Perpetually petrified

Virginia Russell, Opinion Writer

The stars seem to have vanished from the sky. It’s a cold night around the campfire, and though the flames smoke and crackle, there’s a chill in the air that sends a shiver down each little spine. Forty eyeballs stare unblinking, minds rapt with attention at their counselor as the flashlight slinks back and forth across his shadowy face. His voice quickens as he reaches the part of the story they’ve been waiting for. Time seems to slow around the campfire and eyeballs want to blink, heads want to turn, feet want to race back to the cabins, but they dare not. The counselor finishes his dark tale and gazes out at the terrified faces. Then there’s a small smile. Click. The flashlight goes dark. Scared? I know I’d be.

If ten-year-old me, or even current me was sitting around that fire, there’d either be crying or screaming. My fellow scaredy-cats out there get it. I am horror master Stephen King’s dream and also his worst nightmare. Sure, I’ll read “The Shining,” but when it’s time for real life after the book’s over, not so much. However, I’m pretty proud of my rattled ways and I think facing your fears with a few fingers over your eyes is good.

The first and possibly overlooked reason is that fear puts life in perspective. When we acknowledge that we’re afraid of spiders, the first step is taken and the door to eventually conquering our fear is then opened and it helps us realize that maybe our fear isn’t such a bad thing. This can even happen for those with bigger fears, and it’s done through normalization and breaking down barriers to reach the heart of that fear and come to the previous realization.

Next, being afraid can save your life. Fight or flight anyone? It’s drastic but read any account of a kidnapping survivor’s escape and you’ll see where that response comes in quite handy.. This fear is necessary because it’s an energy booster and an active response that shuts out danger. If I wasn’t afraid of anything, I might stroll into a dank old cave without thought and promptly get eaten by a monster as opposed to allowing my fear to let me know that’s probably not a great idea. That way, I can go on looking for better shelter than some creature’s belly.

Now I’m bringing back the Stephen King bit for everyone who’s doubting my love for fear. The naysayers who concede that fear’s a part of us, but it’s not good and that being scared all the time is a recipe for disaster. I would agree yes, living in fear and never thinking about anything else isn’t okay because then you’re not truly living. However, having that piece of healthy fear, a fear that pushes you to do and be better is nothing to be looked down upon. Fear tells us we’re alive and it heightens our senses so we can better grasp our surroundings, and if that means violent flinching in the movie theater with popcorn flying sometimes, then so be it. In fact, I think I’m ready to hear a ghost story, so if there’s anyone out there willing to tell I’m all ears. And shrieks.