I’m afraid to admit when I don’t know the answer. If I don’t change, that fear will be my biggest obstacle in life.
I don’t know when this started, but I think it was in a math class. That’s not really important.
I’m afraid to admit when I don’t know the answer, and if I don’t change, that fear will be the biggest obstacle in my life. In school, I was afraid of being called on; I was afraid someone would realize what I didn’t know, I was afraid that people would laugh if I thought I knew and I was wrong, and I was not confident in my ability to get to the right answer, so I felt no pride or accomplishment when I did know.
I put off asking questions when I think I should be able to figure it out. Usually, I shouldn’t be. Everyone else, at some point, is asking, and I made it to my sophomore year of college before I realized if you go to office hours you can ask all the questions you want and nobody will be mad, even maybe you should have asked last week when the topic first came up, or if you need a reminder about how to calculate cross-products, even if that is something you should maybe remember from geometry class.
When I ask questions, I feel like everybody is going to laugh.
I’m terrified of saying the wrong thing, or asking the wrong thing. When I ask questions, I feel like everybody is going to laugh. When they don’t laugh, I feel like it’s the elephant in the room, and everybody is trying to figure out how to explain the most basic concept imaginable, and there’s someone overseeing everything is taking notes and subtracting points every time I have to ask somebody for help.
I don’t think this when you ask questions. In my worldview, if you don’t know something, that’s reasonable, and if I don’t know something, that’s the last straw, and suddenly it’s a moral failure. This is the root of many problems in my life and I’m working very hard to learn how to ask questions, how to admit when I’m wrong, and how to see what I don’t know as an opportunity rather than a determinant of my character.
And, right now, I’ve been afraid to speak when I’m so sure that I can say it better if I just think about it more. If I wait another day. I have expected somebody to step up and say the right thing because I didn’t trust myself to do so. I’m so scared of being wrong, and of being seen being wrong, and I’ve let that fear of not responding exactly right stop me from responding at all.
All of this is to say, I understand you might not know what to say right now.
I understand you might not know what questions you should be asking. And, while I want to encourage you to do for yourself what is needed to learn, to read and to listen, and to take advantage of the resources available and to try not to ask people who are burdened by white supremacy every day to also take their time to explain it to you… While I want to encourage you to learn on your own, I also want to promise that I will try to see your earnest efforts in good faith. I will not laugh at you for having questions and I will not laugh at you for learning something it feels like everybody else somehow already knew. I will try to be gentle when you make mistakes, because we all make mistakes, and hopefully you’ll lend me the same grace.
I will not laugh at you for having questions and I will not laugh at you for learning something it feels like everybody else somehow already knew.
Make a list of the things you don’t know! Maybe you don’t know why these demonstrations don’t seem to match what you learned in school about civil disobedience. Maybe you don’t know what people mean when they say race is a construct. Maybe you agree with so many things people are saying, but you don’t know why people would want to decrease police presence in places that you see as unsafe. Maybe, and I’ll admit I wasn’t sure what people were talking about even a few days ago, you simply don’t know what people mean when they say “qualified immunity.”
It’s easiest to learn if you start with a question, the thing I’ve spent so much time and effort trying, unsuccessfully, to avoid. I’ve learned that my greatest fear is my only path forward. If that’s you, too, welcome.