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Opinion

Confidence is critical to overcoming fear

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October 4, 2007

The train ride is smooth, but full of commuters. There are no more seats available, and the majority of the people are forced to stand close and hold on to whatever handle they can manage to find. Bodies are crammed into the Tube’s carriage and sent off to another destination. Occasionally, the loud speaker warns all commuters of pickpockets and, of course, to mind the gap between the train and the platform. Walking through the station, strolling through the streets and even pausing for a bite to eat, the city-dwellers are bombarded with cautioned signs of thieves, robbers and terrorists. Am I supposed to be living in a constant state of fear?

Years ago, one of my friends was robbed on this same trip, three friends had their apartment broken into, and last week my roommate was mugged. How terrifying it is to see their misfortunes caused by greedy, self-absorbed people. I won’t go into the “what has this world come to?” sermon, but I will say that the differences in culture between a large European city and a small Wisconsin town are massive.

Upon moving to River Falls over a year ago, I was surprised to find that nobody locks the doors to their homes. Nobody cares to lock the doors to their cars or chain their bicycles to the racks. This is a comfortable, safe town, I thought. Rarely do you hear an alarm system blaring off its painful siren from a car or home.

My current home has an automatic locking device and the sound of an alarm in the neighborhood is a recurring one. Walking through the streets at night, I pass by groups of males that will try to talk to me. They’re not friendly, and I keep walking—not too fast and not too slow.

To get them to stop following me I found a trick that always works: turn slightly in their direction, smirk the smirk that tells them their interest is appreciated, but you’ve got better things to do than to fend them off. Never make eye contact; clutch your bags tightly, but not so much as to make it apparent.

The state of fear that the billboards and verbal announcements tell me I am supposed to be in comes and goes. Confidence is vital when you’re alone and have only few belongings—just the essentials for getting by, that is. Although when I am confronted in some of these situations, the fear does rise from my gut, desperately wanting to be let out. I push it down with my nose up and the vulnerable look dissipates into a tiny little girl inside me craving her safety.

This is not to say that I am not safe. It is only the fear of being alone that makes me think I am unsafe. It is actually quite liberating to feel proud to be alive at the end of the day, everyday. As long as we all keep our wits about us, we can survive the fight of human versus human. What a strange fight it is.

-Teresa is a journalism major and a geography minor. She is enrolled in the Semester Abroad: Europe program and is currently doing research on the River Thames in London. Later in the semester she will be independently backpacking across Europe.

Teresa Aviles is a student at UW-River Falls.