What Scares Me

My sixth graders have recently come up with a game. Before class begins, they hide just inside our classroom while I wait outside the door greeting each student as he or she walks in. While I’m doing this, the students inside the room jump out and yell, “Boo!” And then they laugh uproariously when I turn around slowly with my eyebrows raised, completely unfazed.

What my sixth graders don’t realize, among other things, is that part of teaching middle school means constantly being prepared for anything and taking it all in stride even when you aren’t.

The first time this happened, the kids asked in awe, “How are you not scared?”

I replied simply, “I’m not afraid of anything.”

They were stunned. One student spent two days listing off different events or activities that might scare me (i.e. a tarantula in my bedroom, climbing a mountain, skydiving) and consistently expressed surprise when I disagreed that each would be scary. While a tarantula in my bedroom might be uncomfortable and concerning and skydiving might be nerve-wracking and exhilarating, neither strike me as remotely scary.

“Things” don’t scare me. They never have.

Truth be told, however, I am more afraid now than I ever remember being.

Real Fears
With Donald Trump as the President-elect, there’s a lot to be afraid of.

And I am.

I am a woman, a naturalized US citizen (and I vividly remember the anxiety in our house when we applied for and received our Green Cards), and a religious minority. The vast majority Trump’s rhetoric and early policy proposals hit right where it hurts.

I have been inappropriately touched, spoken to, and spoken about on the subway. More than once. More than twice.

I have seen swastikas spraypainted on more than a few buildings.

My reproductive rights are at risk. As a result, so is my health. The affordability and accessibility of healthcare is uncertain.

My status as a person has plummeted and I no longer feel safe when I go running after dark.

I care deeply about the well-being of all people all over the world and of the health of the planet itself, so just about everything else Trump says is also cause for concern. My heart goes out to everyone who is a victim of the hatred caused by fear, which is a constantly increasing number. America promised to stand for the “tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and I will. I purposely smile every time I see a women in a hijab and men holding hands on the street.

Stand strong. I stand with you.

I am afraid of the rhetoric that half this country has deemed acceptable.

In short, everything about the recent US presidential election scares me.

And I need to keep bringing it up because I refuse to sit by and wait for history to repeat itself. We know what happens when fear gets the better of us. We fought World War II already. An estimated 50 million to 80 million people died.

Personal Fears
These are irrelevant compared to the much more significant discussion above, but I’m going to include them anyway. If my fears about the political state of this country and the world are enough for you, stop reading here. (No hard feelings! Come back soon!)

Otherwise, here we go:

I’m afraid of being alone forever. I’m afraid of never being able to express my love for others with the depth, intensity, and care that I desperately want to. I’m afraid no one will love me enough to keep me.

I’m afraid of not making a difference in this world. I’m afraid of not making it better.

Looking Ahead
My sixth graders ask, “How are you not scared?”

I am.

Bu my sixth graders don’t need to know. They are already far more attuned to racism, sexism, violence, xenophobia, anti-immigration sentiment, anti-LGBT sentiment, discrimination, prejudice, and other issues than I was at their age. They live in a world dominated by fear, and this is where that fear has brought us.

Afraid? Very much so.

Giving up? Not on your life.

Now more than ever, I am committed to understanding the concerns of those around me. As I do so, I will continue working to build a world that is truly sustainable, better, and more peaceful for all who call it home.

Please join me.

Fear is the main source of superstition and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom. – Bertrand Russell

9 thoughts on “What Scares Me”

  1. Beautiful post from your neighbour up in Canada. In regards to your fear of not being able to make a difference in the world, I think in many ways you already have, especially with your role as an educator for the next generation.


  2. Humpty Trumpty broke the government, and all the king’s men couldn’t put it back together again.

    The fear of where our government is going, and how blind the supporters are of the current regime is certainly something to be fearful of. This is even more true nearly four years later, as Covid-19 begins to stress the cracks of the American way of life at all levels: from the societal, to the corporate, to the government.

    Your fear is well-founded. A solution is so far out of reach for the individual that our powerlessness is asphyxiating. What can we really do against these sheep-like mobs that threaten the well-being of the entire nation?

    I handle this fear with laughter, finding the surreality of it to be comedic at a profound level. Sometimes I think I slid from a universe that made sense into one where sense has become nonsensical.

    I find my fear has no meaning: I have no control, therefore, I must simply accept what the universe projects before me and handle it to the best of my ability. Fear does little more than cloud my judgement. Against so whelming a force as society, fear is worthless: a creeping sensation that weakens one’s resolve when strength is what is most needed.

    It is humorous to think how far humanity has come yet how primitive most of us remain. There is tragic irony in the fact that the people worst affected by this regime’s policies are the ones most supportive of it.

    I hope in the past few years, your fear of loneliness has dissipated. It is a poignant fear that strikes so many people, but I think it is ill-founded.

    Like all our fears, the fear of loneliness is one over which we wield power. Even as it strikes us down in our moments of weakness, we can strike it back. In this unending conflict, we can derive the foundations for absolute strength in solitude.

    Then our loneliness stops being something we fear. It become a reminder of how strong we have become.

    We have this desire to want to make meaning out of all the tragedies in our life. A lot of people find themselves unable to do so: they crumble and then stagnate in the face of adversity. They are unable to integrate their failures as the building blocks to their future success, because they are overcome with fear.

    Our fears and adversities can be destructive: or we can harness that energy in the engines of our souls to propel ourselves forward.

    In its nascent state, gasoline simply burns. It take ingenuity to apply its energy into a combustion engine.


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