BY HANNAH NIEVES, STAFF WRITER
Some people go skydiving. They do the whole jump out of a plane like they’re in “Mission Impossible” thing. And I love that for them, but I’ve always found that my fears were less corporeal in nature than they were insidiously psychological.
The fear on the docket is as follows: giving my opinion. Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by the fear of saying the wrong thing. Well, here I am, positioned at the metaphorical podium to start saying things.
My end-of-term resolution is to be kinder to myself and my amygdala, the emotional regulatory center nestled near the hippocampus. Controlling the fight-or-flight response, the amygdala tells us when to run and when to st and our ground. Right now, I’m standing at the doorstep of Fourth Estate’s Opinion section to make my case. Hopefully, my amygdala will take the hint and invite me to speak my mind.
Now, I’m not convinced that I can eliminate my anxiety with this one small step — and listening to Phoebe Bridgers doesn’t help — but I think that I might be onto something here. Even though the amygdala gets a bad rap, she’s had her moments — and I’ve made it this far.
Unfortunately, however, I think it’s time we had a little heart-to-heart. This time of year, as your professors submit your final grades — and you start thinking of all the things you could’ve, should’ve, and (maybe) would’ve said or done — it’s only natural to come face-to-face with your fears and aspirations. What holds you back and why? These are embarrassing, late-night questions that deserve answers and a thorough debrief with your emotional control center.
I’m no medical doctor — as my pending B.A. will confirm — but over the past two years, conversations around mental health have exploded, and the video of celebrities covering John Lennon’s “Imagine” to encourage some sort of global solidarity amidst the raging coronavirus pandemic still stands as a haunting reminder that some things just don’t work.
No matter how well-intentioned a virtual sing-along may have been, the material conditions in which most celebrities spent their quarantines all but negated any attempts to successfully manufacture an “I’m with you” message for the masses.
But facing your fears in a safe environment (with a medical professional, if necessary) shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed. It can feel easy, even natural, to choose flight over fight, and yet there is some desire within us to push back — manifested so clearly in the arguments we act out in our heads after the opportunity to speak up has long since slipped away. This lingering desire to fight is a part of our limbic response just as much as any inclination to flee.
Personal growth can come in many shapes and sizes — it isn’t a Brandy Melville sweater — and it’s better if you have a cheerleader … or two or three. Even the most talented Oscar winners get cut off by the music while listing the names of their supporters.
As for me, I’ll choose my battles wisely (summer is the best season, “Eclipse” is the best film in The Twilight Saga, etc). But I don’t want to speak my mind just to discover that the world doesn’t like what’s inside. I’m not done cooking yet! My brain is still in the oven.
And yours is too, by the way.
So here we are: listening, learning, and tentatively approaching that which we fear the very most. There’s something so main-character about undergoing an epic journey to conquer your deepest, darkest fears. You’re familiar with the classic cliché of making a New Year’s resolution you’ll never fulfill, but what about a winter break resolution with low stakes and potentially high rewards? I don’t care what Kylie Jenner said in 2016. Every year can be the year of realizing stuff. Pull up a chair, and schedule a meeting with your amygdala. I’ve just begun to shift my relationship with my own.