The Gift of “I Don’t Know”

A big part of planning for college is focused on the future. What schools will I apply to? What will I major in? Who am I going to be when I “grow up”? At times, it might seem like everyone around you has answered these questions (and that you’re being plagued by adults who won’t stop asking them), and if it can be unsettling and even embarrassing if you haven’t yet.

But there is another way to look at the uncertainty you might experience when you’re planning for college: As a gift. As crazy as it may sound, that feeling of “I don’t know” can be a positive, and if you embrace it, it can benefit you not only on your journey to college, but throughout college and your future. What does “I don’t know” really mean? 

You are open to possibility & exploration. It’s natural to want certainty in our lives. Knowing what’s going to happen can make us feel secure. Sometimes, we let our desire for that feeling hold us back, and we might just stick with what we’ve always done or what other people are doing so we don’t have to deal with the unknown. When you “don’t know” about something, it doesn’t mean that you’re clueless or immature; it means that you’re just in a place of “unknowing,” which is where possibility and exploration are thriving. 

You have more opportunities to find what’s really right for you. Of course, it’s fine if you already know what you want for your future. But it’s important to check in with yourself now and then and ask, “Do I still want this? Is it still right for me? How do I know?” If you’re just sticking with your choices because you’re used to them, or because they feel safe, you could be overlooking countless opportunities. When you’re uncertain about what to do or what comes next, you have a unique chance to check things out and see what’s right for you at this point in your life. It’s not that you aren’t ever going to make decisions (because you definitely will); you’re just looking at all the opportunities that are out there so you can make the best ones.

You are practicing for a rewarding future. Handling uncertainty is a huge part of being an adult, and the better you are at it, the more satisfying your life can be. If you can be patient with yourself as a teenager and discover the pros of “not knowing,” you’ll find it a lot easier to navigate the ebbs and flows of life that we all inevitably face. You’ll also start to see a connection between being open and taking chances and sometimes unexpected rewards. If we always stick to what we know, we might never find out what else was possible or what we were truly capable of. It’s often the people who take chances and see “I don’t know” as an inspiration rather than a deterrent who create amazing lives and achieve exceptional things. 

It might not be easy to admit to yourself and others that you just don’t know about this or that. True, some people might be judge-y, or pressure you to make choices, but if you trust yourself and stay committed to doing things your own way, in your own time, you will make wise and healthy decisions. Be brave and listen to yourself, so when you do say “I know,” you’ll not only have an answer, but you’ll  know that it’s the best one for you.

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