I had a very educational experience when I was about 19 or 20. I learned something about myself, as I have learned many things about myself, by doing something really stupid.
When I was first dating the man that would become both a good friend as well as my ex-husband (my life is weird. Trust me. Makes for good stories, tho), he lived in an apartment in a seedy part of town. Because I was 20(ish) and worked until 11:00 at night, I would often be over at his place until 2 or 3 in the morning.
On one of those occasions, we had a spat over something. He was a bit of an insensitive boob & I was a young, emotional female. At the time, he was a smoker and I would have a cigarette if I were drinking or really angry. I was really angry.
So, I stood out in the parking lot, alone, at like 2 am smoking a cigarette while standing next to my car. I had put my purse, etc in the car & was standing next to the driver's seat with the door open...to minimize the smell of yuck getting into my car.
While smoking (slowly - I was an amateur), I noticed a guy walking around the parking lot. Being the paranoid that I am, I pulled my switchblade out of my purse, held it in my right hand, and crossed my right arm across me so my right hand and switchblade were hidden underneath my left arm.
As I was nearing the end of my cigarette, the aforementioned shifty guy wandered up to me & started talking (mumbling, really) to me. I am inherently anti-social so I was rather curt with him. He took out a cigarette & asked for a light. My lighter was in my purse & I didn't want to turn my back on him, so I handed him my cigarette to light his. This seemed to throw him off...which bugged me, so I took another drag or 2, put out the cigarette, and got in my car.
For some reason, as I sat down, I turned my head for a split second to look toward the passenger seat. When I turned back around to pull my door shut, the guy was standing there with a small revolver pointed at my head. I squeaked a little (pathetically) because the gun freaked me out. He told me to "Shhhh!" I responded by pulling out my right hand, popping the switchblade at his throat, and telling him "you get the fuck away from me! Get the fuck away!"
He looked at my knife and ran. I then proceeded to have a mild panic attack, drove to the bottom of the stairs of my then boyfriend's apartment, ran up barefoot (I'd had high-heeled boots on, which I flung off before driving the 200 yards in panic), & pounded on his door. He did not appreciate this, but relented when I told him what had happened...then went down to find the guy. He didn't find him.
I learned something interesting about myself in that moment. I learned that I'm a Goddamn idiot for standing out there by myself at 2 am. I learned that when the shit hits the fan? By instinct, I will fight. The guy wasn't prepared to shoot me (or I would be dead). I was prepared to do whatever I had to to keep him away from me. He made the smart decision. That moment simultaneously scared the absolute shit out of me, but taught me that I can handle myself when I need to. I didn't freeze. I fought. I don't know what he wanted, but it was something for which he thought he needed a gun.