Catching a Drift of Fear

FEAR. Don’t we all have it? Don’t we all own it? What do you fear?

I fear failure.

  • Failure of not knowing something.
  • Failure of not being be aware of what’s happening.
  • Failure of not being on track.
  • Failure of not asking for support.
  • Failure of owning up to my fear.

And most important, I fear self-disappointment.

This course has been extremely challenging for me for various reasons. First, Dr. McCoy always requests that we think beyond the unimaginable (to dig deep into our intellectual and working brains), to UNPACK our thoughts. “Unpack your laughter” she once said to a classmate. “Unpack your sudden confusion in this chapter” she mentioned.

Yikes.. Little did I know that this would become a struggle for me 🙁 I learned to deeply analyze text throughout my high school career but never to unpack so thoroughly. But, like Dr. McCoy said, “it takes practice.” And so, I am very grateful for this ongoing reflective opportunity in and out of class. So much so that I’ve done so much reflection and unpacking of my life decisions and throughout this blog post, I intend to unpack my fear, specifically the fear I’ve kept inside me this semester.

Since day 1, I felt challenged. I believe most of this rigor came from my own self: setting deadlines, setting time to read the texts, and most importantly, being prepared to engage in class discussions. It was during the first month that I felt very utterly confused about The Fifth Season but had difficulty pointing it out. For starters, this class is a combination of folks from 101 and 431. This led me to believe that due to the “higher level” of course English 431 students were enrolled in, they had more experience and therefore, smarter. But, even though my mentality was like that, it soon shifted gears when I found out that some from 431 were also struggling with understanding the text.  I read the first few chapters and I was still not understanding it. I literally felt brainless. So, I stopped reading for the day. And, the next day, I began reading from page 1. This allowed me to begin reading with a fresh mind, and unpack my thoughts as I read along.

My fear drove me to miss class. I was afraid I was not on the same page as others and was too embarrassed to say so, so my easy way out was to not go to class and just keep reading till I caught up. But, Dr. McCoy did not let that happen so easily; the easy way out was not the easy route to take. After her concerning emails (she says she was a pest, but she actually was a help!), I decided to stop and actually attend her office hours. In it, I said, “I have a question to ask. What is the best method or tips for reading this book when you are utterly confused?” “Well..” she said, “what have you tried?” I nervously said, “I just started to reread the first book.” Not knowing what she would say, or if I would be in trouble for being so far behind, she said, “that’s the best thing you could have done as a reader. You solved your own problem.”

Thinking about Jemisin’s work in the trilogy, we see that a lot of people are not in fear about living in Castrima, despite there always being a possibility for a calamity to occur and for them to be discovered. The comm’s leader is herself an orogene, and due to her influence orogenes are permitted to live openly alongside others. So, if they are able to live in fear and successfully live with it, so can I.

Other moments of fear in the book include Damaya’s journey throughout The Fifth Season. She was a young girl living in a northern comm, but was locked in her parents’ barn so that she couldn’t escape. She feared that her parents would sell her as a slave, since they did not have the necessary gut to kill her. Thus, they contacted Schaffa, who took her. Fearful of what was going to happen next, Damaya left her parents’ barn and was on her way to the Fulcrum.

Damaya’s character is a representation of a fearful person who was unable to control their fate, but soon learned how to turn that fear into motivation to become something better. However, she did go through some obstacles. Some of which included PAIN. (Sidenote: when I visited Dr. McCoy during her office hours, I was opening/closing my joggers’ buttons and found myself making a cracking of bones noise. She asked, wow you can do that? I said, oh no! It was my pants. And boom, a connection was created, which will be inserted in the next sentence.) During her first lesson, Schaffa breaks Damaya’s hand in order to teach her control. He tells her that she must learn to restrain her impulses and not use her power when she experiences pressure, pain or hatred. As they continue through their journey, Damaya learns very quickly and progresses to higher rankings. Soon enough, Damaya became a star student at the Fulcrum and was trained like a soldier going into battle. One day, a young girl sneaks into the compound and Damaya helps her enter, but they are discovered. After guardians were attempting to kill her, she is told she will be faced with her first ring test. Luckily, she passes and is formally inducted into the Fulcrum, becoming Syenite. A fear that began in her parents’ barn, then became motivation to live.

So, going back to my own fear, I had two options at the middle of the semester. Drop it or keep it, to say the least. However, since it is my first semester in college, I did not want to reluctantly resign. Thus, I kept going. I went through my periods of confusion, but I picked myself right up. And so, just like Damaya became Syneite due to her star excellence, I soon went from the kid who didn’t really speak in class, to Jose, a peer that others knew existed. I was focused and determined to make a 180 degree turn. In class, I became a leader, helping delegate tasks to our group, and eventually participated more because I knew my thoughts and comments mattered. It was only a matter of time before I was engaging in super interesting conversations with my peers and going to class every week.

As for my unpacking, my skills grew. Working in teams helped me understand the dynamics of answering the question, “so what?” And, in doing so, I’ve become more flexible with the idea of thinking beyond the box, and opening up different areas of interpretation.

And so, to conclude this blog, I’d like to once again reintroduce a saying Dr. McCoy mentioned in class, “we can’t escape risk, we can only mitigate it.”

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