Keep the night light on
By Sola Corrado
Heights, spiders, crowded rooms. Whatever it was, everyone had their childhood fear. For me, it was the dark. I was always scared to go to bed alone, and my mom had to keep a little plug-in night light in my room so I could fall asleep. As I got older, though, I had to get rid of the night light and learn to sleep in the dark. I couldn’t be scared like a little kid forever.
Having fears is a fundamental part of childhood, and learning to get over them is an even more integral part of growing up. For a long time, I believed that part of maturing is to turn the night light off to all of my fears, not just the dark. Being scared of talking to people is socially acceptable when you’re 5, but not 15. Being scared of leaving your family is normal at 8, but not 18. And being scared of elevator doors closing on you is just weird, at any age.
I thought it was my job to learn to get over my fears, and that I wasn’t truly “done growing” until I did so. And to some extent, I did get over my fears. I pushed myself to act as extroverted as everyone else around me, left my family behind for college without making a big deal out of it, and even learned to stop flinching every time I walked into an elevator that was about to close. As new fears arose, I learned to stamp them out quickly, and my life began to feel like playing whack-a-mole with my fears.
I was so obsessed with this idea of being independent, secure, and mature, that I didn’t realize how exhausting it was to always try and not be afraid. Was it even so important that I got over my fears?
Maybe it’s okay to be scared. We’ve been taught to try and get over our fears, to let them go the way we let our childhood stuffed animals go, but maybe it’s okay to let some of them linger. In a way, it’s like holding on to a piece of ourselves. We find comfort in familiarity and find it easy to crawl back into the imprints we left in the pit of our fears.
A little part of me will always be nervous talking to new people, the same way a part of me will always be a little scared at the thought of being so far from my family. It serves me no purpose in trying to deny that. Being scared is a universal experience, and having fears isn’t an indicator of immaturity or weakness. Sometimes, it’s actually proof of maturity to acknowledge your fears and still not let them hold you back. And sometimes, it’s just fun to curl up with your best friends and watch a horror movie that has enough jump scares that you all end up huddled under the blanket. We connect through the shared experience of fear, and to claim we are never scared is to deny us the vulnerability to truly connect with each other.
So yes, I’m scared about the future. I’m scared about not knowing what is to come, I’m scared of if I stop being close with my high school friends, and I’m scared about whether I’ll actually succeed here. Every now and then, I’m even still scared of the dark.
Maybe it’s okay not to fight these fears. To keep the night light on, and realize that only then can I see who else is feeling this way too.