A few weeks ago, I was out for a run. As I ran by a field, I happened to encounter one of my worst fears. It scared me so much that I immediately crossed the street to continue running, and even then, I couldn’t stop looking back to make sure I was really safe.
My friends are all afraid of normal things. Snakes. Spiders. Scary movies. The dark. But snakes don’t bother me at all. I kill spiders for my roommate. I can honestly say I have never been truly frightened by a movie—even The Exorcist wasn’t as scary as I expected. And I kind of like the dark.
But my friends probably couldn’t encounter anything while out running that would scare them that much unless it was a potential murderer or a vicious dog—neither of which caused me to cross the street while I was out running that day.
I’m afraid of geese.
Yes, geese. You’re probably laughing now. Most people do when I tell them that. But there’s actually a good reason for it. When I was growing up, my across-the-street neighbors, in addition to a horse, a donkey, chickens, and goats, had geese. And these geese, who had a penchant for making their way up the driveway and taking a stroll down the street, would sometimes chase after people. Apparently, this scarred me for life.
Nothing I can do can help me get over it, either. No matter how many times I tell myself that geese can’t hurt me, I can’t seem to comprehend it. One day when I was walking by the Charles with my friend Nicole, alongside some Canadian geese, she told me to say, “Riddikulus!” (the spell to combat the boggart in the Harry Potter books). That made me laugh, but didn’t really make me less afraid.
And geese are surprisingly hard to avoid. They congregate in fields, by the river—basically wherever there’s enough room and not too many people. Unfortunately, that includes many places where I like to run.
Fear isn’t unusual for me. I am a nervous person by nature. I worry, I over-think, I sometimes make myself sick. It’s a terrible habit, and one I’m trying to work on.
And I’ve actually managed to get over some more rational but also more debilitating fears. For a long time, I was scared of certain driving situations. In C-Town, I did everything I could to avoid going through two areas that were infamous for the accidents constantly occurring there. I also avoided driving long distances. Switching lanes on the highway freaked me out. All through high school, if the swim team was going somewhere far away, I let someone else drive because I wasn’t comfortable.
I was almost twenty-one when I finally decided that I needed to get over my driving fears. Two of my best friends were staying in Boston for the summer. I was at home, forty-five minutes away, and I couldn’t see them because I was too scared to drive. So one day, I got in the car, took a deep breath, and got onto the highway. After doing this a few more times, for increasingly longer distances, I was ready to drive to Boston.
I also used to hate answering the phone. At home growing up, I always let the answering machine get it. At internships I had, I would avoid answering the phone if I possibly could. It just made me nervous, having to be responsible for giving people answers or leaving accurate messages.
Then I had a job at The Publishing Company where I was the first point of contact for the sales reps. If they had a question about anything, they had to call me first. This kind of freaked me out at first. I just wanted to yell, I don’t know what I’m doing! You can’t ask me these things!
But then I got used to it—and I realized I did know what I was doing. I actually could answer all those questions. It was a good feeling.
So I guess there’s hope for me. I’ve picked up the worrying habit that runs in my family, but maybe I really can get over it eventually.
But I’m still afraid of geese. That, I have no idea how to get over. Let me know if you have any ideas.