Fear, No More

A week ago, I came home from my first year of college. The night before I left I watched one of my favorite films, An Education, with one of my best friends, and I went to bed with a new motto in mind: fear, no more.

Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard, playing Jenny and David respectively. Also, my new screensaver. Image via entertainmentwallpaper.com.

Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard, playing Jenny and David respectively. Also, my new screensaver. Image via entertainmentwallpaper.com.

An Education‘s story centers on sixteen-year-old Jenny Mellor, a bright and hard-working girl who lives in the suburbs with her parents and dreams of studying English at Oxford. One day, while walking home from school in the pouring rain, she accepts a ride from a mysterious and charming man named David. After a couple of chance encounters they begin seeing each other frequently, with David taking Jenny to entertaining auctions, stimulating clubs, and Paris, the place of her dreams. I will not go into too much detail to avoid spoiling the movie, but one part of the film resonated with me, a scene that did not stick out the first time I watched it. After the climax of the movie, Jenny’s dad tells her about how afraid he is: afraid of Jenny not getting into Oxford, afraid of Jenny not having a bright future, afraid of Jenny struggling to make ends meet like he did.

In contemporary society, we let fear control so many of our actions. We go to school because we fear that without a degree, we will not get a job (hence, all the articles about which degrees will bring the most financial success). We engage in superficial relationships with people we might not like at all because we fear loneliness. All throughout my first year of college, I constantly feared not making an impact: was I doing enough? Will I get into graduate school with my grades and extra-curricular activities?

We do not need to eliminate fear, rather, we should use it to empower us. In one of my Education classes this semester, we discussed transforming fear from an “emotion of threat” to an “emotion of importance,” an idea from the Life Values Inventory. If you possess fear, there is probably an underlying passion or motivation behind it that you can use to push you forward. If you’re afraid of rejection from med school, that speaks to how important becoming a doctor is to you. If you’re afraid of a friend rejecting you, that might just indicate how much you care about this person. Knowing what we’re afraid of and why we’re afraid of it allows us to face fear with our eyes open, instead of fighting it blindfolded.

For the first 48 hours after leaving college, I felt like an emotional wreck. I said goodbye to the close friends I made, and I tried to prepare myself for three months of psychological warfare. Now, I accept that my fear of leaving my college – my new home – was a sign of just how much it means to me. Saying “see you later” just pumps me up for when I get to come back, and a break from school means an even better start to next semester.

Fear, no more.

The books I'm reading for my mini-research project this summer! Tough stuff, but it'll be worth it.

The books I’m reading for my mini-research project this summer! Tough stuff, but it’ll be worth it.

Thoughts or comments? Agree or disagree about fear acting as a motivator, sometimes as a detriment? Now that it’s summer and finals are over, I’ll have time to respond to comments on previous posts and the messages people have sent me. Also, if you’re interested, you can check out the abstract of the mini-research project I’m working on this summer – I’m reading memoirs of people who’ve dealt with eating disorders, analyzing them, and writing some creative fiction. Finally, if you want to check out my thoughts on The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson or Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom, you can do so here and here respectively. Hope everyone’s week has been going well so far and I look forward to hearing from you!

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25 Comments

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25 responses to “Fear, No More

  1. This really resonates with me. I just wrote a similar post with my thoughts on fear and goodbyes in response to the end of my first year of college. If you’d like to read it, here’s the link! http://wp.me/p46JHL-5V

  2. I really appreciate your take on using your fear of leaving college–I have similarly struggled with coming home. Although I appreciate the break from constant work and study, I really miss the structured learning and being surrounded by my friends. However, it does act for fantastic motivation for the next semester :) I’m glad your first year went so well!

    • Yes, a little break won’t hurt – it does give you time to relax and appreciate what you’re missing. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  3. What a great way to think about it – I’m continuously crippled by fear of failure and not being good enough. I should take a leaf from your book and try and use that in a positive way. Of course putting it into practice is a terrifying prospect in itself!

    • Love the expression “take a leaf from your book” and I’m glad you can relate to how I feel. Though I agree, actions speak louder than words, so let’s hope we can both put in into practice. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  4. I agree. I’m currently planning on transferring from Georgetown, because I know it’s not the place for me, not home, not what I want. But, contrarily, it’s the hope that my parents placed in me, to achieve more, to go to a prestigious university (I try and say that as humbly as possible; it’s there to serve a point), to make a lot of money, and I live that fear of disappointing them. But with an acceptance to BC to transfer (awaiting FA award), and the knowledge that it’s a new chance, I’m trying to let my fear of disappointing them fade away and embrace the future that doesn’t have to be as purposefully molded.

    Contrary to your being crippled by leaving college for the summer, I was empowered and freed and overjoyed. I think that’s a sign it’s time to go.

    I’m happy W&M is home for you, as it is for one of my closest friends from high school (Dakota, if you know him). Cheers to a good post, as per norm

    • I agree, your ability to recognize that you felt “empowered and freed and overjoyed” does indicate a need for a change of place. I’m sorry that your time at Georgetown wasn’t the best, but I’m so glad that you are cognizant of the factors that drove you there and what you can do to leave. I wish you the best in wherever you go, your perseverance and your tenacity really inspire me!

      PS: I do not know a Dakota, but if I meet one, I will do my best to introduce myself. It would be so cool if we could meet! Also, thank you for reading and commenting.

  5. This post really resonated with me. I completely agree with your thoughts on fear as a motivator – it took me a long time to realise it, but fear/anxiety shows us how much we care or how important something is to us. Thanks for writing such a great post!

  6. I love how you took a negative emotion and transformed it into something that can be used for good. Just a head’s up, Portia’s book, Unbearable Lightness, is a heart-wrenching, but absolutely beautiful book.

    • Agreed! I’m reading it for the second time now for my research project, and it’s just as heart-wrenching as the first time I read it. Really analyzing and thinking about every emotion she went through is a difficult but rewarding experience. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  7. I don’t think there was ever any doubt ti anyone how well you would do and hiw well you would settle in to college life. So it only makes sense how sad you are to see it over (has it really been a year?) I hope your time away from college goes better than you think.

  8. kelly

    Amazing!! I can connect with this so much. It is true…the faults we have can push us forward into better people. I’m glad that college sounds good.

  9. Ah yes, good, old paralyzing fear. Not always though. I’m in the grips of my own at the moment, but I have to agree, I’ve always thought that whatever you feared for only reflected how much you hold certain issues, events or people in significance. Having realized that, though, it’s not always easy to dispel it immediately – I think the best we can do is keep that thing of significance in mind and strive towards it. You’ll be back at college before you know it, with your friends and subjects you love.

    Also, super interesting project. What a great concept – incorporating the idea of memoirs and eating disorders into a creative piece of your own.

    I hope you enjoy your very well-deserved break, Thomas!

    • I agree, it’s difficult to move toward what you find important in the face of fear, but recognizing that you care so much about it is the first step in a long yet worthwhile process. I hope that what you’re going through lightens up, or that you get through it with your compassion and tenacity!

      Thank you for your support, the project is quite rewarding so far. Also, I 100% agree with your thought on An Education. Jenny was not the only character who learned a valuable lesson.

  10. Oh! Also. I love that film, too; not only the issues it deals with, but the cinematography, the setting, the music?? Ahhhh. One of the songs in it, “Your Heart is as Black as Night” is divine. It’s like thick, chocolate cake in music form.

    /SPOILER/
    I always think that the whole process was not only an education to Jenny, but her parents, as well. They were rather pitiful in the end, weren’t they?

  11. I can’t believe it’s been a year. And you WILL survive the summer. And, you know what, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, and if you find being at “home” doesn’t work for you, you are resourceful, you know you can cope away from that environment, and you will prevail wherever you find yourself.

    • I almost can’t believe it either, Liz, thank you for sticking around with me for that long! And you know what, you’re right – there are resources and places for me for when it gets really rough. Thank you for your insight and your determined attitude.

  12. Yeah, fear makes you realize how important things are to you, but how do you make it stop? Although I made a monstrous progress of fearing less things in life, I still can’t get rid of fear.

    • Maybe we shouldn’t fixate so much on eliminating fear. Instead, we can try to use our fear to motivate us, and we can try to understand our fear to see where it’s coming from – because the source of our fear can tell us a lot about what we care about.

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