I think it’s healthy sometimes to just list off a number of things you’re scared of and do everything you can to wrangle those fears and get past them or channel them into something positive. Here goes:
- Not being considered smart: This is a big one for me because it’s been the identity I’ve had and clung to since I was a kid, purposely learning big words and useless facts to regurgitate. It’s probably the reason I read and write and work with data and numbers as much as I do. I enjoy it, but there’s a sinister layer of the process that comes with it; having the receipts to prove my intellect is important to me, because being caught with my pants down would probably be it for my mental health. I always felt the one thing you can’t take away from me is my intelligence, and I’ve done far too much in life to maintain that aura at the expense of taking risks and making decisions based on factors beyond how prudent they are.
- Regret: A broader one so let me narrow it down a bit. There are only so many hours in a day, and so many days in a life, that you can’t possibly do everything. Still, as a 25-year old who was surely 21 just a couple days ago, you can almost physically feel life slipping away from you. Tomorrow I’ll be 30, I’ll probably be married and even thinking about kids, and while it wouldn’t be too late for anything, your series of choices shrink exponentially with a child and spouse in tow. So to say I’d love to live in another country or sky dive or try every drug known to man is to fantasize, it’s to create a fiction world where I’d like to live long enough and have the resources to comfortably fit it all in. Making peace with the fact that I won’t has been hard, and fear has been the biggest obstacle to overcome.
- Dying suddenly: Getting morbid here, I’ve always had a certain pit in my gut when I think of people who experience sudden loss. Losing key pieces of your life with notice is awful of course, but being able to ensure your final moments with them are precious and positive seems crucial to gaining closure and becoming comfortable with your new reality. A sudden death strips that away, and all you’re left with are regrets and wishes that will never be fulfilled and a life ahead of you spent fighting off thoughts about the loss you’ve had to deal with.
- Being cancelled: Just kidding, if I ever do some horrible shit please cancel me and never let me walk outside without being reminded of it again. Thanks.
- Losing time: I’ve moved several times in my life, but I’ve moved twice. Once from New Jersey to South Carolina at age sixteen, and again from South Carolina to California at age twenty-three. There are pros and cons to moving, most of them obvious, but one I never considered is losing the chance to experience personal growth in your loved ones. Living in New Jersey, I saw my extended families once a week, maybe a tad less depending on circumstance but never less than once a month. When you see people that often, there isn’t really progress in their growth as much as you’re growing together. You don’t make a big thing of them growing up and going through the doldrums of everyday life because you’re doing the same thing alongside them. When I moved to South Carolina, we originally visited home about once a month, which dwindled down to twice a year by the time I left, and you begin missing entire chunks of life with people you once never went long without seeing. It was the same way with my friends, keeping up with them was not the same as in-person time together, and as they grew into adults I still saw them as high-schoolers I used to ding-dong-ditch with. Moving to California has been even weirder, since the same principles still apply with my family and friends in New Jersey, but they’ve been extended now to my immediate family and new sets of friends. My brothers have grown in to adults largely without me, while my friends get married, move in with significant others, and start their lives. My parents dug out of financial hell, made new friends, and joined new clubs all while I was gone. It’s bizarre, but I have an object permanence with old stomping grounds of mine, and when I return to these places and see people progressing, I’m happy for them but devastated knowing I wasn’t around to experience any of that. It’s like a reunion that happens twice a year, heartbreaking in ways I can’t fully understand and exciting in ways that are more clear. Part of me thinks the idea that people can achieve great things without me is bothersome, you’re never as important as you think you are and people adapt even if the environment isn’t ideal, which is great for them but harder to accept as their kin. I’m lucky to have such wonderful friends and family, I just wish getting away from them didn’t make things so goddamn hard.
- Snakes: This was a free space. Fuck snakes.
- Never getting in shape: I was a rail growing up, about 6'2" 150lbs. from age thirteen til twenty-one. One bad summer of poor eating, stress, lack of sleep, and zero exercise changed all that and I’ve struggled with weight ever since. Going from skinny to fat and skipping dad bod all together is weird, especially since my large gut and otherwise slender build makes me look like the Grinch, which is not the jolly type of fat I hoped to be if it ever came to this. I’ve half-assed a lot of diets and exercise routines in the four years since to try and get back under 200 lbs. (I’m sitting at 230 right now) and to nobody’s surprise, none of them worked. Keto and intermittent fasting are a great combo until they’re not, and exercise alone just doesn’t do the trick. Slowly but surely the level of urgency is creeping up and I can feel the cliff coming where getting in shape goes from “doable with a severe but manageable lifestyle change” to “impossible unless you literally devote your existence to it”. Breaking a diet is easy and also incredibly tough on your psyche, the self-hate returns and often eating and laying around are the chosen remedies for curbing such feelings, manifesting even more negativity. Maybe one day I’ll get to where I want to be, where I am not only body-positive but physically healthier, more energetic, and more able to enjoy life without having to lug around an extra 35+ pounds, but the fear comes from living out the rest of my life heavier than I am now, unable to experience life the way I want to because I couldn’t pass that Popeyes without entering the drive-thru first.
- Losing Ansley: Corny but hopefully the explanation helps. I really truly never thought I’d find someone I’d want to marry, so much so that I railed against the idea of marriage and having kids in large part because it would serve as protection in the seemingly likely case I’d never do either. I had dated before, I was fine when it came to women(fine is generous), and I wasn’t ruling out the idea that somebody great would come along. I just thought I’d fuck it up or one of us would get bored before we got to any serious discussions about spending our lives together. Sharing your life is a special privilege that I never really appreciated until Ansley came around, having somebody excited about your small victories and supportive of you during the good times and the bad. Being that person for someone else gives me a sense of purpose and skin in a game somebody else is playing, a level of selflessness I didn’t know I had in me. It wasn’t right away that I recognized how perfectly Ansley fit the mold of the person I needed in my life, and had I not been on my own in California I’m not sure I would’ve seen it through. It could be divine intervention or mere coincidence, but eighteen months in and I couldn’t be happier to share my life with her. Now that I’m done gushing, I hope the “fear” part of this makes more sense. I have plenty of friends, family, hobbies, and professional aspirations to chase, I don’t necessarily need or depend on a partner to survive, but I can’t imagine doing it without her at this point, and I hope I never have to.
- Losing a bar fight I started: I know that bar fighting is specific, I suppose I’d hate to lose any fight I started, but something about bars brings out barbarism(no pun intended) in me that I don’t channel in any other setting. I think it’s the Chappelle sketch where he tries to fight the black belt who then beats his ass and takes his girl, which always stuck with me as an the epitome of embarrassment.
- Alzheimers: I legitimately think this is my biggest fear, at least relative to consensus. The idea of dealing with brain erosion, losing memory and experiencing cognitive decline is terrifying enough, then knowing how burdensome, expensive, and lengthy the care process is for loved ones. Maybe I’ll have the resources to have a nurse help out or maybe they’ll have a cure by the time my age puts me at risk, but man, in our current environment I couldn’t imagine dealing with something so horrible.
- Getting made fun of by black teenagers in a movie theater while I’m eating beans and enjoying Cars 2: Ending this one on a lighter note. If you know, you know. But seriously, teens roasting me in any forum is a nightmare of mine.
There’s ten real ones plus one fake one, this was extremely therapeutic for me so I appreciate whoever took the time to read this and I encourage anyone else to consider their fears as well. It’s liberating to have them out in the open.
P.S. Of course I’m terrified of losing loved ones, but I tried to make this list unique to myself and get away from more obvious fears. I also can’t stand social media posts like “Retweet if you’re scared of your mom dying” so this is a mini-protest against those assholes and their morbid clout-chasing.