Navigating youth with our life-long companion: fear.
By Kaitlyn D’Souza, Staff Writer
Stop reading! Stop reading this right now! At this very moment, your favourite teddy bear could be the Boogieman in your closet’s late-night snack. Seriously, how can you keep reading when such a heinous crime could be occurring? Go save Mr. Teddy. But wait, if you get out of bed, Mom and Dad will hear your footsteps, and you’ll be in trouble for staying up late. You won’t be able to go to your BFF’s house, and they just got a new swing in their backyard that you’ve been dying to try out. Mom and Dad might even go as far as telling Santa, then your name will be added to his naughty list. With his connections, who knows, maybe you’ll stop getting eggs from the Easter Bunny and loonies from the Tooth Fairy.
Oh childhood, a time of wild imaginations where your fears are as vivid as the horror stories your older siblings tell you before bed. Looking back, these fears are almost laughable, as your childhood teddies, whose safety and wellbeing were once a priority, are now in some old, dusty box in the attic. It’s both your innocence and ignorance which allows you to be so susceptible to even the most irrational fears. Yet, at the time, these fears were your greatest anxieties. They were the biggest problems facing the world, or at least your little bubble which you considered to be the world.
As you get a bit older and your bubble expands, your fears do as well. You—wait—stop reading! Tomorrow’s the first day of seventh grade, and you still haven’t chosen what to wear. You got new shoes over the summer, but what if no one likes them? What if they’re out of style, and everyone judges you for them? Plus, what if you have no classes with your friends, and you’re forced to sit in the back all alone? What if your lab partner from last year, the one who would make your heart pound and send bursts of unease through the rest of your body, is in the same homeroom?
Good old middle school, a time when unprecedented fears and anxieties sneak up on you. I mean, don’t you have enough on your plate with puberty and middle school drama? Newfound insecurities consume your mind, and you’re suddenly scared that everyone around you is staring with judging eyes. As you reach this stage, you become more aware, even hyper-aware, of the fact that others are perceiving you. Sure, even at the ripe age of six you feared that others wouldn’t like you and wouldn’t want to play tag with you during recess. This time, however, your fears of others’ opinions are different; they’re more heightened. Coupled with newfound feelings and relationships which unfortunately don’t come with an instruction manual to help you navigate, you’re doomed.
Looking back, you weren’t doomed. Sure, your fears weren’t as irrational as the monster in the closet, but they certainly did not mean the end of the world. I mean, you haven’t even talked to your lab partner crush since grade eight graduation. As you leave the scary world of middle school, you’re left with only a few more years until you’ve escaped your childhood fears altogether. However, there’s still one more, arguably the scariest, stage to go through: high school.
….This is what you’ve been waiting for? This ever-so-romanticized place is actually quite scary. You can’t seem to understand why teenagers in movies seem so carefree. Meanwhile, you have work tonight, a test tomorrow, and guess what, it’s your turn to do the dishes. You’re scared to disappoint your best friend by skipping movie night, but you’re also scared to disappoint your parents by failing another test. You’re scared that the email from your dream university will be a rejection, leaving you crushed with no sense of direction. The fears and worries from the past still haunt you, while a whole new layer gets added on too. And what’s scariest of all? You’re a kid in the final stages before adulthood. Yet somehow, you’re left making decisions which will impact the rest of your life.
Fear follows you throughout your childhood, it’s your companion alongside your teddy, lab partner, and best friend. You can try wishing it away. I mean, you eventually got over your fear of the Boogieman! But that’s the awful thing about fear: it doesn’t go away, it just changes. When the idea of monsters under the bed no longer seems rational, you find a new object to be the subject of your fear. It’s a continuous, inescapable cycle! And, not to scare you, this is just the beginning. As you enter another year of university, another stage of early adulthood, get ready for new fears to join. From the “Grade Changed” notification on your phone to the dreaded “What do you plan on doing with your degree” question your aunt keeps asking at Thanksgiving, the fears don’t stop. So, have fun navigating this new chapter, and remember, while your fears are ever-changing, your ability to persevere and confront them remains positive and constant!