Guest Blog by Reem Suleiman

Reem Suleiman is a writer, poet, and Arabic calligrapher. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in Comparative Literature and a minor in Middle East and North African Studies. She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.

 

 

Ever wondered why the guy you are dating avoids commitment, retreating just as soon as things get good? Or why you are still stuck in the job you can't stand? Or maybe why you have to verify absolutely every restaurant pick with at least 100 Yelp reviews? The answer to all of these questions is simply …fear.

Personally as a recent college graduate, the fear of the real world haunts me in every corner. Everywhere I go I am bombarded with the fear of having to grow up. At dinner parties, I have become so accustomed to the ubiquitous question (more like backhanded compliment), “Congratulations on graduating! …So what are you going to do with your life?” Or worse yet, the passive aggressive, “Oh! You majored in Comparative literature…interesting. So what kind of job can you get with that?” 

Like the fear of commitment or dramatic change, the fear of leaving my college security blanket has become suffocating. So as an avid reader, I naturally retreat to my sanctuary—the library.

Although my major may not give me a job immediately, I realize my endless hours finding comfort in the turned pages of my favorite novels were not in vain. They have taught me throughout the ages these five important lessons on conquering fear:

5-year-old wisdom: We hide our fears

I said, ‘I do not fear those pants with nobody inside them.’ I said, and said, and said those words. I said them but I lied them.
— Dr. Seuss, The Sneetches and Other Stories

Dr. Seuss is more than the king of rhymes. He knows very well that when in doubt, sometimes we conceal our fear under a false guise of confidence or beneath a lie. I would argue this is not necessarily a bad thing. I live proudly behind the “fake it till you make it” principle because a little extra confidence never hurt anybody.

12-year-old wisdom: We fear the unknown

It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.
— J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince

The ultimate literary rite of passage for my generation, Harry Potter reminds us that when moving on to new chapters, we are often afraid simply of the blank pages. At one point, everything was new, including our most treasured memories that we retreat to for security. Embrace the new because it will become old soon enough.

13-year-old wisdom: Be Cautious because some fears are smart

There are two kinds of fears: rational and irrational- or in simpler terms, fears that make sense and fears that don’t.
— Lemony Snicket, author of the Series of Unfortunate Events

I distinctly remember the candy-coated addiction of the Series of Unfortunate Events books as a young adult, undoubtedly the first in line for the latest edition. There was something intoxicatingly thrilling about reading the horrible experiences of characters right around my age. I suppose it is the same reason we all love watching scary movies—the relief of thinking, “at least it’s not me!”. Nonetheless, the stories remind me that sometimes our fears are very much legitimate, rational, and smart… For example, if a mysterious car has been tailing you for the past five miles on your way back from a late-night party, you might not be paranoid. Never ignore a sharp intuition.

17-year-old wisdom: But whatever you do, don't fear love

Tell him yes. Even if you are dying of fear, even if you are sorry later, because whatever you do, you will be sorry all the rest of your life if you say no.
— Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

High school brings back memories of the high voltage intensity of first loves/crushes. From our first kiss to our first heartbreak, the “first” tends to be the most vivid, beloved, and painful. In retrospect, on can never regret love, only the failure to act on it.

21-year-old wisdom: And Most importantly, do not fear failure

There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure. Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.
— Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Coelho’s The Alchemist has remained my quintessential book on life changes. The fear of failure can be quite daunting, especially when moving on from a really "safe" life chapter and having to start over. During high school, I was definitely a big fish in a small pond. So the transition to a large university was very difficult because I was petrified of being unable to recreate my high school success. That fear proved to be completely unproductive because I spent more time worried of failure than actually attempting to be successful and follow my passions. And it is this same wisdom that I must carry now as I sit comfortably beside my bookshelf, surrounded by my literary friends, peering out over a desk full of applications.

The fear of the unknown is about the opportunity to follow your heart, not the possibility of failure. My heart is calling…and it is about time I take the call.

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