The unknown has always been a vague mysterious place. We are so unsure of what lies before us, literally and metaphorically, that we opt to take the roads more traveled. And although we are encouraged by society to be the trailblazers of the unknown, it’s so much more comfortable and safe to go where others have gone.
But why are we so afraid of the unknown? What is there really to fear about what is yet to come? Is it simply because we are afraid that whatever it is will negatively impact our life?
But how bad can the unknown really be if it is something that is inherent and ever-present in everything we do?
We say that magic isn’t real, but the unknown is the closest to magic that we’ll have in this life.
Because the unknown is in everyday, commonplace things — things you, quite simply, never knew you’d wind up doing. It is staying up for three nights making a Powerpoint presentation about sushi burritos with acquaintances. It is obsessing over the details of the nigiri on wheels that somehow leads to winning a competition and subsequent spontaneous trips to Montreal, Newport, Los Angeles, and New York City all within less than a year. It is becoming best friends with people who you once only saw and admired from afar. It is having a large part of your college experience defined by the most unexpected group of people who only became friends on chance. It is the beauty in never expecting to talk to these people more than once, let alone spamming them in endless texts about every nuance of your life.
It is the people you meet in your classes. It is a small class of 16 people, and vaguely knowing and recognizing the faces around you. It is one quarter later, when one of those faces ends up in half of your classes that you muster up the courage to say hello. And it is days of studying literature and brain cognition underneath new spring sunshine, which somehow translates to exchanging stories from California to Mississippi to Fuzhou. It is these moments when you begin to realize that even though we as humans are not so different from each other, we as people carry so many different beautiful stories. There are certainly infinite ways of hearing about someone’s story, but the best way is when you deviate from discussing central themes of women and sexuality into hearing about one’s transmigration from an unmapped Chinese village to Jackson, Mississippi.
It would be naïve of me to say that the unknown always brings good things. All things in life are balanced out, but just because it isn’t what you may have initially perceived as “good” doesn’t make it any less beautiful.
It is networking sessions and forgetting that you came to get a job because you wind up meeting someone who shares your wanderlust and is also traveling to Europe for the first time. It is realizing that you only go to school two hours away from each other and believing that a relationship must be possible. It is being unable to find any fault within this perfection and feeling the first “spark” in years but everything not working out. It is the bittersweet aftertaste of the one who got away. But it is realizing that you never really know who you’ll meet and where you’ll meet them.
The unknown terrifies me because I don’t know if whatever it is will hurt or help me. It is human instinct to want to avoid anything that might threaten our ability to live the life that we want. Our fear of the unknown manifests in a seemingly eternal feeling of stress, but wasting time stressing out about the unknown and the future is time that could be better spent cherishing the present.
I’m about to embark on a three-month study abroad in Prague. I just spent my last week traveling across Switzerland. It’s hard being in a country where you can’t read anything, and I’ve definitely missed my fair share of gates, trains and buses. But I’ve also somehow ended up hiking through the Alps and then subsequently meeting a group of people who speak my dying Chinese dialect right when I began to feel more alone than ever.
I don’t want to challenge you to embrace the unknown. We can’t just lovingly take in things we aren’t sure about because that is dangerous. However, I do want to challenge you to accept the unknown for what it is, and to recognize that what you think the unknown is and what it winds up being are usually two very different things. And that’s okay. The unknown won’t always be what you expect, and maybe it won’t be something good, but I genuinely believe that everything happens for a reason and that the dots will all connect one day in the future.
What’s next? I don’t know. But the unknown has brought me some of my life’s greatest blessings, and regardless of what it is, I know it’ll work out.