Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Greatest Fears

We all have our greatest fears. We're afraid of dying and losing our family and friends. There's also the fear of walking by ourselves on the street at night because of all the bad things that could happen. There's the fear of war, illness, unemployment, etc. There's also the fear that when the aliens come to Earth, they'll spend a couple of hours watching reality shows and say, "Well, if this is what humans are like, then never mind," before climbing into their spaceship and flying away, and then they'll never make me their queen. 

We also have our personal fears, many of which we hide from other people. Fear can be a good thing, because it can motivate us to protect ourselves and take action so that what we're afraid of won't happen. But it can also cause us to avoid anything that's risky, and it can make us put limitations on our lives and ourselves.

1. I'm afraid that I will never get married and have a family, and I'll never know what it's like to find happiness with someone I'm meant to be with. I'm afraid that I'm not meant to be with anyone.

2. I'm afraid that living in Chicago for so long has turned me into an angry, cynical person, the kind of person who says, "HEY! Turn down your TV or I WILL play Britney Spears' music all night! I have ALL of her albums, you know!" and "If you try to push me out of the way one more time, you'll be wearing my coffee on your shirt!" I'm afraid that that small-town girl that I used to be, the one who used to be thrilled by all the wonderful things that Chicago has to offer, is gone forever.

3. I'm afraid that even though I've spent years in graduate school, I won't get a full-time teaching position at a good school because I haven't accomplished as much as my classmates have. I hate the idea of failing to accomplish my goals even after I've done all this work and made all these sacrifices.

4. I'm afraid of cats, because they all seem to go into ATTACK mode whenever I'm around them.

5. I'm afraid that I'll never publish any of my stories, and I'm afraid that even if I did that no one would like them.

6. I'm afraid of clowns, especially Ronald McDonald. His big red mouth always makes me think of the way that Little Red Riding Hood says to the disguised wolf, "Why Grandmother, what big teeth you have!" Only in this case, it would be, "Why Ronald McDonald, what a big mouth you have!" And he'd say, "The better to scare the hell out of you with, my dear." And then he would give this big, scary smile right before he started chasing me and I would throw french fries at him.

7.  I'm afraid that online dating has made me lose hope that I'll ever find the right guy, because of all the profiles that say stuff like "I don't believe in monogamy" and "I love boobs".

8. I'm afraid that all the students who challenge my authority, blame me for their bad grades and refuse to take responsibility for their own work, text and Tweet during class even after I told them to stop, and keep asking me to "edit" their papers for them will make me overlook all the good students who make teaching worthwhile.

9. I'm afraid that I'll be struggling to support myself for the rest of my life, and I'll have to keep working minimum-wage jobs that don't even pay enough money to buy new shoes that I have to stand all day in. I'm also afraid that working all of these awful jobs will make me yell at a customer one day; I'll probably say something like, "Do you get extra points in hell every time you act like that?"

10. I'm afraid that I'll never have the courage to be truly honest with the people in my life and tell them the secrets that I've kept from them.

What about you? What are you afraid of? How do you deal with your fear?


  1. First, I'm going to put myself on the spot and say everyone is worthy of love. You'll find the right person when the time is right. I believe this wholeheartedly.
    Also, having fears of things, people, and turning cynical is normal. I just watched The Green Lantern, and I have to say, it really got me thinking about fear. If you haven't seen it, I suggest you do. The story line is well written, one I wish I'd thought of. You'll go away from the movie feeling empowered and wondering how much of your life is ruled by fear. I felt this way, and by the next day I came up with several ways to use my will to live and do well to combat my fear.
    My fear is that even after I've done my best, it still won't be enough. But aren't most people afraid of failure? I think so.

  2. I'm afraid of many of the same things you are: I'm afraid that my writing is boring to everyone except me (and sometimes I think my writing is boring too, so who really is my audience?). I'm afraid that nothing I write will ever be good enough for my advisers and that I will get kicked out of grad school. I'm afraid of my tendency toward depression, and I'm afraid that it will drive away the people I love in my life. I'm afraid of dogs for the same reason that you are afraid of cats. Also: I am afraid of the dark. Truly and completely, when the lights go out, I begin to panic, and not at the disco.

  3. Yeah, I have a lot of the same fears as you. I like this entry's theme actually and might (read: will probably) steal it at some point in the future. Basically I fear that I will waste time trying to figure out my financial life and the disaster it's become, which will make me never settle long enough to find a mate nor realize my dreams of becoming a writer. Or I fear that I'm making the totally wrong career choices in an effort to stay young and keep having fun, which will push back everything else. Basically time. It kills me with fear.

  4. Hi E.R. King,
    Thank you for the encouragement. Some of the guys I've met online have made me feel like I'm not good enough. I know that they're wrong, but sometimes I feel less optimistic.
    I never saw Green Lantern before, but I'll check it out. I usually just watch romantic comedies, because they make a nice contrast to the TV crime dramas I always watch.

    Hi Anna,
    I think that grad students are under a lot of pressure because they're trying to live up to very high standards that are set by their graduate programs. There's also the fact that our professors have achieved everything we want to achieve, so that makes us work even harder to impress them.

    Hi mmarinaa,
    Feel free to write about this; fear is an interesting topic. Fears about work and money are totally natural, especially when you're young, because you're still trying to establish yourself. I've wondered a thousand times whether going to grad school was the right decision, and sometimes I still wonder.

  5. Thanks for this post. Sometimes, I find that there are so many things to worry about/be afraid of and it gets to the point where I don't sleep because I'm too busy being neurotic. Haha. I definitely have a lot of the same fears you do - becoming too cynical from too much time in the city, never reaching the level of success I want, struggling financially, clowns (there's even a really creepy clown living in my building now...ew), and not having the courage to reveal certain things about myself to people. I'm also afraid of the part of town I live in sometimes, as well as some of the people in my apartment building. I worry about what people think of me. I read too much and I worry about the direction this country is headed in. The list could go on but I'll stop there. It's a weird world with a lot to be nervous about when you think about it. The strategy that works best for me is to keep busy so I don't have so much time to over-think everything.

  6. Thank you for this blog post. Reading this, I felt 'I'm not alone.' I'm afraid I'll fail my grad degree. I'm scared that I won't find a well-paying job when I graduate, and even if I do, I'm afraid it won't take my employer long to realize I'm incompetent at anything except studying and passing exams. I'm afraid I'll never discover what my true talents are, or wost, that I don't have any. I'm afraid I'll never discover what my dreams are.

  7. Hi lalalalauren,
    A clown in your building? Wow. That'd be scary, especially if he dresses up in his clown costume when he is at home. Financial struggles are definitely scary, because they can make us feel very uncertain about our lives; we're not entirely sure what's going to happen because things aren't entirely in our control.

    Hi lanaalsabbagg,
    Grad school is tougher now because there's no guarantee that we'll find good jobs even after we get our degrees, so it makes us question what we do. There's a lot of competition out there too. On the other hand, I'm willing to bet that a lot of the people we're competing against also feel scared.

  8. Neurotic Workaholic,

    Okay, I think you and I need to go on a date ;).

    But really, those are all legit fears and they're quite scary to say the least. The way I look at it when it comes to certain fears in life, we need to spend our time being proactive about our goals and not worry about the things beyond our control (but worry about the things we do control!). I find this kind of mentality puts things into perspective a lot easier.

  9. Hi William C.,
    Thanks, but I'm really not looking to date anyone right now. I'm disabling my okcupid account because I don't want to deal with dating for a while; I need a break. I would like to meet someone eventually, but it's not going to be for a long time so that I can focus on work and school. And I'd like to date someone who lives in Chicago, because it'd be easier that way.

  10. I like the "Do you get extra points in hell for acting like that?!?" and I strongly recommend you use it with your students hehe.

    My fears? Mostly dying. That's pretty much the big one.

  11. Hi Gia,
    I've read articles about how some students get mad because their professors don't provide "good customer service".

  12. I'm sorry, but I can't stop laughing. Ronald Mcdonald mouth! Points in hell! Britney Spears! Bwahahaha!

    But I have to say, I totally relate to #2. I grew up in a small town, sweet and naive, and I'm afraid Chicago is likewise hardening me to the point where I'm not even sure that kindness is a virtue. Now that's just sad.

  13. Hi Liesl,
    I love Chicago, but sometimes I miss living in a small town; I had this entirely different idea of what it would be like to live in a big city back then. I think that if I were to move back to a small town, though, it would be a different experience after several years of living in Chicago.

  14. Thanks for the post. Reading about someone else's fears sometimes helps us recognize our own. I would say many of mine are similar... I worry that I will miss out on the "family experience" that some of my (only 20 year old) friends are already experiencing. I worry that I won't get into grad school and I will end up working a job I hate. I worry i will never have the financial abilities to adopt a child. I worry that i will let down people I love. I'm not so sure about dealing with them. I'm still working on that. :-)

  15. Hi Teddi,
    The grad school application process is very stressful, because there's a lot of fear and uncertainty; you don't know where you're going to be a year from now. But rest assured that you will find out soon enough, and then you'll be able to make plans. As far as the financial issues go, I'm still working on mine; I would like to have children someday, but I figure I will wait until I finish school. Then I can spend more time with my family.

  16. Spiders are my irrational fear. Anything with 8 legs is just wrong. No creature needs that many legs. Pure greed!

    My more rational fear is something we have in common, failure. I'm constantly criticising myself for not being good enough and comparing my skills to others who seem much more capable.

  17. Hi Alice X,
    I don't like spiders either; I always freak out whenever I see one. And unfortunately there are a lot of them in college classrooms, for some reason.
    Failure is tough to deal with, especially because we're all pressured to succeed. Not to mention there are always "success stories" that are mentioned in the media, so it's difficult to escape that pressure.

  18. I don't even want to talk about my dental phobia that has led to a hygienist literally holding my sobbing self, telling me it will be okay. Dentist = terrifying.

    I'm scared of having children. I'm scared of not having children. I'm scared my marriage will not last if we have children. I'm scared my marriage will not last if we do not have children.

    (My kitty will help you overcome that fear. She's adorable and cuddly, sometimes too cuddly, but she's sweet and would NEVER hurt you. Please meet my Zelda before you write off all cats!)

  19. Hi NGS,
    I'm actually allergic to cats; just being in the same room with one for a few minutes makes me sneeze all day. But I'm sure that your Zelda is very sweet.
    I've never liked going to the dentist either, because it's very uncomfortable. But my dentist is very nice; I've been going to him for about ten years.

  20. Thanks for the encouragement. I keep reminding myself I can only go to ONE graduate school, so I really only need to get accepted into ONE. :-) Speaking of greatest fears, however, I worry I won't get accepted into any! I agree; school before kids is probably the way to go.

  21. I'm happy to have stumbled upon your blog. I find your writing and the topics you're writing about interesting, I think because we share common fears regarding our work/studies and our writing too.
    I'm actually only an undergrad, although my parents have high expectations of me, I don't feel this certain pressure so intensely now I think by virtue of the 2 years still before graduation.

    Currently I think the greatest pressure on me comes mostly from my need and desire to achieve as much as my batchmates and the people from my college are achieving. I'm from a college of business, and although I'm enjoying the atmosphere, I sometimes think I'm just not as cut into it the way my 'achiever' friends are.

  22. Hi manimefrancess,
    Thanks! Welcome to my blog! College can be very competitive; it's not always like they show it on TV, where the TV characters hardly ever go to class. Undergrads are under a lot of pressure to achieve; I think it's partly because our culture emphasizes results and being the best at everything. But good luck with everything; I'm sure that you'll do great!

  23. I hope this post made you feel better just by writing it. And I can tell you that many of your fears are the same as mine (not the alien queen, though). When I look at how much work and sacrifice I've put into school and putting off getting a job to spend time with my kids and now I'm in a place I never thought I'd be.

    Our jobs, where we live--it can make us cynical. But if we work to acknowledge it and try to keep it from ruling our lives, we can fight it.

    I hope you reach some of your big goals: a good job, a partner, and family someday.

  24. Hi Theresa,
    Writing usually does make me feel better, because it helps me sort out my feelings. I think that being in school when we're adults is even tougher than it was when we were in our teens and early twenties; we're under a lot more pressure to succeed, in my opinion. When we were younger, everyone was still figuring out what they wanted to do. But once we get older, there's a lot more pressure to make specific plans.