Quarter Life Questions

I recently turned 25—

Felt a little old as I typed that.

I recently turned 25, and I have—naturally, perhaps—been thinking about a lot of Big Life Things lately. You know, classics like “What is my purpose in life?” and all those kind of heavy hitters.

I don’t have any answers to those questions, nor do I expect to anytime soon. Old as I may feel, I know that, objectively, I’m only 25. In the grand scheme of things, I still have most of my life before me in which to learn and change and, hopefully, grow in wisdom.

I’m okay with not knowing the answers to the big questions…mostly. At times, I find it hard to reconcile my age and my feelings now with what my perception of them was as a child. Because as a kid, 25 seemed old, and I thought I’d have it all figured out by now.

Turns out, I’m not even close to “figured.” Old as I feel, I also feel so very very young.

But there’s a difference with being “okay” with not knowing and being “at peace” with it. I don’t think I’m yet wise enough to be at peace.

Enter podcasts. Podcasts can be so wise.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about On Being, and I am almost certain it won’t be the last. I came across an interview with Kevin Kelly called The Universe is a Question, and though the whole episode is thought provoking and worth a listen (or transcript read), this is the part that really caught me:

So we have this world where, basically, answers have become cheap and ubiquitous and pervasive, and they’re everywhere, and so what’s much scarcer are good questions. And good questions are kind of like a discovery. They’re kind of like a way of exploring “what if?”

I’ve never thought of it in that way before. How many times—how many times a day, even—do you Google something for an answer? I do it constantly. How many teaspoons are in a cup? How tall is Mt. Everest? How do you find Chuck Norris? Google knows. And, in just a few clicks, you can, too.

But, as Kelly brings up in the podcast, though machines are very good at answering questions, they’re not so good at coming up with the questions. This is important because the questions are the beginning of everything. Whether you’re asking what God is or what cancer cells do when exposed to radiation, it’s the question that sparks and leads to more and more and more.

I don’t know if I ever had this phase—my memory isn’t that good—but I do remember very clearly when my youngest brother was, well, young and going through that thing a lot of little kids do, asking “Why?” over and over again. No matter what the answer was, there was always another “But why?” to follow it until the adult’s knowledge (usually about science…why is the sky blue, etc.) ran out and the line of questioning was ended with a sigh/laugh and a “Because it just is.”

I think too many of us “adults” settle into the “because it is” way of things. We are complacent. We work our 9 to 5s and fold our laundry and accept our lives for what they are instead of marveling at the universe. We check apps to see the weather and the time of the sunrise without wondering why the clouds turn pink or how snowflakes form.

To be fair, our science teachers probably taught us these things and we forgot once we turned in the bubble sheet for the test.

Elsewhere on this blog, I’ve used my “birthday post” to write about things I know or have learned. But now that I’m closer to 30 than I am to 20 (what the…), I’m realizing that what I’m learning isn’t as important as the learning itself. I’m focusing more on the questions and the search. Less outcome, more journey.

Elsewhere on this blog, I’ve hoped to never stop learning. While that’s still true, now I wish to have the grace to never stop asking the questions that will make be a better person, daughter, and friend. I hope that I can ask the questions that will lead to our world being a better place.

Right now, I can even add those questions to the list of things I don’t know.

And that’s okay, too. Because just as we don’t need answers as much as we need questions, we don’t need black and white answers as much as we need to be willing to wade through the gray.

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