At age ten, I thought maybe I’d like to be a singer. At fifteen, I wanted to be a fashion journalist. Now, at age twenty, I have some idea of the path I want for my life, but I’ve learned that life has a way of laughing at your plans and so, realistically, I can’t say I know what the next five years will bring.
I don’t know what my first grown-up job will be, I don’t know where I’ll end up living, I don’t know how much longer my body will tolerate all the cheese I eat daily, and I don’t know who my children will call dad. But guess what – I know that it’s all gonna be okay, despite all the uncertainty.
I’m not afraid to say “I don’t know.” And neither should you.
It’s a beautiful phrase, filled with implications of endless possibilities and infinite paths that lie before you. It means that you know yourself well enough to know that you’ve still got some exploring to do, some self-discovery. Maybe you thought that you’d never leave home, but now you realize that home is wherever you make it so. Maybe you majored in business only to realize that your heart is more passionate about politics. And maybe, like my sister, you are unsure of absolutely everything about your career besides one pivotal thing: you want to help people.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that feeling lost and confused is so normal for humans that it’s an absolutely ludicrous notion to pretend that we know everything about anything – both in our life and in the lives of others around us. Just look at your parents – they raised you someway, somehow, because you’re still breathing aren’t you? And do you think that when they first held you in their arms and brought you home that they had any clue of what in the world they were doing? Of course not! No one ever really knows how to be a parent… until they are one. And no one really knows how to get a job, drive a car, or read a book… until they do it.
Sure, there’s always things in life that you’re going to need to know – like who to call in case of an emergency (911 of course) or how much money is left in your bank account (you can pretend you don’t know this one, but that will only get you into trouble), but the most beautiful things in life are the things unknown; the things we don’t plan for or even expect, but things we instead experience as a sort of strange and beautiful side effect of life.
So work hard, think fast, dream big, love deep, and live out loud.
Learn to see every “I don’t know” as a motivating force, a new opportunity, a grand adventure. Keep your wits, but don’t count on keeping your sanity. A life executed in perfect, pre-planned fashion isn’t always what you need, and the moments you’ll remember most in life are the ones that come after you stop doubting the beauty of things unknown; the moments where your uncertainty propels you forward from one grandiose journey to the next. And remember, if anyone asks you how you did it, look them in the eyes and smile as you tell them the simple truth, “I don’t know.”