By Cady Inabinett, Editor in chief
I don’t consider myself a pessimist at all. In fact, when asked to describe myself, optimistic is usually one of my go-to adjectives.
To some, I know optimism can feel a bit naïve and oblivious—bad stuff happens all the time, right? But, to me, optimism is the answer to the bad stuff that happens. If I believe that there’s good around the corner, then there will be because I’ll make sure that I work towards that good. At the very least, optimism has kept me willing to keep walking around corners to see if the other side is better.
Lately, however, it feels like I can’t help but give in to habitual dystopian thinking. Dystopian thinking is a phenomenon that I’ve noticed myself engaging with and decided to coin a term for that is similar to the act of catastrophizing, the act of fixating on the worst likely outcome in a situation even if that outcome is unrealistic, but with a heavier emphasis on a sense of resigned nihilism. Dystopian thinking is anxiety at its worst for me. I don’t even feel like me, like a real person, I just feel like a collection of my worst attributes, moments and fears.
After receiving some nice compliments on the first two of these letters that I wrote, I joked that I had peaked with those and that it was all downhill from here on out. It was a joke, sure, but how much was I really joking? Part of me really felt like I had already written everything worth writing—that every attempt at writing a meaningful letter would result in pretentious, pointless, meandering, derivative drivel that would make me and this publication widely hated by readers everywhere. It sounds a bit dramatic when I write it out like that, but that’s the magic of dystopian thinking—the future becomes distorted until all your worst fears seemingly become your fate.
I feel like we don’t talk about fear often enough. Fear is, by and large, taboo. To be afraid is to have some sort of weakness and, therefore, to be vulnerable—which is, in and of itself, terrifying. So, instead, we just try not to talk about being afraid, and, as a result, we’re still afraid, but only in our private, interior lives.
Not talking about fear feels detrimental to me, though. By not talking about fear, you’re left to assume that nobody else is ever afraid and that you’re the odd one out— creating a sense of isolation that can only exacerbate any feelings of fear and anxiety you already have. If we talked about fear a little bit more, maybe it wouldn’t feel quite as scary.
So, the truth is, I’m afraid of everything. Well, that’s a bit of a hyperbole. I don’t think I’m actually afraid of everything, but I’m certainly afraid of a lot of things a lot of the time. Big dogs that bark, getting Lyme disease, hospitals, being forgotten by everyone I love, hypnotists. You name it, there’s a solid one-in-three chance that I fear it.
You, dear reader, probably scare me most of all. I put a lot of myself into working on The Alabamian. This paper is something that I am truly passionate about. The idea that readers—literally, the only reason that we publish The Alabamian in the first place—could read something I’ve worked on and hate it, hate something that I poured myself into, places me in a very vulnerable position. I’m really setting myself up for getting my heart broken again and again, which is enough to make me want to go hide in a hole and never show my face outside ever again.
So, maybe it really is all downhill from here. Maybe the first letter I wrote will be my best and I’m just spinning my wheels writing this. Maybe all my dystopian thinking is true and there will be a campus-wide effort to unseat me as Editor in Chief just so no one ever has to read one of these letters ever again and I will be shunned forever for being a horrible pseudo-intellectual.
Or maybe the real problem is that I haven’t taken the time to call my feelings what they are: fear. I think my reaction to being afraid of something is akin to touching a hot stove—pull away before it hurts too bad. Never let the feeling linger and try your best to never think about it. But, if I took the time to analyze my fears, I would find that most of them are confrontable. Hospitals are just buildings. I can be proactive and avoid getting Lyme disease. Hypnotists aren’t even real.
The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have a problem. The first step to not being afraid anymore is actually being afraid. So here I am admitting it openly: reader, I am afraid. Of you. Of this paper. Of most things in this world. And that’s okay, I’m working through it.
Cady Inabinett is the editor in chief of The Alabamian. She’s majoring in English and double-minoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She enjoys reading, watching movies, caring for houseplants and generally just being pretentious in her free time.