Last year, I sat in one of my college counselling sessions, with a notepad in my hands, and Fear in the seat next to me. Each time Ms Chemeli mentioned the word ‘college’, Fear would lean over and say, “If you don’t get in, your life is over.”
When she mentioned the words ‘gap year’, he would lean over once more and say, “That had better not be you.” As decision time approached, Fear’s voice became more alluring than ever, and I began to mistake it for motivation. I would consult him when the pressure mounted up, and derive a fleeting drive from him to do well.
Late at night Fear and I stayed up, me listening, he telling me about all the things that could go wrong with my life if college didn’t work out. His words, punctuated by his references to what people expected of me, became my lullaby.
Early in the mornings, he would bring me breakfast in bed. He served over-cooked ambition with a bland side of worry, and he rubbed my shoulders as I ate, whispering sweet nothings into my fine-tuned ears. Every once in a while, he would slip his fingers ever so slowly around my neck, and squeeze suddenly, for a split second, and when I looked up at him in alarm, he would smile fiendishly and say, “You had better get into college.”
When I realized that I had failed to do his bidding, I was afraid to go home to him. I thought up every excuse I could give him, but I knew he wouldn’t have any of it. His cousin, Terror, mocked me and told me I was in for it. I couldn’t take a gap year. I was going to be a failure if I did.
Finally, I summoned up the courage to go home to him and see what he had to say.
Fear’s nostrils flared and his eyes bulged out in fury. He rushed to my side and simply glared at me with unblinking eyes. I writhed, consumed by his ambience. I was about to fall to my knees and weep at his feet, but a large, heavy realization was thrown at me from outside the window. I peered out, and I saw everyone who cared about me standing there, dusting their hands and heaving sighs after having successfully thrown the boulder of realization at my head.
I looked at Fear, who attempted to gather himself when I did, but I had already seen it- that dumbfounded blink, and that confusion that came into his eyes. I saw it all, and in that moment, I realized that keeping this dead-beat good-for-nothing lovechild of Panic and Pessimism was going to be the end of me.
“Fear,” I began, sounding stronger than I’d expected, my eyes in slits, “I’m taking a gap year.” His nostrils flared a little wider, and In that moment, I was absolutely certain I could fit two golf-balls into them.
“You’re what!?” He cried, and for the first time ever, I noticed how hideous his voice was- like the teeth-grinding sound of metal-along-concrete. I couldn’t even think when he spoke, so I gestured him to shut it.
“I’m taking a gap year,” I began again. “I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do, or how it will go, but I am going to take a gap year, and I’m going to grow,” I said, turning to walk out. “You had better not be here when I get back,” I said over my shoulder. And that was the end of Us.
Every once in a while, Fear sends me flowers. He accompanies them with little notes. The most recent one read: ‘You know I’m only here to keep you from harm. Thinking of you. F.’ The other day, I saw him peering in through my window, his eyes enticingly begging me to let him in, but to be honest, I am so over him.
Besides, I met another man. His name is Courage, and he’s a much better cook. (Yesterday, he served me a creamy bowl of sweet assurance, with a zesty dash of hope!)
So, if Fear comes around your place, talking about how much he loves you, shoving you to
“do well” because you dread the consequences, tell him I had a word with you, and that I’m living proof that he’s nothing but a jelly-boned half of a man trying to make everyone think he’s so powerful when all he is a…jelly boned man. And if like me, Fear happens to be your ex and you see him peering through the window, crank up some Taylor Swift and sing at the top of your lungs, “We! Are Never, Ever, EVER! Getting Back Together!!!”