STATENYou know the overused Franklin D. Roosevelt quote, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”? It's printed on everything from bookmarks to coffee mugs, and it is apparently a nationwide consensus. Don't listen to it.

The reality is that Americans have many things to fear. Granted, we shouldn't run around in a constant state of unrest. There's a difference, after all, between fear and stupidity. Rather, we should understand that the important moments in life — the most influential experiences that build character — are often set in action by a little panic.

This is especially the case at West Linn High School, where everyone from a basketball state champion to a math honor society member has a distinct relationship with fear. It’s not easy to win basketball games or to ace tests. It takes hard work, endurance and a fear of failing to make students work even harder.

“When I fear competition, such as during (the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair), my stress can increase significantly due to the registration of more projects propelling me to work harder. My advice is to fear for the intangible: family, school and the future,” Bo Ahn, sophomore, said.

“Fear can often make me shut down because the fear of failure is present,” freshman Phoebe Meeks-Lyons said. “Yet, at the same time, I have seen how it can motivate people to try even harder to reach their goals. It triggers transformation and pushes people to work their hardest.”

“Experiencing fear transforms you even if you don’t think it does,” an anonymous junior said. “In soccer, getting hit by a ball can be scary because you know it will hurt, but that fear just makes you push yourself harder. Going for the ball head on despite the chance of any uncomfortable situation makes you stronger,” West Linn students know the danger in not understanding the costs. It’s the “one more day, one more hour, one more minute” mentality. They hear the messages from the entertainment industry: Choose comfort over stamina. They see their mentors settle in relationships and careers.

Yet WLHS teens still have the ability to separate the champions from the trivial.

It’s about taking the narrow path, about overcoming obstacles while feeling terrified, about being so scared that there is no option other than to keep going. The walk is long; there are few who take it, but West Linn students know it leads to life.

So long as people aren’t paralyzed by it, fear is the foothold for success. It steers away from procrastination and teaches the value of perseverance. Fear builds character, and it reminds us of morality. Don’t believe it? Check the pages needed for the honor roll. Or the recent achievements made in athletics. Watch as WLHS students head off to top colleges next fall. Come into the WLHS library at 4 p.m. any school day and see students with their heads down, refusing to accept failure.

This is what overcoming obstacles looks like. This is the narrow path.

At WLHS we choose to walk differently. This walk isn’t about being the best, but about showing up when it’s easier to run away. It involves fearing for the future and working toward the goals that will get us there. Students have the kind of courage produced only from fear, the kind from which true leaders are built.

WLHS teens understand that doing anything of value begins with an element of fear.

Madison Staten is a sophomore at West Linn High School. She is contributing a regular column to the Tidings this school year.

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