I was standing waist-deep in water, and it seemed like I was sinking lower by the second. Even though the icy current only wrapped around my legs, I felt like I was drenched in dread from head to toe. I was vaguely aware of the presence of my dad and brother from somewhere in the vicinity, but what I was really focused on was right in front of me. In the crook of my arm I held a collapsible fishing pole, and in the other, a container filled to the brim with wiggling, fleshy worms. I could only watch in silent horror as they squirmed around. Only one thought occurred to me: If worms could scream would we still fish?

I am very glad worms do not possess vocal chords.

Now, I could tell you everything you could possibly want to know about worms. Earthworms, the kind used for fishing, belong to the phylum Annelida; are able to process soil in their digestive systems using an organ called the “gizzard;” and freak me out. But for sake of this story, all you need to know is that the sight of worms makes me gag. This presents a problem because my dad loves to fish. And even though going fishing with him will mean I will have to come face to face with my worst enemy, I always agree to go anyways.

Fishing, overall, is a rewarding experience. The feeling of standing in cool water, guppies nipping at your toes, is incredibly relaxing. I love the sensation of a brisk breeze ruffling through my hair. The river is always calm, and the only noise comes from the rustling of leaves from above, the churning of nearby rapids, and the occasional birdsong. Other than the environment, I like to go fishing with my dad simply because I know he enjoys himself when he goes. These instances, however pleasurable, do not relieve my fear of worms. Since my first fishing trip as a child, my dad always had to put a worm on the hook for me. Always.

“Hey! Gari! Whatcha doing there?”

I jolted at the sound of my dad’s voice. I must have looked quite silly, ogling at a bowl of worms like it contained all the secrets in the universe. I quickly slammed the lid back on Pandora’s box and replied to my father. “Oh, hey, just… um…” I couldn’t think of anything clever to say that would hide my inaction. I didn’t want him to be disappointed in me. “Just enjoying the view,” I concluded.

He sighed. “Well, could you ’enjoy the view’ closer to your brother?” he asked, exasperated.  “He lost his worm, and needs a new one…” he trailed off and turned his attention back to his bobbling line. I glanced over my shoulder. Yep, there he was, my little brother, with a devilish grin on his face. In his hand was a fishing rod with a hook just like mine: bare and glinting in the sunlight. He caught my gaze expectantly and tilted his head towards the container of worms I held. During that moment, I knew time was up for me.

I wadded through the current until I reached my brother, who was standing on the shore. Placing my rod on the stony ground, I took his in hand. I swallowed. This was it. Holding the end of the hook between my thumb and pointer finger, I glared at him. He laughed nervously. “What?” he asked, scuffling the ground with his foot. “I don’t want to do it either.”

“You’re lucky that I love you,” I mumbled.

And it was at that moment that for the first time in her life, Gari Eberly, circa three months ago, touched a worm. It was horrible. It was gross. But I still did it. Who cares that I was holding my breath the entire time? That I felt like every pair of eyes on the world was on me? That I was so close to passing out over the sight of it? Because right then, I overcame my fear, and my dad and brother were relieved.

Life shouldn’t be lived in fear. Instead, fear is something that I strive to overcome. Doing so is a necessity for making the most of our lives, whether it be by auditioning for a solo in band, writing a lab report detailing your new discovery, applying for that one reach school, or by simply helping your brother hook a worm onto his fishing pole.

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