One day, walking home from my second-grade classroom, my world was changed forever.
I decided to spin around until I got dizzy -- something almost any carefree second-grader would do. Unfortunately, as I spun my way home, I unwittingly did so under a large beehive.
Without warning, I was attacked by several bees. Running home in pain, I experienced real fear for the first time.
From that point on, bees were my one great fear. I was afraid of them regardless of size, type, or temperament.
When I graduated from college and I took my first post-college job as a high school English teacher in Japan, it became clear to me that I was being sent to a little mountain village just north of the middle of nowhere. I eventually learned, however, the northern mountains of Japan are home to any and every deadly creature Japan has to offer.
In addition to being home to bears, bats, wild boar, tanuki (those raccoon-dog looking animals from Super Mario Bros. 3 are very real), mamushi (a poisonous snake), mukade (a really creepy-looking, six-inch-long centipede that's also poisonous), huge banana spiders, and racquet-ball-sized cicadas, my town was also a nesting ground for Japanese giant hornets.
The Japanese giant hornet is straight out of the world's scariest insect horror film. The hornet is as long as a grown man's index finger, with a two-inch stinger, which according to National Geographic, leaves its victims with a pain similar to "a hot nail being drawn through the leg."
It doesn't stop there. The venom of a giant hornet is powerful enough to dissolve human flesh. Impervious to the strings of normal bees, these monsters feed on them. A group of 30 can destroy a colony of 30,000 honey bees in about three hours.
In addition, I learned that the hornets kill scores of unfortunate stray animals, and about 70 people in Japan a year.
I did my research on these things, but as I lived at the foot of the mountains, I hoped that I would never run into one.
Then, about a year into my teaching job, it happened. Surprisingly, I wasn't out hiking or exploring. This thing flew right into my classroom in the middle of my second-period class.
The sound of the Japanese giant hornet entering the room was similar to a small helicopter. When it flew to the middle of the room and perched itself on a ceiling light, all of my students immediately knew it was the dreaded "suzume-bachi" (or sparrow bee in Japanese), and ran for cover.
Cowering in fear, all of my students fanned out to the edges of the room. The teacher who was assisting me even stopped what she was doing and hid behind the door.
Standing in the center of the room, I was alone. The control over my classroom soon became a battle between me and the bee.
I had spent days preparing my lesson and I was not about to let some insect have the best of me. Against my better judgment, I grabbed one of my student's English books, knowing that class could not continue until the bee was dead.
Moving cautiously, I prepared myself for the worst and hurled the English book at the ceiling. To my relief (and everybody else's), it was a direct hit, which was quickly followed by a vigorous stomp down.
At that moment, I felt like I had triumphed in a confrontation I had been dreading my whole life. I would soon learn, after that day however, that life is filled with moments of confronting fear.
As a young journalist, I have confronted all kinds of fears, even ones that I never knew I would have. I have faced the fear of being wrong, the fear of being right, the fear of speaking out, the fear of being hated, and the fear of being liked.
While my fears, nowadays, don't normally present themselves in the form of a freakish man-bee, I now confront them on a daily basis. However, I've learned that confronting each day with a positive attitude and great expectations is the best way to go.
I've learned in this job that you can't please everybody. All you can do is stomp the bees and press on.