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Confronting a “Bully” Gave Me Lifelong Confidence

Edgar Tena


I confronted a bully at only three years old and ironically, this defining moment, gave me confidence for the rest of my life.

I lived in poverty as a child.  I lived in an apartment complex with my family and the other would bring the whole farm with them: pigs, chickens, roosters, ducks, everything. I always wondered why the landlord allowed this to happen; nevertheless, the animals roamed freely and I watched them as I played.

Four other families lived in the complex and only one other family had kids, but they were both girls. As a three-year-old I did not like girls, so I typically played on my own when my parents were busy.

A Fateful Encounter that Lead to my Defining Moment

Every day, I would see all the animals around but I never played with them. I played on the outskirts of their “territory.” There was a unforgettable, half-white, half-dark rooster who would strut around like he was a king or something.  I thought that was cool.  I never had any problems with any of the animals, including the rooster, but that was soon to change.

One day while waiting for the okay from my parents to go outside and play, I noticed one of the neighbors throwing out red chili–not throwing it out as in a trash bag; rather, she would periodically just dump it out along with other scraps on the ground outside her back door.

All of the front doors faced out onto the street in a square shape. All of the back doors faced the backyard.  The enclosure created a big open area where I played. In the middle of this open area were bathrooms and laundry facilities with no trees or bushes anywhere. This was important because there was no place to hide if there was trouble.

When the lady would throw out chili and other leftovers from time to time in the back, I came to understand that it was intended to be food for the animals. One day while tossing chili, some splashed onto the feathers of the rooster.  The king of the courtyard was not happy. The rooster appeared to take this as a personal affront to someone of his stature. He would never be the same. Roosters, while hardly known for their sweet dispositions anyway, apparently could become even meaner when he perceived a challenge.

The Aggressive King Was on the Attack & I Was in His Sights

After that day, the rooster started acting totally different.  He was meaner! Being a child who just wanted to play, I did not think much of the rooster.  But there was one particularly memorable day when I went outside to ride my new bike, an extra-special gift from my mom. I rode it around the backyard and the rooster just lost it and started chased after me. He was not about to give up. Apparently, in his domain, no one dared move faster than the king. My mom heard my cries, came to the rescue, and got me to safety.

I refused to go out and play the next day on my bike because I was still scared that the rooster was going to get me. But I decided to go out and play with my Transformers and not ride the bike.

It was eerily quiet.  The rooster was nowhere in sight but I felt his presence. The king snuck up behind me, surprised me, and began flapping his wings.  When I heard the sound of feathers flapping around me, I instinctively looked back and saw the rooster right behind me. I started talking to the rooster soothingly as if he were a dog or a cat, but the king of the courtyard apparently did not like talking and aggressively strutted toward me. I shrunk down and walked backwards.

It didn’t work.  The rooster started poking me with his beak! That would be frightening to any person of any age, but to a three-year-old child, it was terrifying. My mother again responded to my cries.

At her rescue, the king apparently declared himself the winner, having vanquished his foe. After that, I refused to go out and play when the rooster was anywhere nearby.

I Either Let Him Win or Fight Back?  The Decision Was Mine

I knew by this time, after much thinking, that as long as that rooster was there, I would never be able to play again. I was angry because I did not think any child should be stopped from playing freely. That was when I started to think of ways to go outside without the rooster seeing me. But remember, there were no trees or bushes at the time where I would be able to hide so that would never work. It started getting even more upsetting because I really missed going outside to play.

In a brilliant flash of imagination, it came to me. The plan was simple: I would go outside, take a deep breath, go straight to the rooster, and give it a big kick. Everything after that would work itself out. The time came when I finally headed outside to play.

The Defining Moment that Defined Me

With a determined look on my face, I walked straight up to the and gave it one of my best kicks. This action felt better to me than any king’s action could. But predictably, the rooster had a look on his face which said, “I’m going to get you now.”

But the challenger had an endgame in mind in case of a counterattack:  I simply took off running for home. I had hoped the rooster would not run after me.  My plan included thinking that as soon as I stood up to my enemy, the conflict would be over. After all, I was bigger, and while I was a bit over-confident, I did make it home, feeling both relief and accomplishment simultaneously.

After that day, I never saw the rooster again, and while I don’t know if the owners got rid of it or what happened, I just remember having better days and a lot of playing outside.

This Simple Act Defined Me as An Adult

As I became a man, I realized that as a kid I had a sense of the difference between right and wrong. I believed that as long as I was not harming anyone or anything or doing something wrong, I should not have been bullied for playing. In short, I stood up for my freedom to play outside whether I was up against a “king” or not.

From that time forward, I have always felt that way about everything I did. If something was not right or fair, I stood up to it because no matter the outcome, just standing up to the situation made me feel free inside.

I still find it very interesting that the most defining moment of my life started out with a simple rooster who thought he was king versus the courage and determination of a three-year-old.  It was in confronting my fears and the courtyard bully that I overcome both of them.






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