We all have our fears: spiders, being murdered in our sleep, coming into work late, or forgetting that critical project in high school. They’re all pretty normal things to find scary, but lately, I’ve noticed that the things I fear are not quite what most people worry about.
To begin with, I’m scared of seaweed. Terrified of it, in fact. There are few moments in my life quite as heart thumping as when I’ve been standing in the ocean, and a slimy piece of floating kelp brushes my leg. It’s one of the main reasons you won’t catch me in most oceans, save for the ones that are as crystal clear as a swimming pool.
My fear of seaweed mostly comes from the unknown — which, when you think about it, is an entirely rational thing to fear. It’s not so much the plant itself, more what it represents: the vast ocean. You never know how far you are from the nearest shark, how much a jellyfish sting will ruin your vacation, and of course, whether or not you’ll be pulled under by a giant octopus. (I’m just kidding about that last one!) When you recognize how sprawling and inhabited the sea is, standing in the ocean, no matter the depth is quite different than wading in your bathtub. And though I’m a terrible swimmer, more adept at drowning than floating, I recognize my fear of seaweed is irrational. It will make me jump out of the ocean faster than anything else will, and it’s not even worth going into the water if it’s hanging around the shore. On our last visit to the Caribbean, the hotel had to rake back hundreds of pounds of red algae, a stinging variety that leaves swimmers in immense pain. But before I even stepped foot on the beach, I knew to stay away from the seaweed.
Sometimes I have other fears, and they manifest themselves in the most intense dreams. Volcanos are one of the things I fear most. It’s useful to be afraid of lava, but it’s completely irrational to think I’m going to find myself actually in a life or death situation on a volcano. I’ve had countless dreams where I can only use a bike to escape an explosion, peddling for my life when an eruption happens in my hometown. Lava is scary, it makes sense to be afraid of it when it’s present, but why am I thinking about it when there isn’t even an active volcano on the eastern coast of the United States? That’s sort of strange, no?
Then there is the one fear that keeps me up sometimes before bed. Our bedroom is in an attic space, with sloped ceilings that mimic the pitch of the roof on either side. It’s the top of the house, the highest of the high. When I’m snuggled up and drifting off, occasionally I can hear a plane in the distance, jets thundering through the sky and as they begin to get louder, I freak out. I’m worried the plane is going to crash right into our bedroom.
I imagine the likelihood of a plane crashing outside of New York City into our home is stupidly low, but it’s still something that crosses my mind when a rumble of engines pass over the sky.
Why do we fear things like this?
I get that my body is trying its best to prepare for any kind of disaster, but these strange and quirky fears aren’t doing me any favors. I have never been bitten by a shark, though I have struggled in the ocean before. I’ve never needed to run away from a volcanic eruption, though I have faced this fear — it didn’t help. And with all the hundreds of thousands of airplanes that have passed over me throughout my life, I think there’s next to no chance of one crashing into my bedroom and plowing straight into my bed.
I tell myself whenever these instances come up, that I shouldn’t even be considering such ridiculous worries, they’ll never happen. But then, I think: what if they did.
What things do you fear or worry about that have almost no basis in reality? Share your thoughts in the comments below!