On freewriting and our first prompt, Substack, and a party
An anonymous writer asks us to post this response: "The bravest thing I've ever done is leave my father's house.
My parents separated when I was 9 and my brother was 5
They were 27 and 30.
Yep, if you've done the math, they were 17 and 21 when I was born. They barely knew each other, but they gave it a go and did the best they could for as long as they could.
I wasn't surprised when they told us. They had been fighting and living largely separate lives for a long time. My mom took trips alone, and largely retreated to her bed when she was home. My memories are sketchy, but I recall I cried and my brother laughed when they told us.
They told us my mom would be moving out. When I tell people that now, they ask often ask me why, and I want to scream, "DON'T ASK ME! ASK HER!" No one asks her, because she doesn't tell anybody that's what she did. She lets her current friends think she was a single mother. I don't blow her cover.
At the time they told us it was because my father made more money than she did. I've come to suspect that it's because she was just kind of done being a mom. She'd just bought herself a Fiat Spider 2-seater convertible. Not the kind of car a mom who is into being a mom buys. And not the kind of car our working-class family could afford.
After she left my father descended deeper into addiction. Our house was messy. There was drug paraphernalia all over the house. Piles of newspapers. One of my jobs was to clear the beer bottles out of his car. He didn't just drive drunk, he drove while drinking. The TV was on the end of the dining room table. The carpet had holes. At one point his step brothers moved to LA form New Jersey and lived on our couch and balcony. My mom would later marry one of them, but that's another story.
When I was 15, I came home from somewhere and my brother was lying in bed crying and breathing heavily. He said our dad had hit him. For all of his drinking, drugging, gambling and other unfatherly behavior, he had never been physically abusive before.
I called my mom and told her what happened and she came and got us. We lived at her small 1-bedroom apartment. My brother and I sharing the fold-out bed and she and my step-uncle (9 years her junior, and 9 years my senior) sharing the bedroom until we found a new apartment to move to.
I didn't have the kind of friends or relationships that I could turn to for comfort or support or even just to talk to. I navigated this chaos all on my own and have only recently started talking about it to my close friends.
I don't know what would have happened to my life if I hadn't made that call."
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
I don’t think of myself as brave. Like, at all. I am a very calculated person. I don’t make decisions - at least big decisions - without a lot of research, comparing pros and cons, plotting out all the what-ifs. So what does “brave” mean anyway? Doing something scary? Being terrified and doing it anyway? Yeah, so if my decisions are calculated, then they’re not so scary. I figure out what is most likely to be the best choice, and I do that. Not really scary. So what kinds of things would be scary to me? Well, the cliche heroic things - running into a burning house or jumping into a raging river to save someone. Putting myself at great risk for the benefit of someone else. I've never done that.
Maybe back when I was a good Christian I was more brave. I believed that there was a god in charge of everything who would handle all the big scary stuff for me. Well… then nothing was really scary, if God had everything under control, so was I actually brave? I don’t think so.
I’ve done some things others might find brave.
I traveled around Europe mostly by myself when I was about 20. I think my mom was more brave than I was, she was terrified for me. I was at the age where I felt invincible and optimistic about the world. I wasn’t afraid at all.
At 22 I took a job 600 miles away from home and moved away from everything I had ever known. At the beginning it was exciting and fun. It got harder after a couple years. It might seem brave, but it didn’t feel like bravery at the time.
At 25 I married a guy I’d known for less than a year. HAHAHAHAAAA it seems ridiculous to say it, but we’re celebrating our 20th anniversary this month. I don’t really recommend marrying someone you hardly know, but it’s worked out alright for us. It didn’t feel brave at the time, it felt like being young and in love.
At 31 I adopted two babies. Looking back I’d say it was brave, if I’d had any idea what I was getting myself into. But I had no idea whatsoever. It turns out they were both born with significant disabilities that didn’t become apparent until around age 3-5. Even then, the full spectrum of how those disabilities would affect our lives and our family would be learned and experienced over time. You could say it’s brave of me to keep plugging along, but I don’t have much of a choice.
At 39 I quit going to church. My departure from the religious and faith system I’d been part of my whole life was gradual, but I suppose the decision to quit church was pretty brave, although it didn’t feel brave at the time either. It just felt like something I couldn’t do anymore. I tried to go back a couple times, but it was very clear then that it was a club I could no longer be part of. I lost a lot, and it took years to process and disentangle myself from it, but I am grateful for it now.