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The Fear of the Unknown

Carlisle Salutatorian Audrey RobertsBuy Photo
Carlisle Salutatorian Audrey Roberts

By Audrey Roberts

H.P. Lovecraft once said, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” Tonight, the class of 2013 indeed faces the fear of the unknown. Not all of the graduates before you will admit it; not all of the graduates before you may even realize the uncertainty of the times to come when we walk out of the shelter of these walls for the last time. Tonight, however, is a time of reflection, of celebration of those once unknown fears that we have conquered together.

We certainly experienced quite a bit of fear when making one of our first major transitions in life – the leap to high school. We timidly left the strict, regimented life of elementary, where we were frightened with the threat of: “If you don’t learn to be responsible, you’ll never survive high school.” High school, where everything – classes, friendships, lunch – happened on such a grand scale. High school, where at least some of us practically sprinted to class in those first few weeks for fear of being late. High school, where we put on a brave face and walked about like we owned the place – much to the chagrin of the upperclassmen. It was the fear of the unknown.

We experienced fear even when we had grown accustomed to high school life. One particular instance that stands out in my mind was Mrs. Andrejas’s hiccup rule. On the first day of ninth grade English, we were told that, if you were to be so unlucky as to contract the hiccups during class, Mrs. Andrejas would escort you into the hall and rid of the hiccups for you. No one in my class, at least, ever had the hiccups. It was the fear of the unknown.

And now, as we prepare once again to take another leap in life, I imagine that we will – or have already – experience some fear of the unknown that lies in the future. For, no matter if we realize it now or not, Carlisle High School embodies safety and security. What at one point caused fright in our twelve-year-old hearts is now being left behind as a defeated fear. Although the path before us may look dark and menacing, the fact of the matter is that the fear with which we face the future can either help or hinder us. It can scare us into backing down and adopting a life of routine. A quote from Pixar’s short film “Day and Night” sets the stage for this life: “Fear of the unknown. They are afraid of new ideas. They are loaded with prejudices, not based upon anything in reality, but based on… if something is new, I reject it immediately because it’s frightening to me. What they do instead is just stay with the familiar. You know, to me, the most beautiful things in all the universe, are the most mysterious.”

Fear of the unknown, however, can propel us into action. It can frighten us into creating a better life for ourselves than we ever could have imagined. Psalm 27:1 says, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” So, if at any point one of my fellow graduates is a bit affected or even consumed by the everyday fear in life, I hope that he or she looks back on the many fears that we’ve conquered as a class, as a family. I hope that he or she realizes that stress and anxiety about the future are ever present in this world, and I hope that he or she finds the strength to prevail over them. I hope that he or she leads a life of bravery. I hope that we, the class of 2013, look at the fear of the unknown as a new challenge to overcome.

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