Richson: Fear of the uncontrollable


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When I was younger, I was terrified of the dark, which was a product of the Scream-parody episode of Boy Meets World; I obviously had no idea that the premise was pretty much a joke, as I slept with a nightlight for the better part of my childhood.

Later, when I had a MySpace and filled out those surveys you post to your profile, I would always answer the question “what’s your biggest fear” with something annoyingly pretentious and nonmaterial such as “mediocrity” or “ending up alone” instead of something normal such as sharks at the beach or clowns.

As I grow older, I’m not sure that I have a single “biggest fear,” because it increasingly seems as though everything scares me. The future scares me, but so does tomorrow … this afternoon even.

I’m not a “Doomsday Prepper,” but I recognize when patterns of scary things happen, perhaps due to the media or perhaps purely due to my status as an informed human being rather than a child who always slept completely under the covers.

On Monday night, there was a shooting at a mall not far from my hometown in New Jersey. How many hours have I wasted on breaks at this mall and others like it? Did I ever think to say goodbye to my parents before walking out the door? No. Because going to the mall when I’m bored shouldn’t have to be an activity I’m afraid of.

Then, there was the shooting last week at LAX airport, TSA measures irrelevant because shots transpired before security checkpoints. I have always enjoyed airports for the entertainment value of people watching and endless food options, and flying has never scared me; even with Benadryl, I have a hard time sleeping on planes simply because I enjoy the experience. But what does scare me, I am realizing, is people and what they’re capable of. Or maybe what they’re often not capable of — compassion and a basic sense of humanity.

I am not of the belief that the level of good in the world is dwindling, because then I wouldn’t even bother writing this column, as it would fall on deaf ears. Maybe I am just getting older, and seeing the news, and spending too much time on my Twitter timeline, and becoming less trustworthy of the people I pass on the street because you never really know someone’s story.

Would I take this fear over ignorance? Absolutely. It would be easy to play the “these things couldn’t possibly happen to me” card, but doesn’t everyone think that? There have always been bad “things” in the world, like cancer or earthquakes, but what I can’t decide is if people are legitimately becoming scarier, or if my awareness as a plugged-in “adult” is keener than ever.

In the end, I guess there will always be someone who is hell-bent on doing others harm; a fact that is not a new development but rather more of a historical truth. Until then, I suppose I’ll just worry instead about why my laptop keeps freezing or if I’ll have time for a nap today. There are things we can control, and things we can’t, but unfortunately it seems like the things we can’t control are the ones our fear feeds on the most.

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