There were many moments worth remembering over the course of my third-grade year in elementary school, but one of them strikes me like a home run swing.
During my English class, my teacher asked me in front of my entire class of thirty, “What Are You Most Afraid Of?”
What Am I Most Afraid Of?
I am most afraid of you, my dearest teacher. I am most afraid of when you ask me, a newcomer ESL student, of my deepest fears at a time when I could barely understand what the word “afraid” even meant in English.
I am most afraid of you when you didn’t believe in me when I told you that my English would improve and that I can make friends at school. That I no longer had to sit in the corner and stare at my own reflection and look for my own voice.
I am most afraid of when you told me that student council wasn’t fit for someone like me. And when you didn’t believe me when I became the Student Council President.
Now, I am no longer afraid of my greatest fears from once upon a time. But once again, I ask myself, what am I afraid of?
What I am afraid of is when my closest friend feels all alone and lacks the resources and the courage as a high school student to seek help during times of stress and unbelievable loss.
What I am afraid of is the four weeks we have to wait for an appointment with our guidance departments, a five-minute meeting with one of only several qualified counselors that service schools of over fifteen hundred students.
What I am afraid of is after an entire semester of careers studies, all I learned about myself was that my favorite color is blue and that I enjoy public speaking. After twenty-nine personality and careers surveys, I am still unprepared as ever for the rapidly changing workforce.
What I am afraid of is when students believe that a university diploma will save them and guarantee employment and success, when students have no idea about the power of automation and the growth of employment around the world.
What I am afraid of is whether or not a university will accept me. Whether or not I should apply for my first choice or second. Whether or not my marks are worthy. Whether or not there is supportive staff out there to guide me.
What I am afraid of is how little we know about our world. How we choose to turn away from the bloodiest of wars, how we dismiss the diversity and richness of other cultures. How we see what we don’t know as a threat. How we have lost acceptance in a global society.
What I am afraid of is how little people are willing to stand up for what is wrong. How little people condemn the racist yelling at the pregnant Muslim woman who sat beside me, on the subway, wearing a Hijab to leave our country and that ISIS doesn’t belong in Canada. How friends of mine still use the “N” word in the twenty-first century without remorse.
What I am afraid of is the lack of a safe, inclusive and anonymous platform for us to publicize bullying, condemn racist, open ourselves to stress management and understand that fear a challenge best solved together.
In the end, I am most afraid of our generation’s fear of sharing our fears. Our belief that discussion of our fears makes us vulnerable, weak and less of a well-rounded individual. Our willingness to dream the same dreams and reach for the same stars but never to fight the same fears we all share.
Fear is a natural and quintessential human quality. Without it, we cannot survive. However, what is not natural is the awareness of our fears and the lack of action taken to conquer it. When we raise our voices, express what we truly mean, seek methods of discussion together and empathize with each other about our greatest fears, there’s nothing that can hold us back.
Together, We Will Be Fearless.