Weird childhood fears help find silver linings

Kendall McElhaney

Kendall McElhaney

Can someone explain to me why I can sit in my room for hours, knowing full well that there is no one else in my room, but as soon as I turn off the lights, I am struck with the fear that a man/monster/long lost Kardashian sister has been waiting in my closet to grab me and has chosen the exact moment of complete darkness to pounce? I know I can’t be the only one.

Don’t act like you don’t immediately jump right into the sanctity of your own bed as soon as the lights are off to avoid facing certain death out of this same illogical fear. The only answer I can deduce is that the irrational fear of having monsters in your closet, something we learn at a young age and hopefully lose by the time were in our precious teen angst years, is something that hits a little too close to home for all of us. I know no one is there, yet I am still giving myself internal pep talks every night explaining how my thoughts are nothing more than the ramblings of my mind. My question is: why haven’t my 20 years as a somewhat functioning human taught me that this fear is irrational? No matter how many scary movies or Tyler the Creator music videos I watch, at the end of the day, there is no real monster waiting for me. Why does my heart still jump in anticipation of some supernatural impact?


Maybe it’s the culture of media-perpetuated fear we are raised in that causes this sensation. Maybe it’s eating an entire North of the Border Krazy Karl’s pizza before bed. Either way, something is up and my stomach hurts.

Between knocking on wood to undo inevitable jinxes and gawking in horror as a poor, pathetic soul opens an umbrella indoors, we are all creatures of habit. These habits make no sense, yet we all share them. For example, the fear that if I don’t hold my breath while passing a graveyard, a demon soul will enter my body, most likely causing me to foam at the mouth on I-25. Or, the fear of not picking up a penny that is tails up out of fear of bad luck or unwanted stranger gum. These little superstitions we pick up when we are young follow us all the way into adulthood. The fear of the unknown plagues our everyday actions, completely unbeknownst to us.

Though I would consider myself a fairly rational person, at least after tax season, these silly fears we all carry with us are somehow completely relevant to our lives. The idea of monsters under our beds teaches us to protect ourselves, even in places where we are meant to feel safe. This lesson has definitely benefited me in college, where everything is constantly changing and you are never truly sure who is on your side. You learn to rely on yourself and to stand your ground in the face of adversity. Hiding under your covers is comparable to seeking comfort in times of stress, which is something we all are capable of, especially with finals creeping closer.

Holding your breath while passing a graveyard teaches us to avoid letting bad energy into our lives while focusing on the journey ahead. It also helps us work toward beating our records of holding our breath under water. Everything can be a learning moment, kids.

Picking up a penny for good luck reminds us that even the smallest of gestures can change our whole perspective. Consequently, leaving a penny that is upside down, or flipping it over for someone else to find, teaches us to look out for others.

Maybe I am scraping the bottom of the barrel here, but I swear if you put on The Hobbit soundtrack on while you read this, it will sound as epic and as deep as my editors hope it will. What I am trying to say is that life is pretty scary and sometimes even foolish just like some of these childhood fears, but we are all connected in our fear of the unknown. If you search for the silver lining in every situation and try and find a small lesson you can take with you, you may find strength in facing your fears.

Collegian Columnist Kendall McElhaney’s hair is full of secrets. She can be reached at, or on Twitter @kendallaftrdark.