The Gift of Uncertainty

Face it. You’ve got no idea where you’re headed.

​If you are an individual lucky enough to already have the path of your life cut into stone, good for you. Also, get away from me because I hate you.

For the other 99.9 percent of college students who have no idea what comes after graduation, whose stomachs churn and shrivel with anxiety at the thought of being a real adult in the real world with gulp a real job, the years of secondary education can turn your hair gray.

College is tough. Late nights, burning ends of the candle you didn’t even know existed just so you can get a B- in a gen ed class that has nothing to do with your degree. A class that, I might add, costs as much as an iPhone X (although I don’t know if that’s a knock on tuition or Apple, ideally it’s both). With all the cash, sweat and probably blood one puts into a college degree, one would expect to at least understand why they’re doing it.

So why do so many of us have absolutely no idea? An even bigger, more pressing question is, “What do we do about it?”

My answer? Nothing. Figure it out. You’ve got time. The old cliche, “life is short,” is wrong. The average lifespan is nearly 80 years, and it’s a little ridiculous for us to assume to have it all figured out only a quarter of the way in. You don’t sit down to watch a movie hoping to know all that’s coming in the first 30 minutes.

But how can we be OK with not having a plan when we see Youtubers our age making millions or when we see artists like Billie Eilish or Lil Pump gaining worldwide recognition when they’re both still teenagers?

Sure, people like that might have figured out how to press the right buttons before we do, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never figure it out. Success at a young age is the exception, not the rule. Plenty of the biggest names in the world didn’t get that way until well into adulthood.

Media extraordinaire Oprah Winfrey was virtually unknown until she hosted “Chicago AM” at age 29.

“Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling was 33 when her books hit shelves.

Jay-Z, one of the most critically and financially successful rappers of all time, didn’t put a full-length album out until he was 30.

David Lynch, a pioneer in independent filmmaking, didn’t even know he wanted to make movies until he was 30.

Morgan Freeman, whose films have grossed a collective $4.31 billion, didn’t star in a movie until he was 43 years old.

Destinations are only a single part of the trip. There’s a Point A and a Point B, but nobody ever wants to talk about the space between them. The space can be cold and hostile, but in that place is also a young person’s greatest gift: uncertainty. Embrace not having a clear path forward as long as you really want to—you’ll get where you want to go eventually.

So take that, the 0.01 percent that already have your stuff figured out. You’re not so cool now.

mason.robert.dredge@mail.umkc.edu

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