[Warning: This is a non-frivolous post. You may wish to run screaming now.]
Fear of abandonment
When I was seven, my parents moved me from Honolulu to Washington state to attend public school. The public schools in Honolulu are abysmal, or at least, they were in the seventies. I attended a private Catholic school briefly, but tuition at those is expensive. Punahou deemed my brainmeats suitably able for admission. However, they didn't want to give my parents any financial aid. Besides, financial aid at the age of seven? Come on. No one not attending college, in my opinion, should have to pay exorbitant fees to obtain a decent (notice I said decent, not outstanding) education.
I digress. I went to live with my grandparents during the school year so I could attend the public schools in Washington State, and I spent my summers in Honolulu with my parents. I remember almost nothing of my first year in Washington. In fact, I have only one clear memory of it. Every night before I went to bed, I drank milk out of a glass with a bunch of purple grapes painted on it. My grandmother sat across the kitchen table from me. A paraffin lamp provided the only light. I sipped my milk slowly and examined the years of graffiti and doodles scratched into the wooden table. My grandfather had made it and it used to be his work bench. I don't remember talking to my grandmother. Apparently, I spoke very little that year, except to answer questions in class and express the most basic needs.
Children are pretty tough to break, so I adapted to the situation by the time third grade started. I think the experience left its mark, though, as difficult as I find recalling anything about it. I can remember, for instance, a house that my grandparents moved out of when I was eighteen months old. I think it's formed a fundamental portion of my unconscious approach to relationships, romantic and otherwise: leave them before they leave you. I can recognize the tendency now and fight it, but my instinct, after crossing a bridge, is to set it alight. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
Fear of shame
I remember playing a game in elementary school called heads-up, seven-up. Seven students would stand at the front of the classroom. Everyone else would shut their eyes and bury their heads in their arms on top of their desks, leaving one fist out with their thumb in the air. The seven people at the front would roam the classroom and each one would touch somebody's thumb. When they returned to the front, everyone would open their eyes and had to guess who'd touched their thumb.
Lots of people figured out ways to cheat at this game. For instance, by putting their heads close enough to the edge of the desk to be able to see the shoes of the people walking past. I never cheated in this way. What I did was much, much dumber. Whenever I was one of the people roaming the room and someone would say I'd picked them, I'd say no even if I had. I don't recall why I thought this was acceptable. I guess it's because when someone picked correctly, it was almost always because they'd cheated. So I thought I was getting one up on them by refusing to tell the truth. Eventually, the teacher figured out what I was doing and took me aside to tell me it wasn't okay. I was mortified.
Sometimes I think that life is a game, except all the rules are breakable. I see everyone else breaking them, but think that if I do it, someone's going to point that out and publicly humiliate me. Perhaps this is quite a ridiculous reason for being secretive. Nevertheless, it's there.
Fear of failure
This has been such a driving force in my life, I don't think I can narrow it down to one specific original incident. Perhaps when I dropped out of the school spelling bee in the fourth grade for forgetting to put the "p" in "simply?" Perhaps when I lost the election to be class president to the pretty little blonde girl in my class, and learned that being outspoken, exotic and smart didn't necessarily make you popular? Any time I've failed to win an award, to be the best, at least by the acknowledgment of my contemporaries, I've taken it completely to heart. I've never forgotten a single instance where I didn't achieve the standards I've set for myself, and every time I remember them, I can feel an echo of the hurt they caused. It wouldn't be entirely inaccurate to postulate that the fear of being unsuccessful drove me to amass the list of accomplishments that decorates my CV.
I'm working on letting that go. I'm trying not to be ashamed of my ambitions or my life. I'm trying not to let the fear of judgment by anyone, even the people I love, determine my decision-making process. I have the feeling this is not a struggle that ends. Ever.