October 16th, 2009


Writer's Block: Nothing to fear but fear itself (and spiders)

What is your biggest fear? Have you tried to overcome it?

Well, in terms of just straight-up phobia-type fears? I had a fear of bugs. And yes, though a certain amount of self-desensitizing, I've mostly been able to conquer it. I would have the most girly jump-and-scream reactions to bugs of any sort, particularly the unexpected bug. I still do a bit of the jumping if a bug is unexpectedly found on my person (which is more a startlement reaction, I believe), but if I can see the bug first, I have little problem squashing or picking it up, depending on the situation and the bug.

I started to work through it at summer camp when I was fairly young, because we lived in cabins and were going in and out all the time. There were daddy longlegs, mosquitoes, moths, and other bugs, and you either had to get used to them, or spend all of the week in fear and disgust. And when you have so much to do at camp, you really can't spare the time to get worked up as much about bugs.

I deliberately worked on getting over any latent fear in college. Our dorm had many centipedes that we called "walking moustaches," because their legs were so long they did indeed look like a moustache. I was the resident bug-squasher because A: I tended to wear hiking boots, which are eminently suited for bug-squashing, and B: I was one of the few that would steel myself to get close enough for squashing.

In addition, there was a college-wide festival each year in which every department would put on some kind of display. The entomology department was amongst them, and they had an insect petting zoo. I made myself go all five years I was there to deliberately handle insects to get myself over any weird reactions. I have put my hands in a tub of mealworms, handled a Madagascar hissing cockroach, touched a tarantula's leg, and let a 8-inch long giant African millipede walk all over my hand. I actually contemplated owning a giant millipede for a while, but I was afraid it would escape and one of my roommates might crush it, so I gave up that idea.

While I'm not the world's biggest fan of bugs, I no longer do a jump-and-shriek routine when confronted with them, and that's just dandy by me. If any of my family or friends need someone to capture or crush a spider, trap a bat, or try to remove a snake, they know they can call me to do it.