Our theme for the month of June is “Top Ten.”
1. I am afraid of bugs. I avoid killing them sometimes because they might escape the tissue and CRAWL UP MY ARM, OKAY?
2. I am afraid of monkeys. They have such small hands. They have such knowing eyes. They are so not human, the ultimate uncanny valley. Those monkeys that eat from tourists’ hands and steal sunglasses? NOPE.
3. I am afraid of small unexpected noises. A breeze from the window blows a piece of paper off the table with the roar of a chainsaw. A bar of soap slips from its shelf and clatters to the shower floor with the power of a thousand stampeding wildebeest.
4. I am afraid of deleting, misplacing, or overwriting electronic files. This is nearly impossible these days, you say. Everything is in the cloud, you say. But I will continue backing things up on my external hard drive and making copies of Google Docs and not deleting photos from my phone after importing them.
5. I am afraid of forgetting. This is really thing number four, version 2.0. I cannot keep a journal because I am afraid of being embarrassed and of who I used to be, so I save save save ticket stubs and postcards, click click click the little “bookmark this” star, snap snap snap screenshots of things I should read or quotes I should write down somewhere or nice things that person said to me so that I don’t have to scroll through months of texts for affirmation.
6. I am afraid of not acting fast enough in pressure situations. I’m not a quick thinker. I need a moment to collect my thoughts, to weigh the options, to check in with the experts. I have very little gut to “go with,” whether it’s in a verbal debate or a physical emergency. I’m the girl you want to help organize and prepare for the event, not the one you want on the ground putting out fires. I can foresee many disasters in which I say the wrong thing or don’t stand up for truth or just make everything worse.
7. I am afraid that one of my students will be killed. For a while, this was mostly a school shooting fear I’m sure many teachers have—we execute the drills, we sit through the training by security experts, we’re greeted every day by the metal bars we’re supposed to use to block the doors to our classrooms in an emergency. I’m afraid that what I’ve been trained to do would not be enough to save them. But these days (and really, this has always been the case), it looks increasingly like a student is more likely to die during a traffic stop or outside a grocery store or on a jogging path or in a park or in a home where they’re asleep in bed.
8. I am afraid that no matter how many times we say they matter, black lives will continue to be snuffed out. I am afraid of what will or won’t happen if I do or don’t write that sentence. Of finding a venue for it and a place to act on it. Of virtue signaling. Of disappointing someone who expected me to speak up. I am afraid of the responsibility I have to teach this to my students—because I am not an expert, because it is not my experience—but I am also afraid (more afraid) of not teaching it. I am afraid of saying the wrong thing. That if I say I’m afraid, someone will ask, “but what about hope?” That if I say I have hope it will be hope based in privilege. I am afraid that I’ll make a mistake. That I’ll react poorly. That no matter how much I read and try to unlearn, the tears that spring up unbidden when I feel frustrated or stupid will appear at the least opportune moment. I am afraid that my fears are about me when they should be about you, them, us.
I am afraid
that my fear will be interpreted as fragility that my fear is fragility.
9. I am afraid that I’m saying too much.
10. I am afraid that I’m not saying enough.
Abby Zwart (’13) teaches high school English in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She spends her free time making lists of books she should read, cooking, and managing the post calvin.