I am afraid of heights– not so much the height itself but the risk of falling. I find great fun in ferris wheels but make meclimb a ladder and I might start crying.

I am afraid of the dark. It’s one of the reasons I prefer the bright city lights. An overactive imagination is to blame on that one.

I am afraid of power tools. I do not wish to be in control of machines with the ability to cause harm. This fear was evident enough that whenever I’d walk into the woodshop to work on a project some teacher would intervene on my behalf.

I can’t watch scary movies. Ghost stories terrify me. Some nights I still fear whatever lurks beneath the bed.

I do not consider myself brave. And yet whenever I tell people of my plans to travel to Japan alone, it is a word I inevitably hear. I’ve never understood that. I’ve been flying alone since the age of 11. I walk the airport with purpose, breezing through security, strolling to my gate with casual confidence. In truth, the fact that I enjoy traveling alone seems to puzzle people. What if something happens? What if you get lost? To me, getting lost is half the fun.

There was one point, on my first visit to Japan, where I was afraid, and that was when I mistakenly thought I’d lost my passport. There were tears, there was worry, but in the end the passport was found, so no harm came of it. But I have been lost in Japan, more often than not, really. And I have lost things that were precious, and I have worried about money. But rarely was I afraid. What is there to be afraid of?

I don’t think I’m brave. I don’t try to be. I just don’t see a reason for fear.

At the end of this week, I’m flying to Japan again. I’ll spend 6 weeks in a homestay, living with a Japanese family while I attend class at the local university.

For this, I am afraid.

I am not afraid of being alone, of being lost, of being far away from home. Quite the opposite. When I was alone, it didn’t matter what stupid things I did. It was just me watching, just me to remember later and laugh about it. But to spend my days with a family, to witness my every mishap, to be shamed by me? It’s such pressure. Despite my enthusiasm for the language and culture, I am a very poor Japanese student. What if I struggle in school? What if I say the wrong thing to my family? These things terrify me. Suddenly I am being held accountable by more than just myself.

And that’s the truth. Of heights and darkness, of all these fears, the thing that frightens me most is interacting with people.

I am not brave. But I must try to be.

I leave for Japan in four days.

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