“What are you so afraid of? Why are you so worked up? There’s nothing to be worried about.” Whenever I think about my struggle with anxiety, these phrases are the first that pop into my head, bringing back a string of memories filled with fear and pain. These tense moments appeared throughout my life, from panicking when my parents left me home alone or almost fainting after I received an immunization. In both of these circumstances, my mind would engineer horrific scenarios that made me question the safety of myself or my family, such as my parents never returning home or the immunizations being filled with poison. As time passed, my parents would nickname this voice in my head the “worrier,” a counterpart of the brave warrior I had seen throughout my childhood in countless action cartoons and animated movies.
For many years, I wanted to embody this sign of bravery but there were times when I felt this was impossible, as the “worrier” took away the safety I always craved. To fulfill this wish for safety, my mind wanted to control every scenario of my life by asking a series of questions over the simplest situations. For example, I would ask my parents every time they left the house how long they would be gone for. When they were late, I would begin worrying that something bad had happened to them. For many years I would try to understand this anxious part of my mind but when I was consumed with anxiety, there were two constants that anchored me to reality: the relationship with my parents and a healthy dose of accidental, over-the-top, and mind boggling injuries.
The beginning of these strange events didn’t come with my early memories, but the first moments of my life. The first incident happened a week after I had been born as my parents were learning how to approach this new chapter of their lives. At the time, our newly created family was living in a small house in my hometown of Alexandria, Virginia. Since it had been a week after my birth, my Dad decided to remove the hospital wristband tightened around my small and chubby pink wrist as he wanted me to be comfortable. The overall process should have been simple; the scissors would go underneath the wristband, and with a quick snip of the tag my hand would be freed from the plastic nuisance. Dad, however, did not realize that the end of the scissors blades rested on the tip of my pinky so when he clipped the plastic band, part of my finger came with it. It didn’t help that my mother was also in the room, talking to someone on the phone throughout the incident. After panicking over my well being and temporarily bandaging the wound, my parents made another trip to the hospital to repair my left pinky. Although my parents told me about this event later in life, its message echoed a phrase I would slowly understand as time went on.
That was a little scary, but I’m okay.
This wouldn’t be the last time I experienced an accidental injury, as the next would come from an eventful day at a local pool. It was a warm summer day; the sky was clear and the sun’s yellow beam reflected off the pool’s blue, chlorine surface. At the time I was a kindergartener enjoying a fun day of splashing around the pool with my classmates and friends. Everything seemed to be going fine, until I pulled my little 30-pound toddler body out of the water and prepared to take a large jump. I could see it in my mind; I would jump off the ledge, curl my legs, and create a massive splash, soaking everyone in the process. However, as I took the first step to jump in, a classmate pushed me by the arm and made my chin turn around and hit the side of the cement pool. Aside from my teeth hurting from the impact, I thought everything was going to be fine. This thought soon vanished as I looked down at the water beneath me and saw it turn from blue to an ominous dark red. As soon as this happened, I was rushed to the medical office at the pool as my kindergarten counselor tried to stop my bleeding chin. As soon as my parents arrived after being notified of the incident, I was rushed to the hospital to patch the wound and see if I was possibly concussed. In the end, I would receive a small, thin scar on the end of my chin that I still have to this day. In addition, this would be the first time in my life that I remembered not having any control over the situation, and yet I was relatively fine after it happened, making a familiar phrase pop into my head.
I’m a little sore, but I’m still okay.
The next memory that comes to mind whenever I remember these unfortunate incidents is a recent one that occurred on a camping trip in Virginia. It was the relaxing summer of 2021, I was enjoying my time off after a crazy Senior year of online learning and walking down the classic football field for graduation. My Dad, however, had planned one more grand camping trip in my home state of Virginia before I headed off to college in the fall. In addition to the camping trip, Dad had also purchased passes to a mountain bike resort near our camping site. Originally, I was a little nervous as we had never tried anything like mountain biking before, and the videos I had seen on Youtube and Instagram of professional bikers crashing only deepened my concern. To calm this fear, Dad assured me that we would be getting lessons on how to mountain bike before we even saw the top of the resort’s course.
Our introduction to mountain biking came on the second to last day of our camping trip, as Dad and I threw on our athletic clothes, hitched up the bikes we had brought with us to the back of the car, and made our way to the mountain bike resort. When we arrived at the mountain complex, we decided to grab some lunch for the challenging day ahead. As we ordered our food, Dad went to use the bathroom; I sat in front of the large windows that had a view of the entire course and studied the grass and trees as they swayed in the wind. As I marveled at the terrain, I saw bikers wearing brightly colored shirts descend from the mountain’s slopes, some jumping an old wooden ramp to get some extra air. This all seemed incredible until one biker launched off the ramp and lost control of his bike. As he flew through the air, his bike hit the side of the ramp while the biker smashed into the ground. It wasn’t until a crowd of concerned bikers and paramedics had rushed to his side that I realized this fun mountain biking lesson might be more challenging than I thought. What followed after this incident seemed to justify the bad omen: Two rain storms swept through the mountain course, soaking the biking instructor, myself and Dad in the beginning of our lesson. After we waited for the storms to pass, we finished our biking drills and jumped onto a chairlift to begin our rise to the course’s peak. Although I felt a hint of fear, I overlooked it as I felt confident from completing the lesson and believed that everything would be fine.
After a scenic ride to the top, we reached the beginning of the course and prepared to become the next group of bikers to descend down the mud-covered mountain. Our instructor was the first person to approach the path. He showed us which one was the easiest to take. I followed after him as I wheeled my bike to the path’s head and stared down the mountain’s lush green face, noticing how its twists and turns wove together to make a web of dirt and rock. As I stood on the path I took a deep breath, clutched my handlebars and stepped onto the pedal, sending my bike speeding down the mountain’s muddy face. I twisted and turned through each corner and ramp, feeling the wheels of my bike bounced off of every stone or misplaced branch. The wind whipping past my body. At times I felt like the tires of my bike became wings that carried me over each hill and underpass. This feeling, however, would be cut short as I approached one of the final turns of the path and started to lose control of my bike. This led to the wheel making a sharp right turn and the bike falling beneath me as I was launched forward. As this happened, only one thought bounced around my mind.
Am I going to be okay?
As I sat there for a few moments in shock, the instructor turned around and pedaled back up the path while Dad stopped behind me to see if I was okay. As soon as I pushed my bike off of my legs, I thought everything was relatively fine until I looked over at my arm and saw a steady stream of blood dripping from it, turning the dirt from brown to dark red. The situation only worsened when the instructor inspected the wound and said I would need stitches to stop the bleeding. Shortly after I was rushed down the mountainside in a red and white golf cart, my wound was cleaned and temporarily bandaged in the resort’s medical station. Unfortunately, the paramedic said I would need to go to the hospital to get my arm stitched up, so we got into the car and sped toward the nearest health center, which was 30 minutes away. As Dad swerved through the rural roads of Virginia, I felt pain and fear course throughout my body as my brain tried to overcome the idea of getting stitches in my arm. Through all of this agony and anxiety, however, a small phrase crept into my head that calmed the “worrier” part of my mind.
I’m a little beat up, but I’ll be okay.
In the end, I would get to the hospital in time and receive stitches I needed, even if it did cut our trip short by a few hours as I woke up early the next morning to a throbbing arm as it began to heal.
Although all of these strange and frightening experiences showed me the unpredictable nature of life, they also helped me understand that trying to control every part of one’s life is an impossible task that only leads to unnecessary worry and fear. These scenarios also showed me that it’s better to explore the world and risk the chance of getting hurt, instead of sheltering yourself and living your life in fear and regret. For example, if I had decided to not take the mountain bike lesson, I wouldn’t have gotten hurt but also wouldn’t have experienced the exhilarating feeling of flying down a mountain or strengthening my relationship with my Dad. From these memories, I soon realized that the “worrier” voice was only a small fraction of my mind that I needed to stop listening to overcome its influence. After practicing this technique for multiple years, this voice began to fade away as I became comfortable with the world around me.
Nonetheless, whenever I lost my way and couldn’t tell the difference between fear and reality, my parents became the anchors that held onto me in the middle of the chaos. They helped me see life in a different way, with my Mom showing me how to logically approach any new situation, and my Dad illustrating the importance of stepping out of my comfort zone to explore things I never would have tried. Through both of their teachings, they showed me how the world was a new frontier ripe for exploration, chasing away my anxiety and replacing it with curiosity. These lessons helped me understand that with each new problem or incident that will inevitably occur in my life, my family will always be there to help me through every step, and when I am scared or in pain, I will always find a way to be okay.
First, I would like to thank my teacher and classmates for providing the necessary feedback that brought new themes and ideas into the paper. I would also acknowledge the writing style of Kiese Laymon, as his approach to incorporating short phrases helped develop the main theme of this essay. Finally but not least I would like to thank my parents, as they helped me remember all the crazy events that took place throughout this essay, as well as support me throughout my time at college.