Fear of Failure: Write a letter to your deepest, darkest fear

In November 2011, the online teen/college writers’ group that I was in, CleanPlace, posted a weekly prompt that asked us to write a formal complaint letter to your deepest, darkest fear. I found it again today and thought I’d leave it here on the blog.  

To: Failure
Recurring Nightmare #9
The Clammy Caverns of My Subconscious

Dear Sir:

I am writing this letter to issue a complaint about the invasion of my sleep that occurs during the first three weeks before every semester begins and continues throughout the first month of school.  Some of the more flagrant incidents were at the beginning of this past August.  Yet for years you have always been there, lurking behind every calm, blank moment sipped in silence, whispering over my shoulder about all the clamoring responsibilities of tomorrow.

You rewrite my world, and in your scenarios, deadlines as immutable as if etched in platinum filter through the gray cracks of my brain and out to the other side, fading into pale nothingness.   You make me think I have lost my memory, or that I morphed into another persona.   I am in Organic Chemistry lab, darting around in my white coat and bulky goggles, but I talk and giggle with all the other students for the whole period, so I fail the experiment that day. Sometimes I enter a dull, yellowed classroom.  The exam is in a subject titled “Calculus for Social Justice,” I have forgotten to attend the class all semester, and I must ace the final to pass.  Or my second semester General Chemistry professor from last fall hands me a test, and the first question is almost nonsense: “Describe the chemical reaction behind the classical Greek myth I discussed in class.”  I must emerge from a tight cocoon of blue quilts slimy with sweat before I am back in a cool, crisp reality of midnight air and starlight.

But you threaten more than my academic career.   I see my dad cross the next street over in our neighborhood at the bottom of a steep rise, slick with a plasma of ice and snow.  He cannot see the delivery truck at the top.  My ears echo with my own voiceless scream, but he steps out into the road.   The truck shivers down the slope toward him–its chained tires are like oil on glass.   My dad glances up at it, but stumbles, sprawled across the ice.   He is wearing his old brown suede coat.  Frost creeps into my chest as I struggle to move my frozen feet.  I roll over, out of the sheets cauterized to my skin with heat.  The sky is blushing gray.

Yet there is evidence to the contrary, despite your intentions.  Only four weeks of the term remain, and my grades are holding up against the thrashing of squalls all around.  And thus far, my family is safe, despite mistakes we might have made.   So you see, you lie.

In filing this incident report, I am forbidding you to inhabit the grottos of my mind any longer.  This letter will serve as your eviction notice.  I want you to pack up the deceit and alternate realities that you constructed in my psyche like some seasonal haunted house creaking in the wind.  You entered in a three-piece business suit–professional and rational, but you will leave like a conman in cheap cologne.  My life will not be besieged by fear of failure.



3 thoughts on “Fear of Failure: Write a letter to your deepest, darkest fear

  1. Aw. In Alchemy, the instinctive and unscientific precursor to Chemistry, the classical Greek myths were considered coded descriptions of chemical reactions.

    You have a smart subconscious. I bet you’re going to do well.


  2. BRILLIANT!!!! SUCCESS is not final and FAILURE
    ~ WINston Churchill~


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