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Things I feared as a child
I was scared of everything as a child. Everything. All you had to do was suggest something frightening and it would consume me for ages.

I remember overhearing a story my grandmother told about her friend who had her purse snatched while out on a walk. “And now, she’s afraid of her own shadow.”  And suddenly it dawned on me. You should be afraid of your shadow. For ages afterward, I would sleep facing away from the wall, lest I awaken in the night, spy my own shadow, and feel fear. Yes, I was actually afraid of fear. And I was an empathetic scaredy-cat. I would adopt other people’s fears as my own.

I turned my dolls to face the wall while I slept – I didn’t want to wake up in the middle of the night and find out that they were staring at me. I would run up the basement stairs, because the basement was only scary when you were leaving it - which was when something chased you up the stairs. And forget horror movies, I just had to HEAR the plot of a horror movie, and horror would be seared on my eyelids.

But there was something delicious about all this scariness – the adrenaline rush, the ghost stories you’d whisper to friends at sleepovers, the spine-tingling tenacity of those images. Those fears were black and glittery and amorphous.

And then  I had a window of fearlessness. I travelled through Europe on my own at 18. I moved to Israel on my own at 19. I hitchhiked and accosted strangers. And nothing bad happened to me. In retrospect, it’s amazing that nothing did.

It's true that the older you get, the more you fear.  I understand why the old folks seemed so spooked by risk-taking, so ridiculous with their statistics and anecdotes. The older you get the more real-world horrors you hear about. The more you obsess about them happening to those you love. These old-person fears have the same depth as the ones that made my run up the stairs, roll away from my shadow, turn my toys to the wall. But the black, glittering, whispering thrill is gone. The new fears have become grey, blunt, and too heavy.

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