You Get to Choose…

A few years before Columbine, an awkward, bespeckled teen named Kevin came to *MY* high school wearing a long black trench coat over his black jeans and black shirt.

To this day we don’t know if he’d planned his violent attack, or if it was spontaneous. 

Either way… I was the sole victim.

On this day, as Ms. P was in the middle of her History lecture, Kevin silently stood up behind his desk in the back of the room, then silently walked to the front.

To the front of the room, where i sat, quietly taking notes, about one foot away from the teacher (she’d often put her hands on my desk as she lectured).

This was the day Kevin walked past 35 other students scribbling notes, turned 90 degrees when he got to the front of the room and—as Ms P was still lecturing….

….forcefully lunged at my throat.

Caught by surprise, my head and neck caught the brunt of his momentum, and my head snapped backwards violently.

The back of my skull slammed on the desk behind me, and my back arched in an unnatural position over my chair.

I was pinned. Couldn’t move.

There were about 4 seconds between the moment Kevin’s hands wrapped around my throat and the moment I blacked out. 

All I could think during those four seconds was “DON’T PUNCH HIM, HITTING PEOPLE IS WRONG!” (Probably not the best life-lesson to come to mind when you’re being assaulted.)

Instead of punching him, I desperately reached up, grabbed his glasses, and hurled them to the back wall where they cracked and slid to the ground.

No one moved.

It was complete silence.

Then the world went dark.


My next memory is several minutes later out in the hallway. It was just my me, my teacher, and Kevin.

I clutched my sore neck as the teacher looked at Kevin and screamed, “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING??”

He looked straight at me while he answered her coldly

“You know, she’s actually very lucky. I could’ve killed her if I had wanted to. I know the exact spots to apply pressure to, and she’d be dead instead of alive right now if I’d pushed on those.”

(This was coming from a kid I’d spoken to perhaps a handful of times over the past 7 years we’d attended the same schools.


Over the days following the strangling, I began to hear people’s varying “truths” about ME as they spread across the school.

  • I was a victim
  • I was an asshole and deserved it
  • I must’ve done something to deserve it
  • I was failed by the school system
  • My classmates failed to protect me
  • My teacher failed to protect me
  • No one would do that without provocation
  • I didn’t deserve it
  • I REALLY deserved it and got what was coming to me
  • The only right thing for me to do was sue
  • I would be scarred the rest of my life from this
  • I would never be able to trust men again

I also heard everyone’s “truths” about Kevin:

  • He was a victim
  • He was an asshole
  • He just needed help
  • He didn’t deserve to be sued
  • He was psychotic
  • He obviously had shitty parents
  • He deserved to be in an institution
  • He deserved to be expelled
  • He deserved to be sued
  • He deserved to come back to school and be given another chance because everyone makes mistakes

It was in the days following the attack, after floating about in a state of shock and being ambushed by everyone’s opinions and beliefs…

…that I realized it was going to be up to ME to choose what *I* wanted to believe about the situation, and what would happen next. 

I got to CHOOSE to believe the experience would make me stronger or weaker. (I chose stronger.)

I got to CHOOSE to believe I would thrive after this attack, or wilt. (I chose thrive.)

This was the first time I ever realized my interpretation of an event would determine everything—NOT the event itself


Luckily, most events you experience over the course of a given week aren’t quite this traumatic.

But the same principle applies to YOU.

When the prospect says they won’t work with you,
When the client shares they’re not happy with your service,
When your operations manager says “I’m outta here in 2 weeks”,
When revenue drops unexpectedly….

YOU GET TO CHOOSE what it means to you.
YOU GET TO CHOOSE what happens next.
YOU GET TO CREATE where your life’s path goes next.

Your world is not set in stone.
It is clay.

And you are infinitely more powerful than you realize.

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