Minus the City: What are We Scared of?

Growing up, everyone had fears. Whether it was the monsters that lurked around in the dark after bedtime, spiders that crawled over scraped knees at the playground or lunchroom bullies who wielded their insecurities against susceptible peersthere was always something to be afraid of. Fear is something that appears to be natural to humans; it is a reaction to just about anything which worries us. As we grow older, our juvenile fears seem to be replaced by a zealous confidence which reminds us that we’re too old to be afraid. It seems silly to be afraid as a young adult. Our worries and fears were something of a bygone era.

However, coming back to Colgate’s campus this semester reminded me of the fear that lingers among us still. Perhaps our fear of the dark has escaped, but I believe there is still one major fear which plagues most college students: vulnerability. Colgate is known for the anonymity of its hook- up culture. You can go to parties, hookup with someone and remain completely unknown to that other person. Maybe they know your name, where you live and a couple of classes you take, but they don’t really know you. For most students, this is more than ideal. If someone doesn’t really know you, how could they even begin to hurt you?

What is so scary about opening up to someone else? Maybe it’s the fear of being embarrassed or even rejected. Ultimately, this fear deprives us the comfort and ease which arises out of expressing vulnerability. Whether you open up to a romantic partner, a friend or even a stranger, you remind someone else that it’s okay to not be perfect. In a college environment where everyone is juggling the anxieties of school, work and maintaining a social life, it is important to recognize that there is probably someone else out there feeling the exact same things.

Most importantly, I think this is a lesson that you might have to learn the hard way. Last week might not have been the greatest week for me. My friends tried to ask what was wrong, yet I realized I couldn’t say anything other than, “I’m fine.” In reality, I wasn’t. As I took more time to think about it, I realized that if you never open up to someone else, and let out your true emotions, you’re left feel- ing even more alone and abandoned. It’s a scary feeling to open up about your insecurities and worries to other people, especially to those you care about. However, in doing so, you establish better communication and deeper understanding within your relationships. A few days after I was brushing her away, one of my friends came to me scared, and in need of advice. By being honest with her about my difficult week, she felt comfortable coming to me in a time of need. By becoming vulnerable with others, you allow them to become more vulnerable with you. And in a world like ours, no one should be left alone to handle their fears.

As I walk around campus now, I’m glad that people know more about me. It is scary to let down the imagined walls that fortify our pride and insecurities, but it’s reassuring to know that no one can make it through life completely isolated. Being vulnerable allows us to understand and help each other, and it is the greatest weapon we have against our current fears.

Contact Helen Misiewicz at [email protected].