Fighting Our Fears, Together

After reading Stephen King’s It, a quarantined high school student has an epiphany regarding her own fears.

By Aisling Hall

Fear is very prominent in everyone’s lives. It challenges us through our downfalls, and some people let fear get away with that. In the Stephen King’s novel IT, the character, It, changes forms to represent fear in the eye of the beholder. So, for each of the kids It had a different face. This occurred because fear manifests differently in everybody’s lives, so It has a myriad of faces.

When I was a kid, I was afraid of people throwing up. I’m not entirely sure why the fear began, but anytime anybody mentioned they had a stomach ache I flipped out. One time, when my stepsister and I were sharing a room, she went to bed sick. I fought against my parents to sleep elsewhere, but I lost. In the middle of the night, she woke up and said, “Aisling, go get my mom. I think I’m going to puke.” I flew off the bed (I was on the top bunk), ran into my parents’ room, and woke up my stepmom. Later, my stepsister told me that she had never seen me move that fast.

As I grew up, I realized that this fear was irrational. Everybody pukes, and I just have to deal with that. It took me a while to get over my fear, but eventually, I did. As children, many of us have weird, crazy fears that we grow out of. In the novel, when the children were under the sewers, ready to face It, they came across a symbol on the door to It’s lair. Bill saw the symbol as a paper boat, Stan saw it as a bird, Mike saw it as the group’s bully’s crazed dad, Richie saw eyes behind glasses, Beverly saw a fist, Eddie saw the face of a leper, and Ben saw the wrappings from a mummy. Twenty-seven years later (with two fewer people), they all saw something different. Bill saw his wife’s severed head, Beverly saw her abusive husband’s face, Eddie saw the symbol for poison, Richie saw Paul Bunyan’s face, and Ben saw their childhood bully’s face.  

Our fears evolve as we grow older because as kids, life is less complex than life as an adult. As kids, we’re afraid of physical things: monsters or spiders. But as adults, those fears become more abstract, such as fear of failure or fear of death. And that brings me to me today. What am I afraid of? What is my It?

It’s funny how fear disguises itself, or how you’re so used to your fears that you never realize they’re present.

Yesterday, my parents informed me they didn’t want me to go to work. This makes sense because my sister and my mom have several health issues, and I work at McDonald’s. I knew I had to call in to let work know, but this was around lunchtime and I didn’t want to bother them during the rush, so I played video games to pass the time. Then, I got distracted. I kept telling myself I would call but I continued to put it off. It was around 4:30 that I realized that I finally needed to call, because the dinner rush was soon and I didn’t know what time the salary manager left. I clicked call before I could talk myself out of it, and I noticed that my heart was racing. I got on the phone, asked for a salary manager, and then told her that my parents wouldn’t let me go to work, and that I was really sorry. She said that she totally understood, and that’s where the conversation ended. 

She totally understood. That was the last response that I was expecting. I was ready to argue with her, saying that my family is more important to me than work. I was expecting to be fired. Not once did I even consider the possibility that she would understand. It was then that I realized what I’m afraid of: confrontation. Confrontation is my It. Everything clicked, and I realized that I’ve had this fear for a long time. Last year, when I told my mom that I didn’t believe in God, I was so scared to see my mom’s reaction. I was so scared I felt like I was going to cry. My mom is a Christian. And my sister, my mom, and I all got baptized when I was 11 or 12. This was a drastic change in my life, but I was afraid she would feel hurt or become angry because of my opinion. Instead, she totally understood. 

It’s funny how fear disguises itself, or how you’re so used to your fears that you never realize they’re present. They become a part of you. But the good thing is, if you can identify the face It’s wearing, you can take steps to overcome It. I’ve heard that admitting you have a problem is half the battle. While that may typically be used for alcoholics or drug addicts, the saying can be applied for fear too. Identifying your problem, your It, is a huge step in defeating the fear itself.

The thing about fear is that we have to learn to face it and defeat it, just as the characters in It did. The book illustrates that we don’t have to face fear alone. The kids came together, all having experienced It with a different face, and they fought It together. However, that didn’t completely get rid of It. Several times throughout the book, the characters realized that It was Derry, the town in which they lived. When It was finally destroyed, the town of Derry was partially destroyed and the sewers collapsed, causing a giant sinkhole to form downtown. Despite those incidences, Derry still stood. Fear (or It) was no longer there to torment the citizens of Derry. Once we conquer our fear, it’s still there, but it doesn’t control us anymore. 

It has a lot to tell us about fear. Common knowledge tells us that everybody is afraid of something, everyone’s fears are different, and even that our fears evolve with age. But some of us don’t realize that we can fight our fears: together. We don’t have to go through it alone. When we’ve defeated our fears, they may still be present, but they no longer control us. And that’s what makes all of the difference.

Photo: Trapped by Christos Tsoumplekas on Flickr