When Fear Gets in the Way

by Cristian Cano | 11/2/16 1:33am

I’ll admit it: I have a fear of conducting interviews.

Prior to joining the Mirror staff earlier this term, I had never interviewed anyone, but I wasn’t too nervous about writing this article. College is the perfect time to try new things, right? I didn’t expect to run into any issues.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The second I made up my mind to interview others, I became paralyzed with anxiety. “Why is this happening to me? I’m usually a pretty social person!” My mind raced to find some rational explanation for the sudden butterflies in my stomach, but none came. I must have circled Foco, Collis Café and first-floor Berry a hundred times, trying to muster up the courage to walk up to a stranger and ask them if they’d be willing to answer a couple of questions. I knew my fear was irrational, but that didn’t make it go away.

How ironic: The interviewer was too scared to ask others about times in which fear held them back.

Eventually, I managed to confront my fear of conducting interviews and speak to several students about their own fears. I quickly realized that my experience was not unique — everyone I spoke to had let fear hold them back at some point as well. While each person’s story is different — some faced their fears, others have not and still others never will — the hesitation and discouragement that fear creates is universally present.

Alexa Tucker ’20’s nerves about joining theatre in high school prevented her from getting involved in her school’s theatre program during her freshman year. She didn’t audition until her sophomore year; since then, she has gradually become much more confident in putting herself on the stage.

Her advice for those paralyzed by fear? Pur yourself out there. “The only way to become better at something is to do it. Just remember that it always feels like people are judging you more than they actually are,” Tucker said.

Tucker, following her own advice, came into her first year of college committed to snuffing out the shyness that held her back in high school, and she auditioned for a show early in the term. While she was not offered a role in that production, she is not discouraged — she enjoyed the audition process, and feels pride in the progress she has made.

Vivian Ilonzo ’18 also noted the importance of fighting feelings of discouragement and trying something new. Ilonzo wanted to learn how to play the cello for a very long time, but she was afraid that it was too late for her to begin.

She decided to try anyway, and after emailing someone in the College’s music department, she was connected with a senior who started giving her free lessons this past spring. When that student graduated, she was then connected with an junior who was also more than willing to help her learn.

“Learning an instrument is an incredibly enriching experience in itself, but my experience as an adult beginner has been even more wonderful just because I’ve been able to study under really amazing students,” Ilonzo said.

She has been playing the cello for several months now and is eager to continue her progress.

Some students have yet to face some of their fears. Isis Cantu ’19’s long-distance relationship ended right before the fall term started. She visited her then-boyfriend and his family in Miami this summer, and everything was going well until the day before she flew back up to Dartmouth. They had gotten into an intense argument that day; she said she doesn’t quite remember exactly what they fought about, but she remembers calling him selfish.

Because she had to board an airplane the next morning, she never apologized — and she still hasn’t.

“I was too proud to reach out and too scared to say I’m sorry,” she admitted, adding that she fears his reaction if she decides to reconnect with him. Her previous boyfriend tried to reach out several days ago, but Cantu is unsure what to do since she believes she ruined their relationship.

While some people have yet to confront their fears, others have missed their chance to do so. Himanshu Patel ’20 regrets not applying to as many colleges as he wanted, out of concern that there were too many other qualified applicants for him to have a chance. While he noted that he would have chosen Dartmouth regardless, he wishes that his fear of rejection had not prevented him from applying to more of his top choice schools.

“In this school and around the country, there are so many highly qualified students that you won’t get everything you want and succeed, but that only makes you try harder to accomplish your goals,” Patel said. He noted that at Dartmouth, he was not chosen for all of the clubs he applied to, but he is doing his best to stay positive and continue to better himself.

Some fears arise from one’s specific circumstances and backgrounds. Yunxiao Lin, an exchange student from China, is worried that he will not be able to make significant progress in his chemistry research because he is only at Dartmouth for one year. One of his goals is to have his research published in a scientific journal, but if he is unable to accomplish that during his year here, he fears that he will have wasted his time here and have to begin anew back home.

Yunxiao’s fears are not easily quelled, but he is doing the best he can to make his dreams a reality. While I didn’t quite grasp the specific details of his research, his talk of crystalline structures and gas absorption convinces me that he’s on the right track.

Regardless of whether he gets published, his interest in facing his fears.