A few minutes ago I was speaking to a very good friend about why I felt like the walls were closing in and why everything seemed to suck a little.
I told her that I knew this mood was a passing thing, I just needed to get through the next few weeks. I’ll feel better when more things are set in stone. Everything right now is unconfirmed, up in the air, unknown. Standing on the precipice of the rest of my life after graduation, it’s safe to say that there are a lot of uncertainties; when will I get my job confirmation? What grade will I get? Will I stay in touch with the people I love? Did I make the right degree choice? What am I going to do without the safety net of studenthood? How the hell do you do taxes?
Then it hit me. I’ll feel better when more things are set in stone. That mindset, the mindset of always waiting for things to be slightly better or slightly surer, was a large part of what was driving my misery. Why should I always have to wait to feel happy when I could start right now?
See, life is always liminal. There are always uncertainties, always next steps, always things that we’re not sure about. If we wait for certainty and equate security with happiness, we’ll never find it, because to live is to be unsure. And weirdly enough, that’s actually the best part about it.
Coming to terms with the fragility and uncertainty in life is a terrifying prospect. When you have anxiety, and probably even if you don’t, we like to know everything. But we can’t, and that’s a good thing. If we always knew what was around the corner, every step we’d take, every curveball, every mistake, every miracle, life would really be pretty boring. Not knowing what’s going to happen all the time actually gives us the freedom to carve out our own path.
Think about it like this: if you knew everything that was going to happen every day for the rest of your life, what would be the point? You could never change, never step out of the box or off the path. Life would be predictable and boring rather than the exciting and horrifyingly scary, awkward, winding, incredible journey that it is.
Uncertainty gives us power.
Do you want to know a cool fact about electrons? Of course you do, who doesn’t love cool facts?
A cornerstone of quantum mechanics, the branch of science that explains how the smallest and most important beings in the universe (atoms, electrons, protons, quarks, etc.) work, is indeterminacy, otherwise known as uncertainty.
It was theorised that we do not know the location of a tiny sub-atomic particle like an electron until it interacts with something, they pop in and out of existence depending on whether there is something around to make it appear. This may seem strange, but this uncertainty at their location allows them to perform quantum leaps, tiny jumps from atom to atom that allow a transfer of energy and substance that keeps life moving and holds all the matter in the entire universe together.
Uncertainty is literally the stuff of life!
Now, this isn’t to say that we should be uncertain all the time, it’s good and important to know things, and we should always make an effort to try. But, sometimes we have to accept that we can’t always know for sure, and make peace with that. Being okay with not knowing if everything’s going to be okay is, what I think, one of the most important things we need to, well, be okay.
My friend responded in her usual wise fashion:
“You’re trying your best at the moment, you really are, and that’s all that needs to matter.”
Right now I’m working hard, I’m giving it my all, and I’m still me. Yes, I may not get the grade I want. Yes, I may lose touch with a few people. Yes, I may regret not studying something else as everything is interesting. Yes, I may realise all too soon that being an adult is scary. But guess what? All of those are maybe’s too. Whether good or bad, I just don’t know right now, and I’m okay with that.
What I do know is that no matter what happens, no matter what doors close or open, I’ll find my way. I’ll try again. I’ll carve a new path. And who knows? Maybe what actually happens is better than anything I could have imagined or predicted.
The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once wrote: “all is in flux”. He was right; from the sub-atomic particles that make up every object in the universe to the complexities of human life, things are always changing and always on the move, and that’s just how we like it.
So, the key to being okay when everything’s not okay is being at peace with uncertainty at the details, but being certain that no matter what happens, things will get better, because you’ll make them that way.
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