Conquering Fear In Academia: A Revision

Michael A. Nosal Professor Jackson English 1 January 28, 2010

Running head: CONQUERING FEAR Conquering Fear In Academia


Everyone experiences some sort of anxiety upon entering college. We all have fallen victim to the sweaty palms, nervous cough, facial ticks and uncontrollable vomiting that seems to accompany our entry into the hallowed halls of higher education. No one is immune to this. Show me one person who says they have no fear about college, and I will show you a person who is in complete denial. Fear can be a real problem for some people. It can become quite debilitating. Fear can paralyze a person both physically and mentally. The fear to succeed is strong amongst first year students. We are all afraid that we won’t “make it” and that can tend to cripple our resolve. I know from personal experience that this fear has been on the front burner since my enrollment. There must be some way in which I can conquer the fear in my scholastic life. Just when I think I have control of one fear, others begin to bubble to the surface of my own little phobic swamp. Old fears rear their ugly little heads at me, the kind I thought, at forty, I would never see again. As these fears stare me down, I feel as if I have been transported back to the seventeen-year-old boy from McMurray, Pennsylvania. The fear of acceptance was something I felt I would not have to go through all over again. The desire to “fit in” is a very primal instinct in our society. This need becomes intensified in an academic environment. There always seems to be some kind of cosmic pecking order. Granted, in high school I’m sure we all experienced some kind of alienation, but being gifted creatively had set me apart from everyone. Now, as other creative people surround me, the fear of acceptance begins to intensify. In high school, my acceptance was achieved by being an artist. There was no one quite like me in that aspect. Thusly, my fear was avoided. Avoidance is not

Running head: CONQUERING FEAR dealing with the issue. As I look around at the other talented minds around me, a new fear develops. I am afraid that my sense of individuality will disappear.


Most of my fear seems to stem from the simple fact that I am old enough to be the father of many of my fellow students. This alone can tweak the anxiety levels to the limit. That these young minds are fresh from the academic world and mine is not can be a bit disconcerting. All the years I have been “out of the loop” increases the worry that I might have lost that special quality that set me apart from my age-mates two decades ago. How do I look this fear in the eye and stare it down? The answer would be with the wisdom culled from experience. Strangely, it is with one fear that I carried with me for most of my life and overcame that gives me the courage to handle other fears. I lost this major fear the day I told my mother I was gay. She accepted this fact and continues to love me for being me to this day. I held on to this phobia for years, scared I would lose her. When I told her, the strangest thing happened. My world did not fall apart, as I feared it would. It is odd, but as I step back and look at the twenty years that I have been “out”, I realize that all the other fears that might enter my life will pale in the fear I had of losing my mother’s love. I found the courage to face it and made myself stronger in the process. Could the result have gone the other way? Absolutely, but if I don’t have the resolve to confront what scares me, regardless of the outcome, then I should just lock myself up in the tallest tower on the tallest mountain and leave the world behind. Conquering your fears is very liberating and I highly recommend it. With every possible fear that comes along in my life and in school, I remind myself every day that my mother loves me, supports me and encourages me to move on.



And so, with a bottle of Tums in tow, I will tread through the emotional rollercoaster and terror pit that is college and know that I can do it.

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