"I Don't Know" Is A Valid Response To Have

'I Don't Know' Is A Valid Response To Have

We're not these magical, all-knowing entities after all.


In a world where millions of answers to different things are no more than a computer or smart phone away, shouldn't everyone know everything about everything at this point? The answer is of course not because we are people and not robots, but some people in the world are not convinced that a simple "I don't know" will suffice to a question.

As of late, I've been seeing a few people online talking about this concept. One person in particular suggested that this whole problem may stem from how, as we grow up and go through school, we're taught that we simply cannot just say "I don't know." Now obviously there's a difference between saying this just because you don't want to answer a question and an honest lack of information, but even the latter situation seems to be frowned upon.

For example, in an online debate, say the other person brings up a point that you can't respond to since it is new information. It should be perfectly OK to say "I don't know about that because I haven't done research on it." Alternatively, if you find that you're proven wrong, you should be able to say "I was speaking from a place of misinformation before, but I know now that I was wrong."

It's not a crime to not know about something. Sometimes I'll be asked about my feelings toward something, and I will respond honestly that I have no clue because I haven't processed it. When I'm asked a difficult question at work, I'll say "I don't know the answer to that question, but let me find out for you."

As I mentioned before, this phrase shouldn't be treated as a get-out-of-jail-free card, but rather a tool among your communication skills in order to foster conversations that are open, calm, and respectful. Knowledge is power, but stubborn ignorance is foolish.

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Friendship: From School To College

The only thing I know is that I don't know


In the first version of my common app essay I wrote about friendship. I started by describing this mural I have in my bedroom. It occupies about two walls and is as huge as you are probably picturing in your head. I have always been slightly entitled, and so at the time I really thought I understood what friendship was about. I had just had a massive fight with some people whom I used to consider very close friends, and I had proceeded to (very dramatically) take down some pictures from this mural. So the mural was incomplete, and I used this as a metaphor in an essay that if I had submitted it at the time, I probably wouldn't be writing this article for Odyssey at Emory because I wouldn't have gotten into college in the first place.

Thankfully, I decided against that essay and submitted a completely different version in December of 2016. The mural, however, continues to be incomplete. I have made peace with some of the people I had fought with back then, and have made new friends in college and matured quite a bit since that first draft of my common app essay. Now, I can more humbly say that I don't really know much about friendships, or people in general, despite pursuing a psychology major for the past two years. The mural is incomplete because of this lack of knowledge.

Something that I have learned though is that college friendships and school friendships are fundamentally different. I went to a small school from when I was six years old to the time I graduated. That is a whole lifetime seeing the same people every day, growing up with those people, a whole lifetime to understand the values and habits of those people. And even then they can surprise you. So how arrogant did I have to be to not expect any surprises from people I knew for only one year in college. It's true that it's a different way of knowing people, that living together away from home pulls people closer than in any other situation. But how well can you really know someone after one or two years?

Not well enough, is the only answer I have been able to come up with. There is a certain symmetry I think, of me writing a bad essay about my broken mural after having a fight with my friends in school, and now three years since then here I am, writing a more humble version of that essay about that same mural, which remains incomplete. But this time, the mural isn't incomplete because I am mad or hurt and don't want to look at certain faces. Its incomplete because I am not sure who I want to put up in the mural yet.

I have never liked the idea of family being your blood relatives, because there are many blood relatives that I don't like, and many people whom I am not related to by blood but am related to by heart. There are few certainties, and these are up in my mural. But as I mentioned before, it's a huge mural, and so there is still a lot of space left for more.

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