I am terrified of ticks. They are tiny mini-monsters, basically the equivalent of the radioactive spider that bit Peter Parker except they carry Lyme disease and not superpowers. They are malicious little things, and I’m convinced they are actively malevolent. They’re sneaky too: they fall from trees, leap from ferns, crawl off grass—essentially, they WILL find a way to get onto your clothing and then onto your leg and then into your leg. Ticks burrow into your skin and suck your blood like little vampiric beasts. And do you know what people call a tick feeding? A bloodmeal. They call it a bloodmeal. No monster movie can convince me that any other creature is more horrible than the tick.
Naturally, then, the past few summers have been tick infested. My parents own a cottage with another family on Big Star Lake, and the ticks have been rampant. I’ve already been bit. A tick has bloodmealed me. Tick warning signs are posted near every state or county park in West Michigan too. Gwyn and I love to hike the trails in and around these parks, but if I’m about to be bit by a tick (so…if a tick sign is posted) the hike is not a comfortable adventure for me.
This fear reminds me of when I was young. At the same cottage, I would swim in the lake not far off the shore. As soon as I moved past the end of the dock though, I would immediately imagine a leviathan swooping up from the depths and taking my legs off. Anything that swarmed under the water scared the crap out of me. I remember one time I was swimming with a mask on, and a small sunfish passed right in front of my face. I freaked out. I didn’t swim for a while. I’m still wary of open waters.
All this to say little things scare me. The fear-to-size ratio in my life is way off-kilter. These miniscule fears crawl into my head and take residence. Seriously, this summer I can’t stop thinking about ticks. I’m partially afraid that all these fears will compile and take up brain space; already at times they roadblock my capacity to really enjoy whatever it is I’m doing.
If I were to spin this positively, I would say I have a vivid imagination, you know, kind of like a toddler who imagines different species of monsters hiding under her bed. And that might be true. But sometimes I wonder if these tiny fears preoccupy my mind for another reason. Maybe I worry about ticks, sunfish, and weird car noises because it’s easier to worry over them than deeper, more complete insecurities. Maybe we live our lives under layers of beasts, tiers of fear-provokers, levels of monsters. Because somewhere deep down I know the likelihood of contracting a tick-carried disease is super low (but not impossible!), even if it feeds for 36 hours. I know there are no sea monsters in Big Star Lake. I know sunfish are harmless.
Still, I wonder what it would feel like to live free from all these, to have the space to evaluate what actually makes me afraid. I know this freedom is mine, and I know the freedom to expose my deepest fears is mine too. So what holds me back?
Brad Zwiers (’12) graduated from Calvin College in 2012 and Western Theological Seminary in 2015. He will not be graduating from any more schools. He often stares at books he wishes he could read but knows he will not finish and goes for long walks with his wife, Gwyn. Sometimes he plays basketball and always he follows the greatest sporting club in the world, Liverpool F.C.