I usually write an introduction and talk about this story or that story to build into my point, but we’re going to jump into it today:
“I don’t know” is an appropriate answer.
And if you’re currently thinking, “You never asked a question” well, I guess that’s kind of the point. Whatever your question is, “I don’t know” is an appropriate answer.
I have been lucky enough to grow up in the age of the internet. And I only say lucky enough because I am a very inquisitive person. If I wanted to know the capital of Russia, Google would tell me it’s Moscow. If I wanted to know what uranium is, Wikipedia would tell me it’s the 92nd element which use predates its discovery and was discovered by a German chemist (yes, I Googled that for this piece, and yes, that’s kind of the point). What I’m trying to say is that for almost 22 years, I have never had to settle for “I don’t know” and I think that’s a bad thing.
I love knowing things. A running joke in my family is that when I say, “I have a question,” something dangerous always follows. A question pops into my head and directly out my mouth, because I have lived in an age privileged enough to always have access to answers. If my parents didn’t have the answers, I could text my friends, text my sisters, Google it, post it on a forum, watch a documentary on it, watch a “how to” on YouTube, or (in a last resort) read a book about it. But answers have never been far out of reach. And I’m beginning to think that has done more harm than good.
Nowadays anyone can know anything, but that doesn’t mean everyone knows everything. In fact, most people know very little. And this doesn’t at all mean most people are dumb, but nearly every single person on this planet knows very little.
I’ll use me as an example. I don’t know:
How baffling is that? I don’t know how parts of my own body work. That’s insane. But the reality is I don’t know those things and an infinite number of other things. I don’t know so many things. And here’s the crazier thing. I’ve studied music for 10 years. I don’t know so much about music. I have a degree in Neuroscience. It’s sitting on my desk as I write this piece. I don’t know anything about neuroscience. Like, I know maybe, MAYBE, 0.00000001% of what there is to know about neuroscience, and that might even be a bit generous. If I know 0. 00000001% of a topic I HAVE A DEGREE IN, imagine how little I know about everything else.
how my elementary pen pal is?". And you may also not get answers to the big questions like “Why didn’t I get that job?” or “What the fuck am I supposed to do with a degree in behavioural neuroscience?”. Okay, may that 2nd one is more of a me-problem than a you-problem.
I hate uncertainty. That’s why “I have a question” is kind of my catchphrase. Because I want to know the answer and I want to know it right now. I want to know what to do with my degree, what career path to take, how to be a successful musician, how to be a good friend and sister and daughter, how to be a better songwriter, how to apply my nerdy passion for psychology in a way that makes me happy, and HOW TO FIX THE LITTLE HOSE IN MY FUCKING TOILET (it is one of more minor inconveniences, but it definitely makes the list).
In this day and age, knowing the answer seems more and more necessary. Everyone on Instagram has their life together, why can’t you? Society is falling apart, what are you going to do about it? The pandemic is garbage, how are you going to stop it? And the internet, while supplying information, can also be overwhelming and stressful and wrong. The internet is often wrong.
So, I’m going to arm you with a phrase that is totally okay to use: “I don’t know”. Because “I don’t know” is better than lying. It’s better than making something up. It’s better than pretending you’re better than the truth. When I was in university, students would ask questions during class and professors often wouldn’t know the answers. What did the professor do? Say, “I don’t know, but I’ll look it up and get back to you”. These are professionals in their fields, instructing the future generation and even they had to admit that they don’t know everything. And that’s okay. My sexual psychology professor dedicated about 20 minutes every week to answering questions from the previous week. Questions she didn’t know the answer to at the time, so she went home and researched and came back with an educated answer. But her original answer was “I don’t know”.
“I don’t know” isn’t wrong, it isn’t right either, but it’s simply a place holder. A place holder until you have the information. Eventually, I’ll know what to do with my life, what to do with my obsession with music, love of writing and nerdy interest for psychology. I’ll research how a speedometer works, get my mom to teach me how to change a tire, and (if I’m lucky) I might even fix my toilet. But for right now, I don’t know.
From me, with love, to you,