Fear is one of the few universal characteristics of humanity, and we all have stories of times when we were scared. Being fearless is also a universal characteristic, no matter how big or small the fearless act is.
We encouraged our audience — and staff — to share their #MyFEARlessStory. While some stories are light and funny, from eating a worm to asking out a crush, others are heavy and impactful, from asking for mental health help to moving to a new country. These are their stories.
“One time, all my friends dared to me to eat a worm, and I did.”
Yogev Ben-Yitschak
“People often ask me what my least favorite part of my six months abroad in Thailand was, and I can say it was hands-down my first 48 hours. I was freaked. Nothing was familiar; everything was crazy. Tuktuk drivers yelled at me from all sides of the road, New Year’s parties on the streets raging until 4 a.m., I had to apartment search all by myself without knowing any Thai language, the vendor selling me a SIM card “lost” my original one in the process ... I was a mess ... and this was only the first two days!! The next day I explored the city and began to get myself excited again about the adventures that lie ahead. I forced myself to smile at strangers and allowed myself to wonder at all the things that were new and exciting instead of feel afraid and overwhelmed. But this is the honest truth! Living in Southeast Asia might be the craziest and most frustrating experience I’ll ever have, but it was also filled with amazement and joy and some of the most incredible, indescribable moments too.”
Mckenzie Halling
“I was in a relationship for more than three years that had been in a slow decline for awhile. As time went on, I knew our lives were headed different directions, but I was scared to be on my own. My ex had become someone I relied on very much, and even though I wasn’t really in love with him anymore, he was still my best friend. It took a lot of courage for me to express my feelings and ultimately end the relationship. In all honesty, it was the best thing I ever did! I don’t know why I was scared at all. I am so much closer with my friends and am having a lot of fun deciding what I want to do with my future (without having to think about someone else). I realized I am strong, independent and have a lot of love to share!”
“Two years ago I got drunk and asked out my crush, and he said yes, but I was very embarrassed about it afterwards.”
“My freshman year of college, after a year of ogling from a distance, I handed my library crush my phone number, in front of a packed library during finals week. She promptly ripped it up in front of my face and got me laughed out of the room. Most embarrassing thing that's happened to me.”
Cal Larsen
“My fearless story didn’t start out fearless at all. In fact, fear was all I had. The summer before my junior year I was raped by a boy I knew and trusted. After this traumatic event, I felt the foundations I knew crumbling beneath my feet. The boy denied it. My mom told me I shouldn’t be going home with men. My sister said it wasn’t rape. I felt completely isolated in the moments I needed to be held close. I thought my life was ending, yet day by day, it continued. Two years later as a senior in college, I am a living, breathing human being who continues to grow daily. I am fearless because in the wake of something that happened to me that was out of my control, I continued. I am fearless for finding light in a world that tried to cut my power. I am fearless because even though I still hold on to the fears of the night that drastically changed my life, I don’t let them deter me from everything I am meant to be.”
“I studied abroad in Barcelona and though I've traveled a lot, I had never been away from my family, friends and entire life for that long. The first few weeks were really hard (there were most definitely some tears), but I pushed myself to go out on my own. I found a little cafe in my neighborhood and camped out all day, just watching people and drinking café con leche! After that day, I felt like I could survive and thrive in Barcelona.”
“This last summer I left home and moved to California for an internship. I didn't know a single person in San Diego or even the entire state of California. It was a totally new and scary experience, but it taught me so much about being independent that I wouldn't take back the experience if I could.”
Berklee Klauck
“I used to sing in my church choir, and was asked to sing solo for the whole Christmas Eve Mass at my church in 6th grade. I totally croaked my voice in front of everyone at the most crowded Mass of the year, and instead of running out of there, I had to keep things going after I messed up! It was really embarrassing and scary but I learned how important it is to keep my head high and keep going even if I mess up in front of everyone I know and their Grandma. In a dead silent church. Other than my horrible croak. Still makes me shudder.”
Maggie Roethle
“I have a kind of weird phobia of water ... Like I don't enjoy rain, don't like swimming in public places, etc. Well anyways, this summer my friend and I went kayaking (it was my first time), and I was freaking out the whole time because of how close we were to the water. My friend was supportive through it all and encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone. It ended up being really relaxing, especially since the weather was gorgeous. However, I was still gripping tightly onto the kayak the WHOLE time. I felt super anxious and still could not wait to get out and back on land. Once we did, it was like a sigh of relief. I was happy I did it, but I probably wouldn't do it again.”
“As a junior in college, I was SO LUCKY to study abroad in Florence, Italy. But, right before my flight, fear and anxiety sank in. I did not know anyone else in my program; I had never traveled outside of the U.S. before, and I did not speak Italian — I was so worried I would feel alone once abroad. A quote by Eleanor Roosevelt replayed in my head as I boarded my plane — "Do one thing every day that scares you." Now, I am so glad I overcame my initial fears. My time abroad, though short, was life-changing. I learned so much, and I am forever grateful for the experience.”
“My solo travel adventure is my fearless moment. Last spring, I traveled to Berlin alone, which was an adventure to say the least. A few bumps in the road were expected, and it ended up as a great experience!”
“Telling a friend that they need help can be one of the scariest moments of all. You never know how they’ll react, but you assume it’ll be bad. Even though conversations are scary, because you fear losing the friendship and their trust, it’s always always better to have that conversation. I’m so glad I did and my friends did for me.”
“This summer I went to Nepal to intern abroad. I didn't know anyone; I didn’t know anything about Nepal, and I definitely didn’t speak any Nepali. It was a challenging experience, but I learned a lot and grew as a person in the process.”
“Being sent alone to the UK to study when I was 14 years old. It was difficult at first due to the language barrier, but with time I made a good group of friends, and ended up living in the country for 11 years.”
Teodor Teofilov
“When I was in high school I went on a trip to Costa Rica, which was filled with a lot of crazy adventures. I rode horseback down the side of a mountain, went zip-lining and hiked up an active volcano. While it wasn't scary or anxiety-inducing, it was a brand new experience unlike anything else I've ever done.”
Logan Rude
“The times I’ve felt most fearless is when I went cliff jumping in Arizona. Usually don’t love heights but it was such a great feeling of adrenaline.”
Logan Godfrey
“In diving, after you get injured, it is difficult and scary to get back up on the boards and do the dive again. After scraping the board on a dive, the next time I had to get up and do that dive I was extremely nervous. My heart was racing, and my legs were shaking on the board. I finally got myself to do the dive again and overcame my fear. However, everytime I do that dive, I still get scared.”
Andrew Pearce
“I've been struggling with mental health issues since my freshman year of high school. However, it truly peaked my junior year of college after a friend's suicide attempts and the loss of a cousin. I spent years not addressing the anxiety I felt every waking moment because I was scared to confront what I saw as a weakness. But this March, I had a bit of a breakdown, or a break through as I now see it. I was forced to confront my mental health and address the anxiety that was inhibiting me academically, professionally, and personally. It was scary to seek treatment, but it's changed my whole life and allowed me to live almost every day without experiencing anxiety over the most minor incidents.”
“If you would have told freshman-in-college me that I studied abroad for a few months, I would have thought you were crazy. I have always been such a homebody — and anxiety didn't help my hesitation of being away from home for an extended period of time. However, my desire to travel the world and get out of the U.S. motivated me to step beyond my comfort zone. Although it was tough (I thought to myself, "what am I doing?"), I'm so thankful for my experiences in Rome. I had the best few months of my life; I stood on top of mountains, swam in the Mediterranean, and explored ancient Roman ruins. I will forever encourage people to step beyond what they think they can handle; the outcomes can be amazing.”
“I've always had a desire to Scuba but never the motivation. Something about being 30 feet below the water's surface for 30-something minutes at a time … just not something I need to do. Well as you can probably expect, this being #MyFEARlessStory and all, I did it. I not only went scuba diving, but I enrolled in a scuba certification class. The first day I barely wanted to touch the air tank for fear if I looked at it wrong, I'd shoot through the ceiling of the Natatorium. True story. Well I got over it, even started diving to the bottom. Two minutes, 5 minutes, by the end, over 20 minutes at a time underwater. I AM OBSESSED NOW!”
Emilie Enke
“After my junior year in high school, I went on a mission trip in Quito, Ecuador. On this trip, we took a few days to tour the city, specifically the churches and historical buildings. The moment I had most worried about arrived when we toured La Basilica del Voto Nacional, the Basilica of the National Vote. We had to climb a set of stairs that wound around one of the spires that stood at the top of the church. The only thing between me and 377 feet of air was a thin metal staircase and a layer of chicken wire, which certainly rattled my extreme fear of heights. Not one to step down, I shut my eyes tight and went up the stairs blind, on hands and knees. There was not a moment on the way up that I was not afraid, but nonetheless I was glad to have made it to the top.”
Olivia Campbell
I was terrified to study abroad because I thought I would be too homesick, too lonely or too miserable the entire time. Living in Prague for four months showed me that life is too short to have anxiety about things you can’t control. It also taught me to live in the moment, seize the day and learn through living. I may be that obnoxious girl who always talks about abroad, but it was amazing and I have no shame in sharing how much it changed me and made me feel like a kickass, fearless woman!”
Sally Ehrmann
“The night before I left to study abroad, I doubted all my decisions. I was certain I was doing the wrong thing. What was I thinking, going to a foreign country 4,000 miles away from home, literally a world away? I was never more scared in my life; I never felt more vulnerable. Students abroad get scared for a lot of reasons, and my reason was because I didn’t know anyone in my program. I’ve always been surrounded by great, supportive friends, and this was my first time on my own without them. Having fear was the best thing to happen to my time spent abroad; it turned me into a better person. My fear evaporated because I became more comfortable with myself and my decisions. I began to trust myself. I regretted regretting going abroad. I became at ease not because I made friends, but because I became at ease through myself. Being scared is good because you learn and grow from it. I learned that studying abroad really is the most rewarding thing you can do in life, in more ways than one, for from it I grew into a better person. My decision to go abroad was the best decision of my life; I certainly did the right thing.”
Sophia Dramm
“The first time I sang the national anthem at a Bucks game in front of over 30,000 people I was so nervous, but I faced my fears and sang successfully and have done it three other times since then.”
Payton Wade
“As a sleep-away camp counselor, I had to take my cabin of 10 8-year-old girls on an overnight camping trip. We were in the middle of the woods without tents, and I had to cook for them over a fire … need I say more?”
“I got stung by a jellyfish twice and walked it off fearlessly.”
Calice Robbins
“I was fearless when I decided to only surround myself with people who would lift me up! Positivity is infectious, and I simply wasn’t encountering enough of it. Many days I would be upset about how little time I spent with friends and rather how much time I spent watching Netflix by myself. It wasn’t good for my mental health and eventually I contacted UW health services. After a brief phone call with a counselor, I didn’t know how beneficial the group sessions she suggested would be for me so I decided to first try and change my daily actions. I hung out more with those that I know are there for me. The ones who make me thrive! I went to a few social gatherings ...or parties ... and actually enjoyed myself because of the amazing people I was with! My FEARless story is that after taking what felt like forever and a half to kind of (ish) adjust to the change of college, I put myself out there more and improved my mental attitude and happiness in the process. There are great people here at UW! Look around, put yourself out there, and I’m sure you’ll find some too if you haven’t already!”
“I decided to study abroad, but usually when people get asked why they want to study abroad they answer with, ‘explore the world and learn about a new culture.’ My answer was because it scared me. It was so out of my comfort zone, I didn’t know anyone else going; I had never been out of the country alone, and all of this scared me. But I did it anyways. It didn’t make sense for my major, but I went, and I had the best time of my life. Being fearless to me means being afraid and doing it anyways.”
Emily Gauger
“Throughout my college career, I have always felt stress and anxiety about school, confrontation and personal relationships. The tiniest things would set me off. In the spring of my junior year of college, a relationship of two years ended terribly for me, which sent me into a bad place mentally. Prior to this, I had thought about getting help for my stress and anxiety but finally felt ready to reach out after the events in the spring sent me into a bad place. I began seeing a therapist for depression and anxiety. I have continued to do so ever since — despite the fact that I am feeling like the old me again: happy, independent and outgoing. Realizing that I needed help and actually reaching for help was incredibly difficult for me, but it has no doubt made me stronger and helped me realize what is truly important in life.”
“Finding the courage to be happy again after holding on to things that I thought made me happy, but truly hurt me, was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. It took me so much time to finally let go, move on and embrace the positivity that surrounded me in my life. I am thankful for the friends and family around me who pushed me to do so, and I can say that this is truly the most fearless thing I have done in my life thus far.”
Megan Otto
“When I traveled to Stockholm this past year, my friend and I decided to go on an adventure with a tour guide from our hostel. They called it the "Scandinavian Sauna," which meant going from frozen water to a sauna, back into the freezing water and repeating that process for as long as you want. The guide described it as "the cheapest drug you'll ever have." I wasn't 100 percent sure I wanted to do it, but looking back it was a highlight from my travels!”
Annie McGrail

— all images courtesy of contributors, Pixabay and Pexels

Megan Otto

Megan Otto

Megan is one of the managing editors and a senior majoring in journalism with a focus in strategic communications, and earning a certificate in digital studies. After graduation, she will travel to London before starting a job at GMR Marketing.