The List: And Why Fear Is Important

By Emily Roberts

My name is Emily Roberts and I am filling in this month for my dad, who has been a bit busy lately. When he asked me if I would like to write a column for him, I said, “Sure!” but it didn’t take long for me to realize it can be a daunting task. The closer the deadline came, the more fretful I became. Then I realized—that’s what I needed to write about: fear.

In 2010, I rode a roller coaster. To most, that would not be anything extraordinary, but to me it was life-changing. Up until this moment I had let fear control my entire life. I would never throw a birthday party because of the fear of no one showing up. I would never go swimming for the fear of drowning. Never go running for fear of falling. This was just how my life was lived.

Near the end of the year when I was in the tenth grade, I was given an assignment in my English class. My task was to write a list of one hundred things you wish to do before you die. You can probably imagine how tedious this assignment would be for someone with such crippling anxiety. I sat up in my room for hours wondering how I could ever do anything at all. After all, it’s hard even to leave your house when you’re afraid of the drive to school.

The next morning, I walked triumphantly up to my English teacher and handed him what would later become known as “The List.” The list was simple; it was titled, “101 Things to Do Because They Scare Me.” The goal was to be completely fearless by the time I started college. School was to end a week later and that summer would start my next new adventure. Item number one: ride a roller coaster. Within a short period, I was able to mark it “Done.” Item number 22, swim in the ocean. Done. Item number 73, ask a boy on a date. Done. One by one I watched the list get marked off, and sure enough, by the time I walked across that stage and threw my cap in the air I had crossed off the entire list. I was now an international traveler, had preformed in front of audiences, and even thrown a birthday party.

Now, five years later, I am twenty years old, but I am by no means fearless. Along my journey I learned that “The List” was not meant to eliminate fear itself, but rather to let fear stop dictating my decisions. I have learned now that just because it scares you, doesn’t mean that it’s bad for you. A life without risk is a life without adventure. Sometimes things get scary, but we can’t let that stop our lives. Waiting for all the fear to simply vanish will do nothing other than stunt your growth.

In the Bible, I remember the prophet Jeremiah saying something very similar: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29.11 NIV). Think about that: there’s something very liberating about not being afraid of fear, but only being afraid of not living fully.

With much hope,

Emily Roberts