The Day They Stole My Brave: Chantelle Chamberlain’s Story
I found my Brave. I finally took hold of it with both hands and pulled as hard as I could. It was mine, bold and shiny and terrifying and free and all mine at last. The Brave I have struggled to claim for as long as I can remember. I took my brave and I packed it in a suitcase and I walked out the door.
And then the chains. How they rattled and clanked. How they pulled and creaked, rusty and stiff from being still for so long. The weight, so unbearable, long-forgotten from years of quiet tolerance. So many hours of nodding and smiling and “mmm hmm” and “nuh uh,” just waiting for my wings to sprout and my Brave to come.
I found my Brave. But it wasn’t enough. Like so many other parts of me that aren’t enough. That will never be “enough.” Because as soon as I pulled with my Brave, they pulled back, harder than ever, with heavy chains and thick ropes and overwhelming shame.
They told me it was wrong. That my Brave was evil. That it was carnal and selfish and not Brave at all, but cowardly. They told me I was stupid. That thinking I could be Brave was crazy and idiotic. For the next 3 hours, my Brave, once shiny and bright, was battered and beaten, dragged down, wings broken, and finally thrown into a box and locked away. “You can have it later,” they said, but what they really meant was:
Brave isn’t for you. It was never for you. Brave is only for them. The dirty, the unworthy, the sinners.
They spit the words like venom, sour and dark and poisonous, piercing my very soul until I cowered on the floor, broken and bitter and bloody and so, so trapped. They built up their arguments like a cage around my life, my ambition, my future. Squeezing my world into a tiny box of “yes, sir” and “no, ma’am,” where you choose logic and money over love and adventure and spontaneity.
They stole my Brave. They took it away and reprimanded me for playing with the big kids’ toys. They told me I wasn’t old enough, I wasn’t ready, I couldn’t handle Brave. I could only handle Timid and Obedient. They sent me to my room, the very room I had pulled so hard to escape, and told me to think about what I had done. They clipped my wings with jagged shears and left scars that will never heal properly.
They stole my Brave. Cut it from my chest with words and paper and Angry-Jesus. Spitting scripture like fire just to keep me chained in place. Whatever happened to “my chains are gone, I’ve been set free?” This isn’t freedom. This is house arrest. This is worse than prison. It’s the taste of freedom without ever getting the whole bite, the whole plate, the whole dish. There is nothing worse than hope.
They stole my Brave. They said it was never mine to begin with.
But they were wrong.
I’m taking back my Brave. One day at a time. Bit by tiny bit. I’m collecting the pieces. Gluing the feathers back onto my broken wings. I’m cutting the chains, one by one. I’m making my plans, packing my bags, and making my way out that door one toe at a time. I’m getting ready and as soon as I see my opportunity, in the blink of an eye, the flash of a second, I’ll be gone. They’ll never see me again. I’ll be no more than a flicker in the candlelight, a shadow on the windowpane, a whisper in the wind.
Blink. I dare you.