At some point in their life, people usually stop being scared of monsters under the bed and start to fear things like failure, sickness and isolation. College campuses are hotbeds for fear — students are working under pressure and are unsure of whether or not their effort will pay off post-graduation. It’s not just academics, either. Living independently and being in a new environment can also be scary. The Emerald checked in with University of Oregon students to find out how the Ducks are affected by fear — and how they fight back.
The Emerald found senior public relations major Hannah Oakley hunched over on a bench outside of Lillis working diligently on her homework. Thankfully, the sun wasn’t being shy, and there was a mellow heat warming the quad.
An early run-in with fear found eight-year-old Oakley at a Girl Scout parade, where she lost her mom. “I thought I found her, but it was actually someone else’s mom and then I started crying even more,” she said.
Oakley didn’t hide the fact that she used to be a lot more fearful as a child. She even went so far as to advocate against going to Hawaii. Few people would willingly give up such a trip, but when she was young Oakley was desperate to escape her family’s vacation. “I was always terrified of volcanoes,” she said, “I cried the whole way, I was like, ‘No there is a volcano that’s going to explode.’”
According to Oakley, fear of the unknown is a major feeling among students. In situations where she is feeling anxious or fearful, she considers it helpful to count five things that she can see, touch, hear, etc. “It just kind of grounds me and brings me back,” she said.
Oakley also believes there is such thing as a healthy dose of fear: “If it pushes you to do something that you didn’t think you would do and everything turns out to be okay, then it’s beneficial,” she said.
Senior Brogan Bracelin said he was scared of a lot of things as a child, although he noted that they were mostly irrational. Nowadays, he doesn’t label himself as a fearful person but instead sees fear as a motivator to keep up with his responsibilities. “I wouldn’t want to not have fear that’s for certain. It keeps you safe a lot of the time… you know like having a safety net if you’re going to be out at night,” Bracelin said.
Even though Bracelin likes a world with an underlying level of fear, he acknowledges that it can definitely hinder daily life. “It can get paralyzing where you end up doing nothing because you’re afraid of what might happen. But you really have to get past that to address the issues anyway,” Bracelin said. He isn’t exempt from these feelings himself. He said fear affects him often. “Social things are difficult a lot of the time, just talking to people,” Bracelin said.
Although he suggests going through the possible outcomes of a situation as a way to combat fear, Bracelin said it is important to be careful about not over analyzing too much, otherwise, it is possible to end up right back where you started.
“I notice that a lot of people, especially with the future like we’ve mentioned, a lot of people are really afraid of what’s going on in general with politics and just general life,” he said. “I mean, you keep hearing about school shootings and things like that, there is definitely a lot to be afraid of.”
Monsters weren’t a thing to joke about for sophomore Norah Haughian — she said that as a child whenever trying to keep warm under a blanket she had to be sure to tuck the material under her feet in an effort to avoid losing her toes to make believe creatures. “When you’re a kid, you’re just told that there are monsters everywhere and you’re like ‘Okay, that sounds reasonable,’” she said.
Most of her day-to-day fear stems from the toil of time management. As a member of 3 different clubs, a sorority sister and an employee, Haughian doesn’t have a lot of free time.
Haughian notices a growing fear of being alone among fellow students and friends. “Even if you have 20 minutes to spare people are like, ‘is anyone on campus, does anyone want to get food?’” She believes that all our lives we are conditioned and taught to surround ourselves with people, therefore causing alone time to be seen as lame or wrong.
As a scary movie fan, sophomore Connor Bartlik prefers films that are more realistic. “I really like the quality of the Conjuring series but those weren’t — I feel like those were too reliant on jump scares, so I feel like that detracted from it a little bit,” he said.
When Bartlik really starts to feel a rising sense of fear, he said he tends to shut down as opposed to becoming loud and emotional.
Thinking of his worst nightmare caused Bartlik to pause as a wave of seriousness washed over his face, “Not knowing when my family or other loved ones are in danger and I can’t do anything about it,” he said.
Living in downtown Eugene presented Bartlik with a considerable amount of nerves when it came to safety. At one point, he heard noises coming from the first floor and went downstairs to investigate. He was expecting an intruder, although the sounds turned out to be coming from a roommate. As a result of similar situations, Bartlik has developed a cautionary habit. “I sleep with a baseball bat by my bedside,” he said.
Fear is real and present and can tend to be a loud voice in college students’ heads. Whether being affected by fear on a large or small scale, Haughian likes to be told: “Breathe. Take a second, it’s all going to be okay.”