Fear of the Unknown

My college years were different than most people. But similar to most, these years formed and shaped me in new ways I didn’t even know were possible.  This past year I began to learn more about how my mind works as I stepped into counseling and discovered more about my anxiety. I decided to pursue counseling because my stomach was constantly hurting, I felt afraid on the daily, and I felt like my mind was in a fog. Little did I know that counseling would also shape me as I became more aware of my mind and body. I am currently discovering that I have many deeply rooted anxieties that often show up in smaller manifestations of that fear. 

Imagine a tree with deep roots. The tree is full of many branches and flourishing leaves. Now try and picture someone trying to uproot the tree by tearing at all of the leaves. As we all know, picking off the leaves isn’t the best way to address the roots. 

I often try to stop my deep-rooted anxiety by fixing my smaller daily worries. It just doesn’t work. I become more tired and more overwhelmed. All the while wondering where these many small fears have come from because I am unable to look down and see the deep roots.

I’ve talked about this before, but one of those anxieties is the fear of the unknown. This manifests itself into smaller fears of when I am not certain of the future. This can come out in daily interactions or seemingly small decisions.

Graduation. It is full of uncertainties that illicit fear and worry.

I am so ready to be done with homework, projects, and papers. But another part of me is so afraid of the unknown parts of the future. I’ll be honest, I’m pretty good at school. And the fact that I am unaware of what career path I want to take and whether or not I will be good at it, is terrifying.

All of these fears stem from the unknown. 

When I am in this fear, it is extremely easy for me to assume the worst.

However, I am beginning to realize the power of reflection. The profound impact that looking at the past can have on my fears of the future.

As I look back on my college years, it was full of unknowns. 

I decided to attend Saddleback College unaware of what I wanted to do or what I wanted to study. I entered Public Speaking 101, changed my major to communications, and joined speech and debate. At the time, I was unaware if this was the right decision or if I would actually be good at it. 

However, as I look back I can recognize that I wouldn’t be where I am without speech and debate. It was there that I learned that I had a voice. I gained confidence that I never knew existed within me. My perspective about the world around me shifted. I met friends with different backgrounds and views than me. I learned to create a common ground of friendship while we expanded one another’s views. 

I was then left with the fears and worries about where I would transfer. I had committed to study and compete on a speech team at a different university when Vanguard approached me. 

I was so afraid to give up the community of speech and debate that I had grown to love and adore. 

But I couldn’t get Vanguard out of my head. I knew that I wanted to use my voice to spread the good news of Jesus. I wanted to learn more about the Bible and how to study the literary context. 

I then decided to take a bold step to Vanguard with a major in Communications and a minor in Religion. This step was full of unknowns right at the last minute. I was terrified that I made the wrong decision.

Even though my time at Vanguard wasn’t always the easiest, I have never doubted my decision. 

Leaving speech and debate was hard. I left a community of people who were open to new ideas and challenged me to think deeply. And as I stepped into Vanguard, I felt like I stepped into a community where no one questioned each other and everyone believed the same things. 

But I grew in different ways at Vanguard. I have learned a lot about studying scripture in it’s context and history. I have had professors that expanded my thoughts about gender, interracial, intercultural, and interpersonal communication. 

And most importantly, I began my journey of therapy at Vanguard. The amount of time I’ve been able to invest in learning more about myself has been more beneficial than I could have ever imagined. I have begun a journey of discovering the ways my mind works and moves. I learned that I don’t have to be afraid to use my voice. I gained immense confidence by embarking on a journey of self-discovery.

Yes, I am extremely afraid for the future. I have no idea what the future holds. And the unknown terrifies me. 

But I do know one thing… God is faithful. 

He is faithful in teaching me and guiding me in the midst of the unknowns. He is not going to leave me. Even if I fail miserably, He will stay by my side. He will continue to teach me even when I am no longer in the classroom. 

In this month full of unknowns, I am committed to focusing more on that root fear.

I can’t always fix it. It’s still there. I am still terrified that I can’t be one hundred percent certain of the future. But when the root comes up in other ways, I can stare it straight in the face and call it out for what it is. 

I can stand there, look at the root, and remind myself that I don’t have to be afraid of it. I can remind myself to look back and remember the ways that I have grown. All the while making the root a little bit less daunting and beginning to take on the future with a new mindset. 

If you are graduating, transitioning jobs, starting a family, moving to a new state, or simply in a state where you are afraid of the unknown, what would it look like for you to reflect on the past? All the while calling the root what it is… a fear of the unknown. 

Through reflection, growth, and authenticity, we begin to minimize the power we give to the fear of the unknown. 

Let’s do this.

Elyssa Schultheiss