Your twenties are a time of uncertainty. You’re finishing college, starting a career in the real world, making friends and (losing friends) all the time. No matter how much you learn, no matter how much you know about things, there’s always something you don’t have the answers to yet.
We have to accept that it’s OK not to have those answers.
We’re often hard on ourselves because we forget that we’re 20-something and that it’s not even possible for us to know all of the answers yet.
I know it’s hard to remember that sometimes. I’m 23, and I’ve been out of college for a year and a half. I’m the youngest person in my office, and there are so many things that I don’t know yet. Every day, I encounter questions I can’t answer, projects without clear direction, and protocols that appear counter-intuitive. I’m surrounded by people aged 30-45, who have years and years of experience in my field, that seem much more confident and self-assured than I am.
I have to remind myself on a daily basis that it’s OK that I don’t know everything right now. I’m still learning, and every question I don’t have the answer to is a valuable opportunity for me to learn something new and/or develop a new skill. I also have to remind myself that even those 30-45 year olds don’t have all the answers either.
It has been a challenge to adapt to this mindset. I thrive on having order and control over my life, my finances, my work. I’m not a huge fan of uncertainty. I try to go with the flow, but I’m uncomfortable without a plan. I need to know things. I need lists, deadlines, structures. I need time to sit and research things I don’t understand. I don’t like not having an answer to a question.
This stems from my experience in high school, where I was always the person with all of the answers. I was my happiest in my trig and calc classes; I loved numbers and formulas because there was always one answer, and I excelled at finding those answers. I’d use the answers in the back of the book to check my work, feeling satisfied when they matched up and determined to find where I went wrong if they didn’t.
Real life has become incredibly messy and complicated, and there is no back of the book for me to compare my answers to anymore. There’s no way to see if I’m on the right track anymore, aside from looking within myself and simply asking if it feels like I’m on the right track.
I’ve had to embrace the fact that there will always be questions that I don’t have the answers to, no matter how much that scares me. I’ve had to accept that many of those questions will be answered eventually, even if the answer isn’t apparent right away. Most importantly, I’ve had to accept that some of those questions may go resolved.
No matter the outcome, the important thing is not to get caught up in the question itself, but what you learn from the question.
One thing I’ve learned, over and over again, is that just because you reach a certain point in time, whether it’s your 24th birthday, graduation day from college, or the day of your wedding, you won’t magically have all the answers. It’s not about reaching a certain age or checking off a certain accomplishment, it’s about the process and what you learn along the way. — Marina Crouse
Every question that you don’t have an answer to is a valuable learning opportunity to go out there and find that answer. In fact, you should use it as a springboard to ask more questions.
Instead of shrugging your shoulders and saying “I don’t know,” say “I’m not sure, let me look it up” or “I’m not sure, let me ask (coworker).”
It’s OK to ask for help. Asking for help doesn’t make you look weak or incompetent, it makes you look smart because it shows that you know how to ask the questions to get the answers you need.
It’s also OK to ask questions–just ask smart ones. Being prepared comes in handy here too. If you’ve already done as much research as possible on the issue you’re facing, you’ll know that whatever questions you come up with will be met with genuine answers instead of rolled eyes. — Sarah Landrum
As long as you can embrace that each question you don’t have the answer to is a valuable learning opportunity, everything will be OK.
What questions have you encountered lately that you don’t have the answers for? I’d love to help you try to work through them – feel free to comment below.
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