He stole my innocence
1st place: $50
Author’s name withheld
* To protect the people involved the names have been changed.
July 12, 2001. I have never been more scared than I was that day. The day was filled with happiness, yet it ended sadly. It was filled with tragedy, yet triumph. That day I was weak, yet I was strong.
It started normally. My radio alarm sounded off at 6:30 a.m. Hesitantly, I threw off my warm, fuzzy blankets and put on my pink slippers. I scuttled to the bathroom and turned on the shower water. I turned the cold on more to wake myself up. I stepped into the shower and got chills down my spine. I was thinking to myself what an awesome day this was going to be, and not for any particular reason. I just woke up feeling happy. With a smile, I got dressed.
I stepped out of the house with my purse over my shoulder and sauntered to the bus stop that took me to summer school. The rest of the day passed normally, except for compliments about my pink outfit. Everyone loved my short denim shorts with the pink threading. I felt proud of my fashion sense.
When school ended, I walked home to my one-bedroom apartment. I took my keys out and unlocked the rusty bolt. I swung the door open and this rush of hot air hit my face. Surprised by the heat, I jumped back and fell off the porch. I got up and dusted myself off. I walked into the apartment and grabbed the fan. I placed it in front of the open door. Turning away from the door, I went into the kitchen to get a glass of water. As I turned on the water, the phone rang. I let it ring twice before I answered it. No one should have known I was home.
"Hey! It’s *Max!"
"Oh! Hi. What’s up?"
"Nothin’ much. What are you doing?"
"I’m starting on some homework."
"Oh, what kind of homework?"
"A book report. For my English class."
"You know, when I was in high school, I did pretty well in that class. Need some help?"
"Umm … Not real-"
"I’ll be right over."
At that point in time I was really confused. I had never told him where I lived. Sure, I gave him my number two weeks ago, but I never thought …
About 30 minutes later there was a knock on the door.
"Is anybody here?"
"Who is it?" I asked.
"Oh, hey, come on in."
We sat on the couch and got to work on my report. While I was scanning though the book, this feeling came over me. I felt like there was a bear near me, ready to maul my body. With that feeling, I moved to the floor.
"Why’d you move to the floor?"
"It’s more comfortable to me." I was hoping he wouldn’t notice my sudden fear.
Max remained on the couch, but I felt the bear moving closer and closer, grinning with its sharp, white teeth. I decided that I needed to get Max out of my house.
"I’m going to go get some scissors." I had to get away from him.
I walked into my bedroom and went over to my desk. All of a sudden he came up behind me and threw me against the wall. I bounced off the wall and landed on my bed. He moved over to the bed closer and closer. The bear raised its claws ready for attack.
The first swipe of the claws was at my shirt, then my shorts. He then continued to take every innocent thing I owned away from me: every Christmas, every Easter, every birthday. Everything I knew and lived up to that point in life was taken by him when he raped me that day.
"Don’t be stupid and tell anyone," he said menacingly as he got dressed. I couldn’t say anything. I was in too much shock to say anything. He buttoned his jeans and walked out the door.
I don’t know how I stood up; my legs felt like Jell-O. My hair was a mess and my clothes were at my feet. I went to my dresser and threw on a loose shirt. I went to my dad’s dresser and put on a pair of boxers. The clothes I came home in were ripped and torn and ugly. I didn’t want to touch them. For 30 minutes I was in shock. I had the TV on, but I wasn’t watching it. I was thinking of what I got myself into.
I called my dad at work wondering if I should tell. I didn’t know if he would blame me.
"Hi, Jessica. What do you want?"
"I was just wondering … what time you were coming home."
"I told you already. Don’t bother me at work unless it’s an emergency. I’ll be home when I get there."
I couldn’t tell him. He wouldn’t understand. Daddy would get angry at me for being so stupid. I sat on that couch contemplating my situation for four hours. Finally, at 7 p.m., Dad came through the door with a bag in one hand and his lunch pail in the other.
"I bought some wonton soup for dinner."
"I’m not hungry."
He could tell something was wrong with his little girl. "What’s wrong, Jessica?"
"Nothing." I didn’t want to tell him.
"Something’s wrong, tell me."
"Well, there’s this guy …" The words came out like arrows aimed for his heart. The pain showed on his face. His baby was gone, taken by some monster.
"Get dressed," he said curtly.
"We’re going to the police station."
I put on some jeans. The ride to the station was silent. We walked into the building and went straight to the front desk.
"Can I help you, sir?"
"Yes, we need to see a police officer."
"My daughter’s been raped."
"We’ll be right with you."
The police took a report. They sent me to a place to be examined and have "evidence" removed. They poked and prodded with their instruments asking if this or that hurt. The only pain I felt was the pain in my soul.
I was strong that day. I was strong, and I triumphed by telling my story. Of course, I still suffer from my loss today. I have learned a lot about myself in these past two years. I am still struggling with being close, holding hands, hugging. But, I know that the rapist can’t bring me down unless I let him. I remember Eleanor Roosevelt’s words, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
My dad hurt me deeply
2nd place $30
Author’s name withheld
Fear is an obstacle we all must overcome in our everyday lives. Everyone fears something; it is a part of life. Be it spiders or insects, or old age or shark attacks, there is always that one "something" that makes your spine tingle and cold. One thing which you would rather die a thousand deaths before facing. So what is my fear?
My worst fear, the one that haunts me until this day, is the fear of a scar that was implanted in me at an early age. I received this scar at the age of 3, and this scar, which seems completely healed, still bleeds. It bleeds at the thought of it. It bleeds at the sound of it. It bleeds whenever I must look at it. Where did I get this scar? From my father, who cut so deep. It was not my skin that was scarred. It was my heart. My heart remained wounded by my father for seven years; it is a wonder that I have not given up and left this earth. For this scar, this fear, is so terrible, so horrible, it is a wonder I am still alive. This knife, the one that caused my scar, was my father. It was my father that cut so deep I am scarred for life. This knife was his ignorance, his impatience, his lack of understanding. This knife was sharpened by his uncontrollable temper and his irresponsible manner. And my father, this knife, was so sharp, no matter how thick or broad of a shield one defended with, this knife would slice right through and pierce its victim. But this knife won’t kill the victim. It does much worse. It keeps the victim alive, alive to feel it bleed, alive so that the wound would become a scar that forever bleeds. Fortunately, there was only one victim. One victim who had to live this insane torture for seven years; one who had to live to bear the bleeding scar. That victim was me.
I was 3 when I was first pierced by this knife. My father would beat me when he saw me talk with my friends. He would beat me just because I disagreed with the ways he runs his life. I was beaten for every single thing you can imagine. I was beaten because my friends were not Asian. I was beaten for giving money to a homeless man on the street. I was beaten because I put my school work as my first priority and not sports. From the way I swept the floors to the way I walked, I was beaten. I was sliced by the knife. Every single thing I did, the scar went deeper. So deep, it reached my heart and soul.
When I obeyed instructions from my coach instead of his, I was beaten. All the coach said was to pass the ball when the others were open. But my father said no. "Don’t do it. Don’t do it because I don’t want you to." Then I was beaten. That night, after three hours of sleep, he woke me up at 2 in the morning to practice basketball. Yet, it was not the physical pain that hurt. It was the mental and emotional pain. The fact that I was beaten because my father was inconsiderate. The fact that I was beaten because of his lack of sense. The fact that he did not respect my right to speak. That was the knife that scarred me forever.
Yeah, you might be thinking that I am just a spoiled little brat who disobeys my father’s every instruction. Well, let me just say that it is wrong to pull your child out of school with a fake excuse to force him to play basketball. It is wrong to take your child’s money, which he worked hard to earn himself, not from you but from his own work, and use that money to gamble and end up in debt. And it is even more wrong to make him pay half the debt, which was entirely your fault. Might I also add that it is wrong to beat your child because he cannot earn enough money to pay off your entire debt. This is just a small taste of the hardships I had to endure.
The scar healed slowly. And now, it would appear entirely healed, but it still bleeds at the memory of how I got this scar. It bleeds so hard and fast; then I wake up, and find myself in tears. I find myself in a room of shadow and darkness. The pain from the making and enduring and keeping of this scar is far greater than being stung by an insect. It is far greater than a shark attack. And this scar is my fear. No matter how fast I run, no matter how much I fight it, it will always be there. For this fear will haunt me until I pass from this Earth. And my fear will bleed, forever.
Plunging into the unknown
3rd Place $20
By Diane Cardenas, Phineas Banning HS
Fear. To me it is such a small word with so much meaning. When spoken, fear is unmistakable. So what do I fear? The better question would be what don’t I fear? To everyone who knows me I am nothing but a big sissy, because I fear everything. My fears range from heights to insects to people. But what makes my skin crawl? The biggest thing I fear, really, is life.
While most people fear death, I choose to embrace it, and make it seem like it’s the best thing. While life terrorizes me, that is what makes my skin crawl, what makes me want to not get out of bed. At times, when I sleep, I dream that I will never die and that I will continue to live, forever. So I jump out of bed, sweating and screaming, hoping that it’s just a nightmare.
See, I’m not suicidal, at least not anymore, but life just scares me. The reason is I don’t know what’s coming, and I don’t know what to expect. So maybe what I’m really scared of is not knowing what to expect, or what I should do. For me, I need to know what to do and what is expected, not just "taking each day as it comes."
So I guess I am afraid of life and insecurity. Life, when I think about it, is the scariest thought I can have. I don’t want to die, not really, I just don’t want to live if I don’t know what’s coming. So after reading this, you judge me, and tell me am I really a sissy or do I just need to figure out what I want?
While most of us crave excitement and change at work to keep us motivated and interested, there is a part of us that also resists and fears change. There are many things that we fear at work, but most of our angst revolves around being singled out, found out, and having to face feelings of shame, embarrassment, and guilt.
Of all the fears we face, public speaking comes in at number one. Jerry Seinfeld mused that at a funeral, most people would rather be in the casket than have to give the eulogy. Anytime that the focus is on us in the workplace will produce some fear in many people. Presentations, networking, interviews, performance evaluations are all highly stressful events that generate fear for many in the workforce. The thing that we fear most is being rejected, disowned, and isolated.
Not all fears are bad for us however. They warn us of potential dangers and pitfalls and allow us to prepare ourselves. Without facing and overcoming our fears we would not be able to grow as individuals and as contributing members of society.
Here are some techniques to overcome fears at work that have proven to be effective.
Naming the feelings behind the fear
Acknowledging our feelings and sounding them out to others takes a great deal of the sting and power out of fear. The worst thing to do when we feel fear is to keep it bottled up inside and not tell anyone. Here’s an example: Jessica is a business analyst whose job includes giving talks and presentations on her expertise. What she finds helpful is verbally telling herself how she feels about an upcoming talk and then telling her colleagues and boss. To Jessica, expressing her feelings is a way of releasing them and spreading them out, leaving less fear to manage when she needs to be seen as strong and confident.
Normalize the experience
Everyone is afraid of something at work: your colleagues, your boss, and even the top CEO of a major corporation. Being aware of this helps to reduce the intensity of the fear. Erica was feeling totally overwhelmed after being asked to give an overview of the annual report to top management of the company. She decided to tell her manager who had been with the company for many years. To her surprise he told her a story of how terrified he had been the first time he had to speak to his superiors, stuttering and stammering the whole time. The fact he had survived and thrived despite his nervousness gave her a boost of courage and confidence. When the time came, she discovered she wasn’t nearly as frightened as she thought she would be.
Seek out support
If experiencing some fears at work, it is very likely you aren’t the only one. Coworkers will appreciate that you’re reaching out and would be happy to offer support and encouragement. Colleagues can be a good source for advice if they have been in your situation before. It was Braden’s turn to attend a networking event where he met others in the same industry he worked in. After the event, he was expected to write up a report on what he had learned.
Having ADD, which he had hidden from his employer, he was afraid he would forget most of what he discovered. A coworker shared that he had the same problem and had found a way around it. After having a conversation with someone, he would find a quiet spot and record some of the key points on his IPad before moving on to network with the next person. To his relief it worked so well he was able to relax and actually enjoy the event.
Look back on previous experiences
Most incidents that we fear turn out to be less grandiose after the event: The anticipation was where the angst held us to ransom. Thinking of situations in the past that frightened us that now appear innocuous in hindsight will help us lighten the burden of worry and anxiety prior to a stressful event.
Cory, a software developer, would think about the time he did a parachute jump prior to facing any changes in the workplace that were causing him anxiety. He would think about his jump day and imagine that his life had been in danger that day. In comparison he found what he had to lose if things didn’t go well in the workplace were minor in comparison to the day he jumped out of an airplane. It helped him put things in perspective and alleviated a lot of anxiety.
The worst-case scenario isn’t all that bad
Often when we are fearful at work, we are imagining the worst that can happen. Unless we work in highly dangerous fields where the loss of life or physical injury is a possibility, the worst that can happen is that we lose our job. Whenever Maria became stressed at the thought of a bad review from her manager, she thought of her two young daughters and husband who adored her. Becoming aware that these relationships were the most important aspect in her life helped her to relax and not “sweat the small stuff,” as she put it.
In order to avoid fear taking up space in their ongoing day, some people are able to put aside time where they will think about facing their fears. By putting aside fears, they are able to carry on with their activities that require full thought and concentration. When a meeting with a difficult client was coming up, investment counsellor Barry would decide that he would spend the last 30 minutes of the day thinking of how he would deal with the client if he was meeting him or her the next day. This allowed him to focus on important decisions and tasks that he had to complete before becoming distracted by the unpleasant problem he would be facing.
View it as an inevitable part of growth
Jack Canfield said: “Everything we want is on the other side of fear.” People who believe this see facing fears as a challenge that has growth potential for them. At best, they look at fear as a sign that something better awaits, and at worst that they will learn a valuable lesson that will serve them well in the future. Rachel often tried controversial, out-of-the-box techniques in her job as a high school teacher. Evaluation time for her fellow teachers was often a time of high stress. Rachel viewed it as an opportunity for her to receive valuable feedback that she would use to decide whether to continue on or make adjustments. She looked at endorsements or repudiation from her bosses as part of her continued progress as a teacher and human being.
How to face fears in a crisis
It is hard to imagine the level of stress and fear if we suddenly found our own life and the lives of 155 people we were responsible for in serious danger. That’s the scenario that Captain Chelsey “Sulley” Sullenberger and his crew found themselves in on January 15, 2009, when a flock of geese disabled both engines on their aircraft. The story of the “miracle” landing on the Hudson River and all 155 surviving is well known around the world.
Growing up with a second world war naval officer as a father instilled in Sullenberger a deep sense of duty and obligation to those whose lives he had responsibility for. Early on, he learned the importance of performing well despite the circumstances that he found himself in. During the difficult moments leading up to landing the disabled aircraft on the river, Sullenberger kept fear at bay by compartmentalizing and focusing on the tasks that needed to be done.
His belief in teamwork and unshakeable certainty that things would work out well allowed him to draw upon a creative reserve of energy. He drew inspiration from other pilots who had found innovative ways to cope with finding themselves in desperate situations when their aircraft developed serious problems. In particular, he admired Captain Dan Haynes and the crew of Flight 232. On July 19, 1989, they landed a DC-10 that had lost hydraulics and steering at Sioux City Airport. As a result of their skill and ability to think, react, and manage their fears under the most difficult of situations, 184 of the 296 passengers on board miraculously survived the landing.
Sullenberger believes the ability to manage fear is a result of nature and nurture, and is a great believer in our ability to learn and teach ourselves. Sullenberger hopes that the greatest fear is behind him. As a husband and father, the idea that brings him the most fear is the thought of losing a child. Fears, he believes can be good, even necessary for survival, as they alert us to when things are not right.