I've never really considered myself to have any proper, fully-fledged phobias of anything. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of things that I'm not particularly fond of, or that make me uneasy. I don't like spiders when they're inside my house (they don't bother me outside); I don't like being in crowds so big that you're constantly being jostled by strangers (this is part of the reason why I've never been to a festival - that and I hate camping and port-a-loo's); I'm not very good on roller-coasters, I have to really build myself up to go on them and even then I usually shut my eyes the entire time because it's not as scary if I can't see what's coming (that being said, I still don't think I'll ever go on Oblivion ever, ever again). However I wouldn't say that any of these are crippling fears, and I wouldn't consider them particularly debilitating to my life. I wouldn't let them stop me from going to a Theme Park or somewhere I know will be very crowded.
The only thing I can think of that I would equate to a genuine fear would be the ocean. The ocean terrifies me, and it's something that has only intensified as I have grown older. I still love the beach and the water, and I will still paddle and swim (if the water visibility is perfect and I'm absolutely sure there is nothing in that area that could kill me). But there is always something in the back of my mind that sets me on edge and stops me from being a hundred percent in the moment. I would never let my guard down in the ocean, and whenever I do go swimming in the sea I am constantly reassessing my surroundings, and where I am in relation to the shore/boat and how long it would take me to get there in a hurry if I needed to. And yes, part of this is my irrational fear that there could be a shark literally anywhere (even places that I have been assured there aren't). It's silly, I know, but Jaws is one of my favourite films and I have an overactive imagination.
I've been thinking about it and I think I can remember where the root of my fear began. I can't remember how old I was (maybe about 6 or 7), but I think we were in Dubai and my brother and I were playing in the waves. All we were doing was letting them catch us and riding over them, like surfing I guess only without the boards. Some of them were getting quite big and closer together and after I had just gone over one wave, the next one was already starting to break so instead of being able to go over it, I got caught at the bottom and pushed under the water. I was stuck in the momentum of the wave and got caught in the next one too, and it just kept me tumbling round and round, unable to get free. After that one I managed to swim to the surface and I couldn't have been under the water for longer than 30 seconds realistically, probably less, but it felt like ages. Once I'd got my breath back I carried on playing, because when you're a kid, the fun outweighs the fear always. But I think that ever since then I've always had that moment in my mind every time I've been swimming in the sea.
When I was fourteen I was part of a school trip that went to Vietnam. We went on a boat trip and we were allowed to jump off the top into the water. It was actually really high up, and it was starting to get dark so the visibility in the water wasn't great, but there's something about being surrounded by friends that makes you brave, and I did it. Twice. It's funny, the journey down was exhilarating, but after I had plunged into the sea and come up to the surface, it felt quite unnerving to be in that much water. After the second time, two of my friends came towards me on a kayak and one of them, thinking he was oh so hilarious, pointed behind me and said, with a panicked expression, "Look out Emma, a shark!" Deep down inside, I knew he was joking, but by that time I had managed to sufficiently freak myself out. I didn't even bother looking behind me, just swam to their kayak as fast as I could and nearly capsized it climbing on board. It's safe to say that after that I lost my nerve and didn't do it again. I don't think I'd have the nerve to do it now, to be honest.
As much as I don't want to let it stop me from ever enjoying myself (and I won't), I do think that it's appropriate to have a certain amount of fear of the ocean. The ocean isn't our home; we don't live there. Every time we go in the sea, we are invading the space of the creatures (many of which can easily kill you) that do. The ocean itself is like it's own entity, moving with the waves and currents which can also, incidentally, kill you. I think a lot of people don't fully respect the ocean. But I do. At heart, humans are selfish creatures, but when we're in the vastness of the ocean, we're forced to realise how insignificant we are. Honestly, that's what makes it the most rational fear of all.
Song of the Day: A Song About Love by Jake Bugg