I have a friend who is fervent in their stance that “I don’t know” is an answer to any and all things. And that in lieu of having an answer, it’s the best (most honest) thing to say. I’m not sure I’d really considered that much before she had told me that one day, many moons ago. But it makes sense, doesn’t it? There isn’t a need to make stuff up (though as humans we often create an answer to fill the void). Maybe we need to appear smart, put together, Johnny-on-the-spot, etc. Maybe we just need to keep our insecurities at bay. But I do think she is right. “I don’t know”, and it’s copious amounts of family members (“I am not sure”, “I don’t have that answer”, ::shrug::), are valid in the place of some made up filler.
I guess this post is coming from a realization that I use the shrug emoji a lot. It’s made me think about how much in this life and in this world that we don’t actually know. It’s more than you’d think (probably because like above, people aren’t quick to admit that they don’t have an answer–or they just create one in place of not actually having an answer). Another friend and I had a deep conversation a month or two ago about how your thoughts and understanding changes as an adult. I think as young people we are pumped with knowledge, and the expectation that we can regurgitate it on command. Whether taught directly or indirectly, we gain the understanding that we need to have concrete answers (for ourselves and others). So this friend was completely vulnerable about how little he actually felt like he knew. It shook me to my core, because that’s never been his default. But it also caused lots of aftershocks in my brain over the following weeks. Some of what he shared about his interactions with others was very real to what I was feeling in some other friendship. It gave me new perspective and understanding, and legs to stand on moving forward. It gave me a foundation to tweak and make my own. Though many things have changed over the years, his philosophical spirit is still intact.
So your take-away? Be honest. Know it’s okay to “not know”. Be empowered to say that (and then maybe even empowered again to try and find the answer). Just because I don’t know the answer doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions about it–but those things are very different. Even when I do know the answer, often I still have opinions about it. There can be beauty in the unknown.