Posted in Lessons by The Books Production Team on January 15, 2009


typewriter3          Right before Matt took off for Cleveland this Christmas, I ran next door and borrowed about half a dozen movies, including the much-maligned Pearl Harbor.  Now, I hadn’t seen this flick before, but after seven years of hearing every critic in the world lambaste it as “just the worst fucking movie ever made,” – (that’s a direct quote from Roger Ebert’s review in the Chicago Tribune) – I’ll have to admit that my expectations were pretty low.   Honestly, though, after watching the film, I didn’t really understand all of the disappointment.  After all, who cares about historical inaccuracies in the make and model of the airplanes when a movie’s got all kinds of awesome explosions, lots of angry Japanese people, and ample screen time for Kate Beckinsale?  I mean, what’s not to like?

          Anyway, in the movie, Jon Voight, in a slight reprisal of his role as Coach Bud Kilmer from Varsity Blues (somehow Jon Voight is at the same time one of the world’s best actors and a one-trick pony – Midnight Cowboy, Four Christmases, Zoolander – he’s always Bud Kilmer to me) plays Fraklin Delano Roosevelt.  And so lately, and I’m guessing it’s because I just watched this movie, I’ve been thinking a little more than usual about FDR.  Specifically, I’ve been turning over the idea in my head that he expressed in his 1933 inaugural address, wherein he argued “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” – and I’ve been trying to determine whether this is truly a rhetorically brilliant statement, or just a really stupid philosophical tautology.  But these kind of mental meanderings are pretty normal for me.

          What’s not normal for me, however, is that lately I’ve spent an equally ridiculous amount of my time considering the ways that my personality has changed since I was a little kid terrorizing Oak Avenue in Mattoon, where Greg Wilson and I used to be such little shits that a guy once chased us with a knife because we kept throwing a ball at his house.  Primarily, I think this second concern has been spawned by the fact that in about a month, the first wave of my really close friends will begin turning 30 – which is just fucking insane.  In fact, just this morning, as I was calling to congratulate my mother on her thirty-first wedding anniversary, she reminded me that The Beatles used to run around telling their fans not to trust anyone over the age of 30.  So, to all you Dr. Wizard fans out there – I say this: you’d better get the advice while the getting’s good, because in 13 months I’ll have moved past the stage where you should continue to trust me and into the retirement home, where I hope there will be lots of applesauce and Tony Bennett records.

          But I digress, and have yet to answer the question that I started with.  That is, am I actually any different these days as a 28-year-old than I was twenty years ago as an 8-year-old?  So (drum-roll please), after much consideration, my conclusion is this: on the outside, perhaps; but on the inside, not really.  These days, I can grow a beard, and I can drive a car, and I have a credit rating – but other than that, I still pretty much feel exactly the same…

          …which brings me back to FDR’s questionable maxim.  You see, had I been elected President of the United States back in 1933, my speech would have gone a little something more like this: “we have nothing to fear but fear itself – and BEES!”  That’s right – bees – RUN FOR YOUR LIVES, FOLKS!  They scared me when I was eight, and I’m still so terrified by the fuzzy little yellow and black pollinators of our flowers that every time I see one I just catatonically lock down with fear for a few seconds.

          Now why, you may find yourself asking, am I so frightened by bees?  Well, it’s because of a single moment in my childhood – and that moment occurred in 1986.  On a fateful night in October, after I begged my aforementioned parents relentlessly to let me stay up past my bedtime, they finally consented to my watching an episode of Dateline or 20/20 (or one of those news shows) with them that featured a story on wild, killer, African bees.  These bees, it seems – at least in my imagination – were unwaveringly making their way Northward, and just champing at the bit until they could find their way to Illinois and sting my frightened ass to death.   AND I HAVE NEVER BEEN THE SAME.  In fact, for a good four years of my childhood, every time a bee so much as flew into our yard during a wiffleball game, I would drop the bat and flat-out sprint three blocks – because I once read in a science book that a human can outrun a bee in a one-hundred yard dash.

          All of this, after an extremely circuitous route, leads me like Franklin Roosevelt back to the essence of today’s post: DON’T BE AFRAID OF COUNSELING SERVICES.  You see, as human beings, we’re naturally afraid of a lot of things, but the fear of conquering our fear shouldn’t be one of them – because there’s just way too much scary and troubling stuff out there for us not to find a better mechanism of dealing with it than repression or Ben and Jerry’s.  Evolutionarily speaking, after all, we’re a pretty inferior animal.  We can’t physically win a fight with a bear.  And the sting of a tiny Black-Widow spider can kill us in less than an hour.  Granted, to make up for these physical weaknesses, we’ve been given inordinately large brains that have come up with guns and poison control, but unfortunately, as a by-product of having these brains, we are forced to confront additional philosophical issues like…Is there a God?…and, How long is Eternity?…and, What if I can’t pay both the Heating Bill and the Grocery Bill when winter comes around?   And when you add up all these little fears, the end result kind of sucks – and is kind of terrifying – which is why you’ve got to get over the fear of talking about your problems with someone who knows how to listen, and possibly how to help you.

          College, you see, is a period of massive transition – and this is both good and bad.  On the one hand, there’s a lot to look forward to as you begin embarking on the path that will lead you to a hopefully bright future.  Perhaps you’re on your way to becoming a doctor.  Or perhaps, if you go to Clown College in Sarasota, you’re on your way to being the next Bozo the Clown.  But on the other hand, the years when you are in college also occur at a chronological stage in your development when a lot of shit can start to go wrong for the first time.  For example, between the ages of 18 and 22, most people experience their first true relationship heartbreak – which I know derailed me for a good six months.  While you’re in college, it’s also not unusual for someone close to you to die for the first time – because unfortunately, your parents are getting older, and your friends end up spending a lot of time driving around the country on pretty dangerous highways (like those found linking my undergraduate campus in Kirksville, Missouri to pretty much everywhere in the world).  And lastly, and often equally depressing, there’s the fact that classes can be way more difficult at a University than they were in high school, and the idea of getting a job and starting on the right foot in life places an extra-scary burden on your academic performance.  The bottom line is that there’s no shame in talking about these fears with the trained professionals your university employs who are willing and able to help you with these problems.  In fact, it’s a really good idea.  Like John Donne said, no man is an island.

          Now, as anyone who has read one of the recent articles about Dr. Wizard realizes, my life from the ages of 21 to 24 was full of reasons for me to go visit a counselor.  But for some reason, I spent a long time ignoring this obvious resource that may have been able to turn my life around a little faster – or at least a resource that would have helped me see that what I was going through was normal.  But ultimately, after I overcame my fear of looking weak or ridiculous, getting some counseling ended up helping me tremendously.  I can tell you from personal experience that you’ll be better off if, in the future, when something is bothering you, you find a professional with whom you can talk about it.  It works.

          And, that being said, maybe I should take a little of my own advice and make an appointment for next week to see if I can’t do something about that fear of bees.  They really are terrifying little fuckers.

3 Responses

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  1. Bridget said, on January 15, 2009 at 4:09 am

    and the other bonus thing? it’s free during college. sort out life issues now, and you won’t pay later…either physically shelling out the dough, or in the emotional scars that would have been much easier to fix years back.

    beyond that, counselors are great because they’re objective and someone to talk to who has a vested interest in seeing you HAPPY and SUCCESSFUL. not “a doctor” or “a straight A student” — these are very different things. they don’t have the expectations of parents or friends, or teachers: they want to see you succeed on your terms, and that’s pretty cool.

  2. Biology Fan said, on January 16, 2009 at 9:03 am

    Spiders don’t sting, they bite.

  3. Greg said, on September 28, 2009 at 3:30 am

    Yeah, but that guy was a dick. I bet you those bums are still hittin’ half-courters, too.

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