What a lovely day for a hike. What’s that? Oh, the sign says there could be bears on the trail? Don’t worry; I’ll keep an eye out. Just remember the old saying: bears are more afraid of you than you are of dying alone.

You know that deep, existential fear that grips your heart in the middle of the night, when you imagine yourself passing into the next life with no one by your side? That’s the same kind of dread bears experience when face-to-face with humans, except theirs is worse.

Remember your best friend’s wedding? As you watched the glowing bride and groom exchange their vows, you were struck with the sudden image of everyone in your life getting married and raising families while you remained an eternal adolescent. I know that has haunted you ever since. But it’s nothing compared to the icy terror that would seize the bones of any bear with the misfortune of crossing paths with you.

What about those little moments when it strikes you how lonely you are, and how lonely you will forever remain? Like when you’re sitting on the toilet, and you suddenly realize that there’s not a single roll of toilet paper left in your apartment, but because you live alone, no one can fetch some for you? When it sinks in that this is what it’s going to be like for the rest of your life? It’s debilitating, that realization. Even so, it doesn’t hold a candle to what bears have to go through if they were even to get a whiff of you.

Haven’t you always worried that you’ll be just like old Mr. Thompson who lived down the street from you growing up? Old Mr. Thompson, who never married, never had children, who didn’t seem to have anyone who cared about him? I know that, as each year goes by, you think about how he was alone in his final moments. How no one noticed he was gone until the mail started to pile up. How there was no one at his funeral but the undertaker. You fear that fate for yourself. Well, imagine that fear, multiplied by ten. It still doesn’t come close to how scared bears are of you.

There’s no need to be frightened. You really will be just fine. At least when it comes to the bears.