This week, I had a second-round interview for the VolCorp. At the interview, we were asked to introduce a partner not based on "normal" facts about them, but on "interesting ones." I suggested to my partner that we begin with security questions used by websites to protect passwords and users' identities. She suggested we start with irrational fears. I thought for a moment and realized that irrational fears speak to a majority of people. They are relatable and it makes someone seem more realistic when you know that they, too, have a Kryptonite and are not a Superman without a weakness.
I am heart-stoppingly afraid of glass floors. I do not know whence this fear spawned or why it has become more prevalent as time has passed, but I will not walk out onto glass platforms. This year, while in China, I bungee jumped. This was not a first time experience or anything; I genuinely enjoy jumping from heights. This is the problem I have with my deepest, most regrettable fear. At the TV Tower in Shanghai, a few weeks after my jump, I could not gather enough courage to walk out onto the glass platform and look at the wonder of Shanghai from above. I would not leave the safety of the opaque floor even when asked to crawl out onto the glass floor. My mini-term professor laughed at this whole scene as I embarrassingly ran back through the door and as close to the main structure as possible, breathing a sigh of relief when I no longer could see the glass floor at all.
Last week, I spent five days in the beautiful city of Chicago. I really liked my hotel, which was downtown and conveniently located right on the river and just a few streets up from Lake Michigan. When all seemed right with the world, I began a journey to shop on Michigan Avenue — a journey that requires crossing the river. To get to the other side of the river, I had to walk across a bridge that was made of interwoven metal.
As I walked, I attempted to concentrate on the skyscrapers waving me ahead, pleading with me to join them in their conquest of the city. My legs responded with fierce trembles. I decided that perhaps if I looked down, through the wire, I may be able to conquer the fear. Alas, this act came to no avail. At about the halfway point of the bridge (which seemed miles long), I decided I would call someone and just talk to them as I made my way across, hoping that my mind would focus on another topic. Each time I had to cross the bridge during the five-day span, I would not even attempt it without my cell phone in hand and a friend on the line.
Irrational fears breathe life into human beings and highlight their personalities. For my colleagues in the interview, they did not need to hear about my greatest accomplishments to get to know me better. To know of my greatest and most despicable weakness, these new acquaintances would begin to know me. They would know that I am not just a trophy child who can only speak to the vast majority of great endeavors that 20 years on earth has brought to the human race. The irrational fear question provided them with a glass floor to stand above me and view me as I truly am: simply another human. I am engrained with flaws in my subconscious that manifest themselves in a mind-boggling, conscious fear. A human that understands a weakness, attempts at all costs to avoid — not overcome — it, and yet never truly grasps where it came from or why it is there.
This "fear question" reminded me of applying to universities. For some of the essays I was required to write, I was prompted with the following question: "What is your greatest failing, and how has that made you who you are today?" Today, I would answer that question with my irrational fear. I know this would never be the answer that admissions offices would be dreaming of when they wrote the question, but I consider it my greatest failing. My irrational fear has made me who I am today; it makes me human, and that makes all the difference.
— Brittany Vasquez is a junior in anthropology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.