to this day I think of the people involved on a near weekly basis and am thankful that I did.

Connie: I don’t think I’ve done many truly brave things in my life. One was soon after taking a job, I had to fire an older, pretty intimidating woman who was making people angry. That was scary.

But the thing that came to my mind first was entering a pyramid in Egypt with claustrophobia. My dear father and and I shared a love for Egyptology, and we always dreamed of exploring a pyramid together. Sadly, that never happened, so when I got the chance, I had to do it for him–like he was with me in spirit. So I did, sometimes having to stoop under low ceilings. It was hot, airless, and smelled. (I’m feeling panicky just thinking about it.) As soon as we made it to the main burial chamber, I looked around once and headed back out. Whew.

 Sometimes bravery involves Alaska

 Alexia: I think the bravest thing I’ve ever done was drive solo from Anchorage, Alaska to Oregon in late March. Well, my dog was with me, but she didn’t help drive. Late March is, effectively, still winter up there. People suggested I wait a couple of months but I was starting a new job in Texas and I really, really wanted to get out of Alaska. The far north and I did not get along well.

My weirdo (as in, creationist cult weird) neighbor gave me grief over filling up the trash can, carrying on as though I’d betrayed him despite “all he’d done for me.” (He shoveled the shared drive because the landlord paid him to and he gave me some canned salmon but made me give back the jars. That’s it.) To hear him you would have thought his giving up half of a trash can for 1 week when he’d have the whole can to himself forever after was some kind of existential threat. I just shrugged, oh well, and hopped in my car and beat it.

I drove the lonely road where both the shoulder and the center line were mere snow-covered suggestions and every serial killer story I’d ever heard played in my head. On the ferry, I tripped over a rope, face planted on the metal deck, broke off half of a front tooth, and split my lip so badly I still have a scar 8 years later. I dealt with it as best I could with a couple of washcloths after the sorry excuse for a medical officer told me where I could buy ice (not have, buy) and only reluctantly looked in the first aid kit after I insisted, glare in my eye and blood streaming down my chin. Nothing in the sad kit was helpful but he could at least have been more willing to look. It was Alaska’s last eff-you as I rushed back to the Lower 48 where I belonged. 

My dad met up with me in Oregon and we had a lovely, uneventful road trip through the Pacific northwest to Texas.

Keenan: The scariest thing I have ever done was argue an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Three of them parade in to the courtroom sitting very high and looking very mean. You never know who they are going to tear to shreds. Opposing counsel, an assistant US Attorney I really liked, was so nervous he told the justices he had been up all night, nauseas. I was nearly in tears soaking up his anxiety. I kept defending him while still arguing my case.
He won in the end but if I read the opinion right, the Court said the law on that point stunk.
  (I would note that three of the Miss Demeanors have spent significant amounts of time in Alaska, but due to space limitations, that’s a story for another day.

And then there’s India

Susan: My bravest moment was when I went to India, by myself, in 2018. I was there to visit a young woman who I’d been mentoring for some years. She lived in northern India, about 10 hours north of New Delhi. There were two ways to get there. I could take a plane from New Delhi, but one had recently crashed. Or I could take a train. But one had recently crashed. Still, I figured I’d rather take my chances with a train.

It wound up being magical–an 8 hour trip across India. Along the way I had some very tasty tea. When I got to my destination, Rosey met me and we went to a KFC, and it wound up being one of the best times of my life. But there was a moment as the train was speeding along, and I was desperately trying to hear when they called out my station, that I thought, This could go really wrong. But then I thought: what an adventure.

 How about you, dear readers? What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done? Please join our discussion on Facebook or Twitter.


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