In my last year at Rutgers, I wanted to challenge myself.
Step outside of my comfort zone. Confront my fears. Go WILD. 😎
So what did I do?
I signed up to take a class about insects.
Now I should clarify: I am one of the most squeamish people around. I flinch whenever a bug flies near me. My mom worries that one day my reaction to insects will give someone a heart attack. I scream when I spot an insect inside the house.
I think my fear of insects stems from the fact that there are so many different kinds with so many different appearances that it seems impossible to distinguish which kinds are harmful, neutral, or beneficial.
In the past few weeks, however, learning about insect classification, body systems, and behaviors, and even looking at pictures of insects of all shapes and sizes has given me a grudging appreciation for their evolutionary success and abundance, which according to Wikipedia, “potentially represent 90% of the differing animal life forms on Earth”. As much as I would like to ignore them, insects impact fields that include agriculture, medicine, forensics, and ecology. Yes, insects might “bee” creepy and crawly. They “bug” me. They make me want to “flea“. But in spite of all this, I gained a newfound respect for how diverse they are and how important entomology, or the study of insects, is. While my instinct may always to respond to insects with fear, a part of me now also admires how well the group as a whole has flourished over millennia. #respect
A couple of weeks ago, as I was getting ready for my 8:40AM class, I spotted a beetle like insect about the size of my thumb crawling on the windowsill in the kitchen. I ignored it, because ain’t nobody got time to deal with that at 8:00AM. When I came back from class, it was still there, trying unsuccessfully to climb out of the open window. Now normally, I would have left the creature alone, but this time I saw that it was missing a leg.
I’ve always felt bad for insects that I find inside the house who want to leave but can’t. Because once they’re inside the house, there’s only two routes: survive or die. When I can, I let them outside, but when I can’t, they either inevitably perish, or are killed.
This creature was one of those insects that was trying to escape by crawling on the window, with the outside world so tantalizingly close. After observing it warily for a couple of minutes and seeing that it didn’t fly (flying insects scare me so much more), I enticed it to crawl onto a sheet of paper where I set it free outside. A couple of days later, it happened again, during which I felt a small sense of pride at taking steps to “overcome” my fear.
However, I am currently barricaded in my room due to the presence of two stinkbugs (which can fly 😱) crawling on the living room window of the apartment. So I still have a long way to go before I actually overcome my fear.
Overall, I am glad I made the decision to step outside my comfort zone and take a class on insects. Knowledge is power, and by learning about what may be one of the most abundant groups of organisms on the planet, I am familiarizing myself to creatures that have since become less frightening. Yes the pictures on the slides gross me out sometimes, and my belief that insects can be dangerous has been confirmed, but by challenging myself to learn more about my insects, I not only became more knowledgeable, but also developed a sense of accomplishment at taking steps to overcome my fear. For all the readers out there who are afraid of something, I encourage you all to challenge yourselves and learn more about that something. Who knows? You may end up enjoying it.