I’ve been listening to the 10 Things That Scare Me podcast a lot lately. I find it fascinating (and reassuring) to hear how many people fear moths, like me. People fear so many things, some of which I’ve never thought about. It turns out a lot of men fear becoming irrelevant. (Surprise, surprise.)
But in all seriousness, I don’t think people talk about their fears enough. I’m not talking about the creepy-crawly surface level ones. I mean the deep abiding fears that can give us a fuller picture of society and humanity. As it’s been a while since I’ve written here, I thought it might be a good exercise to get my writing gears turning again. So, here are ten things that scare me:
- Moths and bats.
My go-to critter fear. I put these in the same category because they both have flappy wings and fly in a crooked line and hang on walls or ceilings above my head. Specifically, I fear them getting caught in my hair and feeling their wings against my neck and ears.
- Random acts of violence.
Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Terrorism. Automatic weapons. Unmitigated hate. Not coming home from a quick errand.
- Suddenly losing control of a car or losing my balance and falling over a railing.
I learned to drive late in life, and I don’t particularly like driving a high-speed vehicle. I am also a tall, clumsy person who trips over my own clogs. I have no business being near edges of high places. Truly, the accidental deaths I visualize several times a day take lots of different forms— for example, a random muscle spasm causing me to slash my wrists with the knife I’m using to chop veggies, or a pebble causing my bike to fly into an oncoming car. Basically, anything beyond getting out of bed can turn into a deathtrap in my mind. I blame Six Feet Under for this vivid imagination.
- Not having croissant money.
I had a period (post-graduation) when I had so little money that I found myself standing in front of a kiosk in the train station calculating if I had enough in my bank account to buy a croissant. To me, this was a terrifying state. Not that I count French pastries as a necessity in life. But the thought of cutting small pleasures out of my budget makes me anxious. I don’t aim to have a lot of money in life. But I pray that I always have enough to afford flaky, buttery goodness.
- Not being able to care for or be with friends and family in their final days.
I live far away from most of my family and friends. While I really enjoy living where I am now, I often get nervous about being out of reach for people. How quickly could I pack a bag and hop on a plane in the event of an emergency? Would I even be able to afford it? Luckily, it hasn’t come to that yet.
- Being lost, alone, at night.
When I am out and it starts to get dark, I start mapping my journey home in my mind, comparing paths between quickest and most lit (in the literal sense). When I am by myself in the evening, I always remember something my friend’s mom taught us when we were in high school: walk like a man. Take big steps. Swing your arms. One of my favorite feelings in the world is arriving home and knowing that I don’t have to leave my house again for the rest of the day.
- Learning that someone I love is a dangerous psychopath.
What if I end up on the evening news with a journalist sticking a microphone in my face asking how it was possible that I didn’t see the signs?
- The ocean.
The thought of scuba diving terrifies me. I tried snorkeling once in Indonesia, barely, and very inelegantly jumped out of the water when a fish crossed my path. I felt like an intruder, like I was trespassing in their territory. Haven’t we humans fucked up the ocean enough? Can’t we leave the sea life alone? I really enjoy The Big Blue, but I prefer to fast-forward through the underwater scenes.
- Overly attentive salespeople.
If I walk into a store and I am the only one and the salesperson jumps up to help me look through stuff, I pretend to get a call and leave the store as soon as possible. I hate feeling pressured into buying something. Or feeling bad about not buying something, especially if it’s an independent store. My heart soars when I get barely a smile and a “hello” from the salesperson and they leave me the hell alone. We can get to the small talk when I’m ready to pay.
- Someone explaining why my fears are irrational or how I can solve them.
Live in the present. Practice gratitude. Meditate! Or, that’s statistically unlikely to actually happen to you. Are you trying to tell me that there’s been an “off” switch for this mental torture this entire time?
I’m sure that if I think about a few minutes longer I can come up with ten more fears clawing at the inside of my brain on a daily basis. I didn’t didn’t dare go near climate change or certain political situations during this round. It was a helpful exercise to put some of my greatest fears in words, to name the gloom and doom inside of me. Hopefully this way I can get to know it better and learn how to live with it. Also, I hope it can be a great point of connection in this sometimes scary, but most often beautiful world.