There aren't many things I'm afraid of. Spiders don't bother me; I LOVE thunderstorms; and I'm fine with tall buildings. I open umbrellas indoors and walk under ladders. I even like snakes. But there's one thing that gets me every single time: My techs. Now, don't get me wrong. My techs are awesome people, great teachers, and a lot of fun to be around. But they scare the heck out of me. This irrational fear of mine started back in high school. We used to joke that our drum line instructor could make you tick just by looking at you -- and invariably, that was what happened: He'd come over to check out your hands, and like clockwork, you'd mess up. No one was immune to this magic power of his. When I started into the drum corps scene, I discovered that he was not the only one with this amazing ability, nor was I the only one susceptible to it. As far as I can tell, with a few exceptions, everyone falls prey to the tech-tick syndrome. It's a lovely psychological game we play with ourselves: We get so nervous about screwing up that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We think frantically, "Don't tick, don't tick, don't tick," and our minds become so focused on it -- and the inevitable comments from the tech -- that we do it. After the first couple of these incidents, we start to dread the tech walking over or even glancing our way, because we know what comes next. But really, it's fairly ridiculous. Our techs aren't there to scare us, and they certainly don't WANT us to mess up; they're there, rather, to make us better. I had this realization one day while assisting in a taekwondo class. I went over to assist a purple belt with a technique; when he saw me approaching, he groaned, "Oh no," and hung his head. Immediately I said, "Hey, I'm just here to help you. I want you to get better -- that's what I'm here for." As soon as the words left my mouth I realized what all my instructors must have thought when I groaned at their approaches ... because that's what they're here for: To help me get better. They can't do that if they don't catch our mistakes. So, far from being nervous about that fact -- and thereby making it worse -- we should be glad about it. That doesn't mean my heart doesn't beat a little faster when my tech walks over, or that I don't sometimes play the mind games with myself. But it helps to know that, far from that magical mess-up power residing with the techs, it remains entirely within ourselves to control. Because the sooner we stop being scared, the sooner we can start getting better, and that's what it's really all about. Send Emily feedback and ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Emily Tannert is currently living in Knoxville, Tenn., taking a year off from school before she returns to Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., for a master's degree. She was the 2002 drum major for the Pioneer, and will play in the 2003 Glassmen pit. She will age out in 2003.