“I don’t know! Don’t ask me! How am I supposed to know?” Young people often say that they don’t know because they don’t, because it’s the truth - however frustrating that may be for adults.
“Okay, but what are you going to do with your life?”
“Haven’t a clue!”
“How are you feeling?”
“Why did you do it?”
The world rewards us for knowing. In schools, young people are expected to know the answers and, when they don’t, they often pretend. Yet, when it comes to the most important things in life, the things that most concern them - love, death, friendships, the future - not knowing what to think and feel is usually the truth.
Young people hate not knowing. It makes them understandably anxious, especially when so many adults seem so sure. One response to not knowing is to give up altogether, to despair. Another is to split everything in the world into good or bad, loveable or hateful, because then everything seems simpler and it’s easier to convince ourselves that we ‘know’, even when the truth is much more complicated. A third response is to clutch at answers. Two young people going out together might not ‘know’ whether or not they love each other. They worry, feeling that they ought to know, so they cover their anxiety with endless reassurances (“I really do love you!”), with expensive presents (“Because I love you!”) or with sex (“This proves how much I love you!”) in order to prove something to themselves, to be sure. When these strategies don’t work, they might resort to pregnancy or marriage: anything to make the anxiety of not knowing go away.