Adventure vs. Courage: Atlantis

This isn’t going to cover Atlantis in particular or in detail. A lot has been happening that needs to be shared, and it’s lightly linked with Atlantis. I’ve now seen it twice—I rented it as a tween/teen and then watched it again for this project. The first time, I loved it. The second time, eh. It was okay. But more important than the movie itself is what it encourages. It’s about courage and adventure. I’m reading a Walt Disney biography (and loving it, of course); if Walt was one thing, he was courageous. I’d already vowed to myself to work on being more courageous when all of the sudden, I had to be. But first, some backstory.
       There’s a difference between having an adventurous spirit and being courageous. I’ve always been adventurous. If adventure wasn’t to be had, I was inventing it in my mind. As a tween and teen, I’d go on long walks through the “woods” (I use quotes because what constituted for woods in Indiana to a 13 year-old is completely different from what I would say are woods in Alaska and as an adult) and down to the creek near our house and imagine whole plot lines taking place in other time periods with fictional people. Sometimes it led to paranoia. In fact, I once returned home from a walk with a friend and we reported to my sister we’d seen a serial killer.
       “How do you know he was a serial killer?”
       “Um, he was in the middle of the woods.”
       “…So were you.”
       “Yeah, but he was like, crouching in the bushes.”
       “Maybe he dropped something.”
       “…Or maybe he was a serial killer.”
My poor sister. Anyway, overactive imagination and all, I’ve always had an adventurous spirit. Without it, I wouldn’t have ended up living in Alaska, one of the most adventure-filled places I’ve ever been. It’s the same reason I became a trapeze artist and climbed a waterfall. Adventure and I, we’re BFF’s.
       But courage? That’s totally different. It took me years to work up the courage to simply be myself with everyone I knew, instead of different versions of myself. Add more years to work up the courage to always take responsibility for my own actions, instead of trying to blame it on circumstance. Lately I’ve been working on the courage to do the right thing, even if it involves this thing I hate: confrontation.
       Here’s the thing about me and confrontation: hours before or after the incident, I have an entire script planned out. But when it actually happens… It’s like I black out and become a silent, fuming, angry-crying non-confrontational shell. Also angry people scare me (to tears—see anger-crying above). Not exactly a good combination.
       I think James is often surprised by me. Acting out of character (generally in a good way) is part of my character. But it’s rare that I’m surprised by myself. One such instance occurred the Tuesday after Christmas, and I wound up standing up the counter in my kitchen and pounding the ceiling while yelling, “Stop” repeatedly. But we’ll get there.
       Back in October, we put an offer in on a house in Alaska. It was accepted. We were supposed to close the week of Thanksgiving– didn’t happen. Then sometime before Christmas– didn’t happen. Finally, the week after Christmas, we were scheduled to close and record on the same day. We closed, but didn’t make the recording deadline to get the keys the same day. We had to wait until the following day.
       For a short while, our upstairs neighbors had improved. They were quieter. We didn’t hear them yelling obscenities at their dogs. They were no longer leaving their dogs outside, tied up, unattended, with little water and no shelter, for extended periods of time in adverse weather conditions. I seriously began to wonder if they were on a three week vacation. Now I know it was the quiet before the storm.
            Before I continue, let me just say: I’ve put up with a LOT from these people. Screaming matches between the girl and her at-the-time assortment of lovers. The sounds of physical fights and things breaking because of said fights. I’ve even called the police because I heard a male voice say, “I’ll do it, I’ll kill myself,” followed by another male voice, “Put down the gun” (that was a lovely 6 a.m. wake-up call) (FYI, I called 911, heard glass shatter, was informed to stay inside with all doors and windows locked and was then told that Troopers were already on the scene). I’ve heard her on the phone, telling the world how that guy is now in jail (she even held a party. Someone who lived with her tried to commit suicide, and she threw a party). Countless nights I had to fall asleep blaring Taylor Swift to cover the When-Harry-Met-Sally (but way, way louder) moans coming from upstairs. I once had to listen to terrible drunken renditions of every minor hit from the last ten years—with drunken acoustic guitar accompaniment—until three a.m. (I don’t believe in calling the police and wasting their time unless it is an actual emergency, thus I didn’t call the police. I did report multiple times to the property manager, but nothing ever came of that).
            I put up with all of that. But there is one thing, it turns out, that spurs me to action right past my fear of confrontation. That thing, it turns out, is the sound of a dog being viciously beaten.
            I was sitting on the couch, disappointed to learn that we hadn’t been able to record that day and thus would have to put off moving yet another day. Nala was curled up beside me, being all adorable. All of the sudden, I heard stomping followed by the saddest, most excruciating noise I’ve ever heard. It was pain, pure pain, and terror. I could tell it was the beagle that lived upstairs. I jumped up and ran to wake up James (he was still working nights at this point and thus sleeping during the day). I told him what I thought was going on and went back to the living room.
            I heard the man shout, “What are you gonna do about it/ What the f*** are you gonna do about it” while the terrorized beagle continued to howl. “Shut up/ Shut the f*** up followed. “What are you gonna do—you gonna bite me? Bite me! F****** bite me!” More stomping followed.
            I’d been in the process of looking up the animal abuse phone number when I heard the dog continue to make that noise. The next thing I knew, I was standing on the kitchen counter, banging on the ceiling and yelling “Stop it, stop it right now” in the angriest voice I had ever heard. I couldn’t believe my own voice. I was shaking with anger and fear for that poor dog. The noise immediately stopped.
            I dialed the number. Someone knocked on the door. It was the man who had been staying with the girl upstairs. James was in the living room in a flash, and at the door. He shouted through the door, “Get away from my door now.” The man left. I called the police, who referred me to the borough (we lived outside city limits). I told them my story, and they instructed me to fill out a statement on their website. The statement was filled out with what happened that day and all the other injustices I witnessed those dogs go through without enough evidence to report the owner.
            I was informed an investigation would be conducted since I only witnessed via sound and not visually. I’m continually praying for the safety and well-being of those dogs. She had three living there. I’m also praying that justice is served to that man.
            There are certain times that I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I know precisely why our house closing was delayed and why we didn’t record that day. I was supposed to be in that apartment to finally get the evidence I needed to save those dogs. I can only hope and pray that they will, in fact, be saved. But I’m confident they will be—otherwise God would not have put me there at that time.
            In Atlantis, Milo has to choose between doing the right thing and giving up. It’s appropriate I had this movie to watch at the time I did. By moving away without getting that evidence, I would have given up and those dogs would have had no one fighting for them. It takes courage to do the right thing. That dog-beating coward knew when he was caught, knew he was busted, and that’s why he stopped.
            Horrible things are always happening in the world. If you walk away without doing anything, you’re giving up. But by having the courage to do the right thing—the way Disney teaches us—we’re making the world a better place. Walt wanted to improve the world, to teach through entertainment. His dream lives on, even with the films he had nothing to do with.

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