Fear and the Future

Fear and AnxietyFeatures

This is the last article I’ll write for Kidspirit.

I’ve been on the Editorial Board for almost eight years, the longest I’ve done anything besides go to school, and I’m leaving that behind, too. For what? I don’t know. At the time of first writing this article, I don’t know where I’ll go to college, which city I’ll live in, or what I’ll study. I’m at the vertex of a graph that’s shifting, perfectly balanced between the past and an uncertain future.

So, what do I think of when I imagine college? I worry I won’t be able to function without the support system of my family, that I’ll be financially dependent forever, that I won’t be able to meet the expectations I have for myself in my career and social life. I worry that my chronic illness will relapse and worsen. I worry that I’ll lose relationships I’ve built. Overall, I fear failure, and the future offers endless opportunities to fail.

There’s something about endless possibilities that’s intoxicating. It’s often impossible to keep myself from drifting off into a self-absorbed reverie, flipping through the rolodex of outcomes like choosing a movie, starring myself, to watch. I sometimes find it indulgent and unproductive, but from what I’ve gathered, it's human nature. A 2015 paper published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology explains that the ability to generate anxiety via mental scenario building may stem from an evolutionary urge to prepare oneself for threats.

This theory doesn’t always fit with my experience of imagining the future; sometimes I put myself in scenarios purely for the circular schadenfreude of scaring myself. Furthermore, most of what we imagine happening is out of our control. I worry about getting assigned a bad roommate or a sudden death in the family, and nothing I do can prevent those things from happening. Or maybe this mental exercise artificially tests my resilience. If I can mimic the experience of a distressing scenario, maybe I can see a sliver of what it feels like to live through such a scenario.

Ultimately, I don’t really know why I spend time ruminating on my fear of the future. If I knew, I’d stop doing it. Because really, I know I’m excited about the opportunities that are waiting for me. I’m excited to meet new people from different backgrounds, to take classes on subjects I care about, to control my own schedule, to have my own space. I fear the future because I can’t control it, but that also excites me. The nagging nature of my own brain doesn’t stop me from recognizing that it is a privilege to even be able to worry about the things I do.

So yes, I’m leaving most of my life behind in three months. But I’m trying to make my fear a guide, like guard rails on a road, to stop me from veering into self-destructive behavior. In the past, anxiety has crippled me, but thanks to therapy and medication, I’ve relegated that part of my mind to the periphery. Fearing the future doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying it, it just has to be put into perspective.

Grace Luckett just finished her senior year at Packer Collegiate in Brooklyn, New York. Grace is an avid reader, skier, baker, and singer.

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