FEAR: A Four Letter Word With Far-Reaching Consequences
In the life of a college student, fear is a regular occurrence. Fear can be your best friend, or your mortal enemy. No, not fear alone. Rather, what you do with your fears is how you become the person we all know and love. We are all fearful at times throughout our lives. Fear can manifest itself through something as simple as the fear of asking a girl on a date (this is a very real fear ok, no laughing) or something as big as the fear of losing a loved one. We all carry our fears around with us on a daily basis. Many of us are familiar with the famous FDR quote “The only thing we have to fear, is running out of beer” whoops sorry that’s from Futurama. The real quote reads: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
So what does that mean? Essentially the only thing we have to be afraid of is being afraid. I’m a huge fan of simplification so I’d rather look at what the great Ralph Waldo Emerson once said; “Always do what you are afraid to do.” This powerful quote speaks to a recent experience I had. At the beginning of the summer I enrolled myself in a 3-week intensive Geoscience course and, needless to say, fear played quite a factor in this decision.
So, what did I have to be fearful of? Well, simply speaking, I WAS (and I highlight was for a reason) fearful of science classes. Science classes and I haven’t meshed so well. In high school the final science class I completed was Environmental Science my senior year and I flat-out hated it. I hated it because I was not as successful as I feel I should have been in the course, not due to a lack of effort (well, a slight lack of effort, it was senior year) rather it was due to me not fully understanding the material as easily as I do in other courses. I carried that hate with me and before I knew it those feelings had manifested themselves into a hatred for all science classes.
In college I have mainly found myself enrolled in History courses, Political science courses, Media Studies courses and 1 strange summer of Calculus. No science. When I was presented with the opportunity to take a Maymester course at my college, Hobart and William Smith, I immediately was intrigued by the idea and decided to peruse the catalog. Much to my surprise I immediately found a course that I would love to take, introduction to acting. What a perfect course. Trotting the wooden floorboards for three weeks, perfecting my craft, I couldn’t be happier (I’ve never acted before). Then, the proverbial shit hit the fan. Unfortunately the course was not going to be offered this summer due to lack of registration. Well, damn.
So now I was in a strange predicament. I had to pick a new class for the summer. But nothing else really caught my eye like acting had. After speaking with the head of the program, he proposed to me the idea of taking an Intro to Geology course. Well it just so happens that I needed this course almost as much as this course needed me. It satisfied my science curriculum goal, and they needed one more person to actually have a class.
I’ll admit it, I wasn’t happy. But in life we can’t always be doing what makes us happy sometimes we have to just buckle up and do the damn thing. So that was the attitude I walked into my first class with, and much to my surprise my attitude quickly changed.
The professor for my summer geology course was someone who had taught me in the past. She was my advisor and a teacher I had in my freshman year. I was also quite pleased to have a very close friend of mine take the class with me. There were two other students in the course who I had seen around campus but had never really gotten to know; this was going to change as well.
The first class started as many others in the past have, receiving and reviewing the syllabus. Only 14 classes left, I thought to myself. But, after about 20 minutes of reviewing the syllabus all of my preconceived notions of science classes were shattered. “Today we are going to learn about Geo-Location,” my professor said. Geo what? She pulled out 2 different handheld Garmin GPS machines and we immediately started to learn about what UTM and Lat/Long. For those of you who don’t know what those are, it’s not too late to sign up for Professor Arens Geology class in the fall (It’s a good class, I promise).
After learning about UTM and how we use coordinates to find something with up to a meter of specification we were split into teams of two. Our task: use our new knowledge of UTM coordinates and our handheld GPS machines to go out and find easter eggs that had been left out by our teacher. Well, after some technical difficulties, we ended up only being able to use one of the handheld GPS machines we were now a roaming pack of students out looking for easter eggs across the campus.
Not the worst way to spend class, out and walking around with some friends, needless to say I was a little more into this class than I had expected. Three days into class and it was time for our first fieldtrip, also it was my Birthday! After having an unexpected celebration and cake we were off to Chimney Bluff State Park to do some exploring. This is when I really became sure that this class was unlike anything I had done in the past. We weren’t sitting in a classroom; we weren’t listening to a teacher drone on, rather, we were actually going out in the field and engaging with the course material. We were receiving “The full Maymester Experience”, as we joked throughout the course.
The two other students whom I had never had real interactions with now felt like friends I have had for my entire life. The course was now fascinating and my understanding of the subject matter became rewarding. ‘How could this have happened?’ I thought ‘I hate science classes.’ Well there really is only one obvious explanation. I, like 99% of the world, was fearful of the un-known. That sounds a lot more dramatic than I initially thought it would but it’s true. I was fearful of moving outside my comfort zone and I was especially fearful of failure.
So now that I am almost a full month removed from this course it’s important to look at what I learned. Well, if you want to learn about different types of rocks and how they formed or if you’re interested in learning all about glacial till then I’m your guy. But I learned a few things way more valuable than just the course material throughout these three weeks. I learned to not let past experiences dictate my future endeavors. I learned that, more often than not, fear comes from a lack of understanding rather than a genuine fear of anything. I learned that you won’t be successful until you learn how to channel your fears into actions. And I learned that failure is not the worst thing in the world. In fact, I would go as far as to say failure is the MOST important thing in the world, because if you are fearful of failing then you will never have the courage to do something that will actually make a difference.