Lessons In Growing Up: The Power Of I Don’t Know

the power of i don't know
Larisa Birta

When I was a freshman in college, I had so much pity for the juniors and seniors that didn’t know what they wanted to do, or who they wanted to be, after graduation. For some funny reason I thought that you were supposed to have your life figured out by the time you reached working age, aka twenty-one years old. I might as well have titled this, “Lessons in Growing Up: I’m Still Naïve and Don’t Know Anything.”

I’m not a planner. I hate planning things, and I don’t like to think too deeply into my future. The only things I plan are my outfits, trips or vacations, and my articles. As millennial and aloof as this will sound, I like to go with the flow.

To my utter shock, going with the flow is not an accepted lifestyle. Or so I’ve been told. Every single day, it feels like someone is asking me a different iteration of the same question. “What are you going to do after graduation?” To this I answer one of many ideas that I have been meditating upon:

Maybe I’ll take a year off to travel and write.
Maybe I’ll go to graduate school for screenwriting.
Maybe I’ll go to graduate school for creative writing.
Maybe I’ll get a job as a writer back home in New York City.
Maybe I’ll move overseas to live with my family in Paris and write for a magazine there.

Honestly, I don’t know and whereas I used to worry about this, I no longer do. I have time.

Time is a concept that used to fuel my anxiety. I never thought there was enough of it and I constantly felt out of control. It is so easy to succumb to feelings of panic and stress when, at every turn, you are being reminded of the decisions you have yet to make. There is never enough time in the day; conversely, we have all the time in the world. So, what’ll it be? Is this the part where I panic?

No.

I don’t know what I want to do. I don’t know who I want to be. I only recently became comfortable with who I am. There is so much underappreciated power in those statements.

We live in a time where it is almost embarrassing to admit that you don’t know something. Virtually anything and everything a person could ever want to know are available to them at the touch of a button, or the push of a few keys. If you don’t know something you’re lazy, ignorant, uneducated, not trying hard enough, or all of the above. Let’s rewrite this narrative.

I say, “I don’t know” about a hundred times a day. Not because I’m any of the aforementioned adjectives. But, because I can acknowledge my lack of information without feeling threatened by someone else’s intellect. I want to learn, and by saying that I don’t know something maybe another option, idea, or useful explanation will come from it. Nobody knows everything. Plans change, people want different things, and life is full of surprises.

I can name any number of instances where situations I’ve planned have gone awry, and where situations that were completely unplanned ended perfectly. When it comes to your future, sure some planning should come into play. Or, a lot of planning—if that’s what you’re into. However, I’m not into that, and to be frank I’m sick of people treating me like a ticking time bomb. It’s all going to work out. I will be fine, and so will you.

When I was in high school I remember attempting to plan my future. Honestly, I was kind of forced into it by my guidance counselor. I never followed that plan. I had no idea what I was doing or going to do, and guess what… I turned out all right!! If I had planned what I wanted my life to look like, and followed that plan, I wouldn’t have accomplished anything that I have in the three years since my high school graduation. It goes both ways.

I could sit here and list a bunch of things that I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m going to live to one hundred years old. I don’t know what I am going to eat for dinner. I don’t know what my grades will look like at the end of the semester. I don’t know if I will be able to adopt a dog next year, even though I really want to. I don’t know what it will be like for me to spend an entire year abroad after graduation. I certainly do not know how to file my taxes or balance a budget. I don’t know so many things, but I will learn them in due time, and I am finally okay with that. TC mark

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