Volume 97 Issue 3 Campus Spin

The Only Fear is Fear Itself

by Lillian Stroup

Round two of college. This time, I had to make it through. I couldn’t drop out and I couldn’t go back home. I looked around at the swarm of other freshman in Von Leibig and felt my chest tighten up. There were so many people here just like me — what did I have to offer?

I ran out, terrified. What if I failed here at Juniata like I had before when I tried to go to college? This pure anxiety and self-doubt was the most challenging moment in my adult life. I knew I had to make a decision: stay here, or leave college again.

I recently talked to students about their fears at Juniata. I asked them how they would describe fear. Ben Worth, a second-year exchange student from York, England, with a POE in religion, philosophy and ethics, states: “Fear is something that pulls you and pushes you. You can be afraid of something and it will push you away, but you can also be afraid of something, and for some reason you want it more.”

However, fear is not always about what somebody wants or does not want. “(Fear) is when things don’t go according to plan, whether it’s rejection, or when you’re in an environment that you didn’t plan to be in,” states Dan Ansel, a first year with a biology POE.

The concept of fear is incredibly broad, and the spectrum by which it is defined is enormous. There seem to be common fears that are consistent among most people, such as insects and the dark. On the other end of the spectrum there stems deeper issues, such as fear of failure. Christen Cooper, a first year with a POE in biochemistry, says, “One (fear of mine) would be failure in track. Failure in sports is pretty big to me.”

Although this makes Cooper anxious, she doesn’t let it bring her down, no matter what. “When it comes to track, I have failed before, and when that happens I just have a breakdown. I start crying and stuff, but then you just have to pick yourself up and keep going. Try harder so that you don’t fail again.”

Sometimes, in order to conquer your fears, you must go above and beyond what you would normally be too scared to do. Worth took his fear of sharks and wide-open spaces and turned it around into an enjoyable activity. “(To deal with) the shark thing, I became a qualified scuba diver, and that kind of helped me to overcome my fear of the ocean and the space around me.”

However, when fear takes over your own mind, how do you overcome that? Ann Ordiway, a first year with a museum studies POE, shares both my (and a lot of other people’s) fear of being alone. She has come up with a great way to spend positive time with herself. “I try to surround myself with people, and then I also try to have a lot of good alone time so that I see it as a positive thing. When I’m alone I play guitar, and that helps a lot.”

Ansel comments that “failure in classes or social life” is an overwhelming anxiety that many college students experience during their time here. After all, we are in college. This new experience is terrifying, and this is the point in our lives when we are supposed to be taking responsibility for who we are and what we want for ourselves.

Worth discusses society’s heavy influence on a college student’s fears. “(A college student’s) biggest fear is failing a standard that we can’t actually reach at our age. From day one of college, we are told that we are old enough to make our own futures, but yet we aren’t even old enough to drink. Society needs to remember that life isn’t just getting a job, having two children, an attractive spouse and a fast car. Especially with the idea of the American dream, not everyone is going to live in a house with a white picket fence and a golden retriever. Not everyone lives that life because not everyone wants to.”

Although college students are constantly pressured to think about the future, Cooper’s opinion differs. “I feel like (our generation’s) whole lives are focused on the future and not on living in the present. I think that’s the big problem with college kids. What we are going to do after college seems like our biggest fear.”

Whether fear of insects, the dark or the future is what seems to bring you down, remember, in those dark times, that fear can actually push you forward. “Fear is necessary,” says Ansel with an encouraging smile. “Without it, there cannot be any success. It drives a lot of things that you do in your life. It’s about learning what your fears are and how to use (fears) to your advantage.”

Ordiway recognizes that overcoming fear is a day-to-day process. “I guess fear will always be there, because things are constantly changing in your life. You can never get over the concept of fear, but the best thing you can do is accept it, understand it and learn to cope with it in your own way.”

All of these statements tie into one important factor: Don’t let the concept of fear govern your everyday actions. Every one of us will get hurt, and we will learn from it, but don’t hide from these negative aspects. If we choose to play dead and not try to overcome our anxieties, that would be letting fear win.

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