In recent weeks I have seen some genuine bravery from kids. Two examples stick out in particular. The first was a kid on a climbing wall, the other was at a skating rink. These may not seem like places one would find examples of what most consider “brave”, but what I witnessed struck me as precisely that.
On the climbing wall, this girl made her way to the top. No problem, as up is relatively easy. Her descent was problematic. She panicked, I imagine because of looking down and allowing years of “be careful” and “you’ll break your neck”. Stuck at the top, unwilling to move, she cried. Some in the crowd jeered and jabbed how easy it is to lay back and fall. But it isn’t easy. It is simple to conceptualize, but in the moment, no prior experience with falling from a high place, and a crowd of onlookers… I felt for that kid.
The professional climber overseeing the wall made his way up to her and spoke softly smiling and encouraging her. You could see the change in her demeanor immediately. She was still frightened, but she was looser and smiling. With his guidance, she leaned back and let herself glide to the ground. The jackals, naturally, descended. Muttered under breath, full-grown adults spewed passive aggression at this poor scared kid. She tightened immediately, shoulders clamped face down, eyes searching the crowd for anything kind. Her mom raced up and put her arm around her as shield and comfort, then escorted this brave kid through the sneers and jeers. I hope that my wife and my kind words found her ears as she passed.
At the roller skating rink, one party goer had never skated before and had trouble. She couldn‘t make it far without falling, but each time she got up and wobbled her way until the next fall. This went on for hours. I could tell she was having fun, but it was clear it frustrated her. Everyone else was better, faster.
Her moment of courage was not continuing to try. That is its own thing and admirable, but her shining moment was when she gave up. It irritated her mother, whom attempted to goad her into trying harder. I understood this, as we all want our kids to do well at things. We‘re encouraged to push them a little. But this kid was adamant. She wasn’t rude or “over the top.” She stated that she was scared and tired and embarrassed and could she go home?
It takes a lot to give up. It takes nerve to stand up to a parent and tell them, “I really don’t think I can.” Because we know that someone will chime in how we can do the thing. Maybe we can, but maybe we shouldn’t right that moment?
I had a story in the queue for Apex Magazine (www.apex-magazine.com). I was pretty stoked about it, even though I was 184th in line. I wrote a nice cover letter addressing the editor and covering the bases one covers in such a thing. I wasn’t holding my breath, but I was hopeful. Even a rejection letter would be fine, as I collect them. Yesterday, the editor announced that they were shuttering the magazine for a while. They would release anything in the queue back to the writers and pay off their contracted writers. One issue left to publish, and I wasn‘t anywhere near that one.
My heart sunk. I was a little mad at first. But as I read his reasons, I thought of these two brave kids. They had the nerve to understand they could not continue as they were. Health and sanity are damn good reasons to step away from something as consuming as publishing. And with 200+ stories waiting for you to short-list or reject, it is no wonder he needed a break. Even though I’m still a bit miffed, I’m happy that there are those willing to step away so they can focus on their work (the Book side of Apex will continue), and be happy doing it.
If you have read none of the great stuff at Apex Magazine, get over there and get your fill. Some excellent writers have graced its pages. For my own, I will continue writing and improving my craft by living and observing the surrounding Life.