What Bravery Means for Me

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In June of 2015, he left me. “Be brave”, my father said. With these cryptic words, he fled, never to be seen again. I was left to ponder over the meaning of bravery.

I waited for him to come back, but he never did. It hurt that he, who I trusted, left me alone to my mother, a strong and unyielding matriarch. She believes that a woman’s job is to serve her family. As a result, she believes very little in the value of an education for me, and pushes me to labor as a tailor like her.

At first, it was easier to ignore her. Then, she was adamant that I devote less time to school in order to help make money.

During the summer before senior year, we had a vicious fight. She wanted me to drop out of school after her health had declined over the past year, making it impossible for her to tailor clothing.

“You are not my daughter!” she screamed, after the worst fight we ever had. “My daughter would never abandon me like this.” Her words broke my soul. I thought I had no other choice but to leave. If I stayed any longer, she would break me completely. Leaving my house was the scariest thing I’ve ever done.

It felt like uncertainty, as I wondered what would happen next. It felt like triumph, the last chapter in a seventeen-year-long battle. It felt like freedom, because I was finally liberated from her conservative values. I was free to pursue education, college, whatever my heart desired.

But leaving didn’t feel like bravery. Because what I did wasn’t brave. There is nothing brave in leaving a woman who has been betrayed first by her husband, then her body. Because to leave someone who needed me the most was to choose to be like my father. And I refuse to be him. I refuse to be brutally brave the way he was when he chose freedom over his own family. I refuse to give up on her the way he gave up on me.

He reminds me that there is a choice in bravery. I want to be different from my father, tolerant and understanding instead of indifferent and angry. I want to be brave by choosing love and compassion.

Bravery hurts. It tastes like ocean tears that trickle down my cheeks as I give up my dreams to pursue someone else’s. It feels like uncertainty, as I wonder whether I’ll be accepted as a daughter again.

In order to be with her, I have to be brave and make sacrifices while hiding how much it hurts to do so, like the time I missed my graduation and getting to see my classmates for the last time to drive my mom two hours away to DC for physical therapy. But being with her also requires a different sort of bravery. The bravery to be different in my world where being different comes with a cost.

It takes bravery to believe in myself and my values. It would be easy to let her beliefs wash over mine, like when she claims that gay people are mentally ill or when she tells me about how she hates my sister’s boyfriend simply because he is black. It would be easier still to take her sexism to heart when she tells me “You’re a girl, so forget about your education.”

But I choose to believe in myself. I believed that despite my mother’s insistence on dropping out of school, I would finish my education the way I always intended to.

Because of my bravery, I’m different from both my mother and my father, choosing understanding and compassion. I’m willing to forgive my parents because like me, they are a product of their time, culture, and upbringing.

It took bravery to come back, but I don’t have to follow in my parents’ footsteps. I choose to be brave in my own way and control my own destiny.


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What Bravery Means for Me. (2021, Apr 07). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/what-bravery-means-for-me/

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