Panic

‘It’s not the doubts that get to me themselves,’ Peggy tried to explain. ‘I know I haven’t screwed up, I really do.’

Tyler, who was handing in his final assignment of the year at the same time, looked up from the paperwork he was filling in and gave her due attention. Peggy rarely expressed her inner thoughts out loud to him.

‘I mean, the doubts don’t help,’ she added quickly, ‘but when I panic, really panic, then they’re not the reason. I mean, I doubt my sentence structure and what people think of me and whether or not I’ve locked the front door on a daily basis. But those things don’t get to me.’

Tyler put his pen down on the table that was digging into his knees and rest his chin on the back of his hand. He waited.

‘I just think: “Am I good enough? Am I worth all this? Do I deserve to do well?” And some people will say that’s stupid, and it is, or that it encourages the doubts, and it does. Other people will tell me to ignore those thoughts as though that’s a rational response – as though people can actually just squash all their doubts down and pretend they’re not there and live happily ever after. Well, I don’t believe it. Those people don’t understand what it’s like to be afraid of something and nothing.’

Tyler smiled a tight smile. He knew he was one of those people. He grabbed his assignment and the cover sheet and stood up. Peggy copied him.

‘Ready?’ he asked. Peggy gripped her assignment firmly between a pair of long-fingered, shaking hands.

‘I’m good. It’s good.’

‘It’s good,’ he confirmed, unsure what to say.

‘Thanks,’ she said. She turned away from him, then turned back. ‘It doesn’t help,’ she added. ‘But it might in time.’

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