While brainstorming a list of discomforts for class at the start of the semester, I came up with one that continued to niggle at me—broken glass. It’s not a phobia or something that plagues me, but I have what might be considered an overreaction to the occasion of breaking glass. I identified it as a strange sort of fear in between discomfort and true fear. Both rational and irrational, physical and psychological. After examining it a bit more, I realized this fear was symbolic in the sense that the feared object (broken glass) represents something fundamentally disconnected from itself (my need for control). I’ve started calling these symbolic fears. After a bit of this mental gymnastics fit for a therapist’s office, I decided I wanted to explore these symbolic fears in myself and those around me. My project is going to explore my own symbolic fears, those of my friends and family, and the general science behind where our anxieties come from.
Initially, my project was meant to be a podcast. However, I quickly adjusted the form to be a series of linked essays. I wanted to try podcasting, and I felt I could get great interview clips of friends and family. But, at the end of the day, I wanted to craft a piece of written, not spoken, prose. I have been preoccupied with writing short stories in the minimal free time I have for pleasure writing. And while I don’t see a feasible way to disseminate this material into a short story, I felt a series of smaller essays would give me the freedom to use my voice in the same way. I have long enjoyed the works of essayists like David Sedaris, so I am excited to play with a new form I have largely admired but with which I haven’t had much experience.