(Found him tucked away on Piedmont, before my camera was kidnapped.)
~ * ~
I've never been threatened with a gun before, so I suppose I've gained a level up in life experiences. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? Perhaps. There's nothing quite like imagining what a bullet will feel like ripping through your body at point blank range (other than having it happen)... and I count myself very lucky that I didn't have to compare what my brain came up with against the reality of getting shot. The threat was enough. Happy to say no one was hurt physically, though my beloved bag, cardigan (the inspiring force for the title of this blog), phone, camera, and wallet which contained my passport is gone forever- as well as my best friend's purse and her boyfriend's phone. In the end though, that's all just stuff.
What really makes me mad is how my laws of common sense were broken, and how weak I feel. Common sense tells you to avoid 'bad' neighborhoods, especially at night and when you're alone. You think that in daylight, walking with a group of friends on a busy street, in full view of a bus stop filled with people will give you a certain amount of safety. Usually, it would... but not in this case.
The icing on the cake was the fact that we were walking back to our old apartment - which we had just moved out of that same week - to take out the trash. That's it. Not two blocks from the place where I had lived for a year, on the very same street I'd regularly walked home from work alone at 11pm... I'd been perfectly fine in worse conditions, but on that day it didn't matter. This little twerp, emboldened by his shiny colt 45 revolver, decided to relieve us of our possessions and our sense of safety - in broad daylight.
I'll be the first to admit I'm naive in many ways, growing older (and hopefully wiser) as time goes on, but somehow I thought I would be able to handle this. I was raised in rough neighborhoods... not the roughest by any means, but chain link fence and barred windows edged out the picket fences.(Fun story: I went through half a year in high school without a phone, and had to walk to the nearby gas station to make calls. Occasionally in the snow.) I've lived in both small backwater towns and big cities with over a million people. Every time I'd been hurt or something had gone truly awry, it was from someone that I knew, or the cops. Random people on the street had either left me alone, or responded in kind to my general sense of respect. Bums left smiling, mean looking young folk returned my nods of hello, and I walked with purpose, content to spread my happiness out into the world. My smile was my shield, and for a while it was enough.
Somewhere along the way, I lost my anger. My life was starting to turn around; I was no longer trapped in my hometown. I snagged a wonderful boyfriend and started to explore the world bit by bit, expanding my group of awesome friends as I tried to fill my life with as many fantastic experiences as possible. (Still am, in fact. ^-^) If I could handle the rest of the chaos that life had thrown at me and still chase the beauty of the world, I could handle almost anything. Then out of nowhere, the comfortable niche I had carved for myself was tilted and smashed into the wall. You know nothing, the streets seemed to say. You thought you would fight, or that your words could reach them. You thought you were different. You are so wrong.
I filled out the police report (with helpful, nice cops no less! They do exist.), canceled my cards, passport and phone, and did all the responsible things. After the shock wore off, I was sad and scared. I allowed myself to hole up in the house for a week, rationalizing that it was only a recovery period. But as soon as I left the house, the panic was there - completely irrational and paralyzing. And it started to piss me off.
What right did he have to take so much? So many little things that I had been so excited for were destroyed. I had hand stitched that purse back together when the strap broke, man. Last memories of our previous apartment, the documentation of the awesome cake I made for the fourth of July, all the pictures I hadn't transferred off my camera (derp), gone - and the blog posts I had planned with them. The joy I felt at being able to tote a camera around with me, documenting daily life through my newly found amateur photography skills, gone. I had just barely started. Not only do I now question taking a camera with me, but carrying a purse as well. Will that make me more of a target? The adorable indie fashions I was starting to gravitate to... the cute floral skirt I had been wearing, the flashy but comfortable shoes I had worn because of my busted leg... nope, run back to black. Blend in more, don't look like you have money (which I don't), hide. That's how I felt. Are you KIDDING ME? No. Screw that.
Now that I've had time to process, bit by bit the victim mentality is fading... and the anger has returned. Anger at not being able to control what happened, at feeling helpless, anger for the things both physical and emotional I've lost, and anger that it could happen again (and probably is happening to other people as we speak). I'm sure it's cute and naive to think so, but I should be able to dress however I damn well please, and carry things that I've bought with my own money without having to think twice. Black is my favorite color to wear, but I don't like feeling like I have to tone it down. I'm not saying I'm going to cover my phone in diamonds and tape it to my forehead, or carry an xbox with me wherever I go just for kicks, but the idea that I could is nice. Ridiculousness aside, I'm all about possibilities; I was pissed at the abrupt, halting limitations I felt were imposed by this random act of aggression. Suddenly everything had an extra weight to it- do you want to have fun, or do you want to survive? I absolutely loathe feeling trapped.
So for now, I'll don my armor of anger and dark clothes, if only for the fact that it makes me feel like more of a bad ass. Fake it 'til you make it, so to speak. If there's one thing I've learned from all of this, it's how much my life is impacted by believing in myself. Not only that I can accomplish things, but faith in the ability to protect myself, and overcome all the crappy things in my way. There's a self defense class on my giant list of things to do, and in a weird sort of way it's inspiring me to better my health- more specifically, to work on my ability to run. Just in case.
So I continue on. I wouldn't call this a gift by any means, but it has definitely changed my life. Hopefully, working through this will allow me to find the perfect balance of happiness to enjoy life, the confidence to keep on smiling, anger to combat the things that keep me down, and the power to get stuff done. I've only got this one life, and I was lucky enough not to have it snatched away. Sometimes bad things happen for no reason other than bad luck and poor timing. What matters though, what's truly important when the danger has passed is what you do after that. I'm fortunate enough to have fantastic friends to help me through the rough times... laughing, crying, and to remind me that though this kid stole a lot from me, I can't let him steal my motivation or my determination to have an awesome, full life.
Haters gonna hate, stupid people gonna stupid, but as House Baratheon likes to say: OURS IS THE FURY!
This flower is going to sharpen her thorns to protect what's important: life, love, and happiness.