When I was a kid, I would always cling to my mom whenever we went to a social function — like a birthday or a family gathering — because I was genuinely afraid of other people. Mom did her best to protect me from my own anxiety, but she often encouraged me to go ahead and let go of her and go on my own. As the years went by, this anxiety was less and less, but I still experience a similar feeling in crowded situations, especially if I have no one there for me to cling to.
This anxiety, although greatly reduced, manifests itself in my phobias and fears. Phobias are irrational. Fears are more rational. I’m afraid of snakes, but I have a phobia that one will come at me in my sleep. Get it?
By the time you read this post — as I will have it scheduled to go live at a certain time — I will be taking the departmental oral exam that I told you about in the last post. While I am very confident that I will do fine and pass the exam, I panicked about it for about 5 to 10 minutes over the weekend.
Then I calmed down and thought rationally about the task at hand. The professors assessing me are not doing it to exclude me from “the club.” They’re doing it because they need to make sure that my thesis project is as strong as it can be so that I don’t end up making a fool out of myself at the end. So that whatever paper I publish doesn’t get retracted. So I’m not the laughing stock of my profession. (I’m looking at you, Wakefield.)
This is the case with a lot of scary things in my life. I panic about them for a little bit, and then I grab them by the proverbial horns. Now, it’s hasn’t always worked out well. There have been times when grabbing the bull by the horns gets you bucked right off into oblivion. But, thankfully, there have been more times when the bull has been tamed and ridden back into the stable.
So that’s my little secret. When I’ve had a fear of drowning, I’ve jumped into the water…