Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about unknowns.
For the past month, I’ve been dealing with some pretty debilitating stomach issues and it was driving me crazy not knowing what was wrong. I had just gotten home from 4 months traveling in SE Asia and felt great the whole time, and now that I was back home in my natural habitat was when my body decided to start acting up. I was feeling nauseous all the time, having lower abdominal pain, and was so light-headed I could hardly stay on my feet for more than a few minutes.
My parents and I went through days of googling trying to pinpoint what could possibly be causing these symptoms. As the three of us are all vegan and gluten-free, we have a tendency to turn to diet for answers but nothing seemed to quite explain my symptoms.
I finally went to the ER one night after having to leave work early and after scores of tests we at last managed to pin down the culprit: Giardia, most likely picked up while I was trekking in the Himalayas in Nepal.
While knowing that it was Giardia didn’t immediately make my symptoms go away, just having a concrete answer as to what was causing me to feel so crummy had a hugely positive effect on my spirits. It had been a long and slow battle to kick the parasite to the curb, but at least now I know what I am fighting!
The unknown can be a scary thing. Because it is scary, we have a tendency to hide from the unknown rather than shining a light on it. Instead of turning to face it, learn about it, confront it, or even work together with it, we turn away and pretend it isn’t there. Somehow it feels safer to just keep ourselves in the dark. This, of course, does not mean the problem goes away – we know in the back of our minds that it is continuing to occur right under our noses, causing us stress in subtle ways, even as we pretend it doesn’t exist.
These unknowns can come in all sorts of different forms: money, relationships, physical health. We don’t check our bank account because we know we’ve spent a lot of money lately and don’t want to see how much it amounted to. We don’t ask the person we’re dating if they want to be exclusive because we are afraid they will say no. We continue taking pills to fight our symptoms without putting in the effort to find out what is causing those symptoms in the first place.
I know that finances are a big one for me. I can easily get overwhelmed by the intricacies of credit reports, interest, and keeping track of where every penny goes. Sometimes it feels easier to just ignore it all because being “on top of it” feels like it would take too much effort. Besides, it doesn’t affect me in my immediate present moment, so why should I worry?
And yet, when I’m not paying attention to my bank account and my spending habits, there is always this lingering, pesky feeling in the back of my mind that I should be. I know that money is important and I want to be someone who is financially stable, who uses discretion when spending, who is able to budget and save and not go into debt. So why do I allow it to have such power over me? Ignoring my money is the complete opposite of what I should be doing!
The age of information
What I have found with money and other topics is that even a small amount of research can make a world of difference. There are so many available resources out there! I have slowly been collecting bits of financial information over the years through podcasts, books, and YouTube videos and even the few nuggets of wisdom I have gained has helped me feel more empowered with my money. Sometimes all you really need is one or two key pieces of knowledge to be way ahead of the game.
In a world where we can instantly find out any information we want to know, there is absolutely no excuse for turning a blind eye or pretending we didn’t know any better. We have the world at our fingertips and can learn anything online from building a shelf to applying cat-eye make-up to 17 different ways to open a bottle without a bottle opener! Sure, there is a lot of conflicting information out there, but so many of us fail to even do the few minutes of investigation it would take to be slightly more informed on essential topics.
Shine a light on it
If there is something in your life that is stressing you out, start by asking yourself this question: if I were to spend just one hour doing some research on this topic, would that help me feel a little less stressed about it?
Maybe you know you need a new computer but are worried about how much you think it will cost. Rather than assuming it will be too expensive, start by deciding on a price you can afford and then do some browsing online to see what is in your price range. If you aren’t finding something that works, ask around to friends about good deals they may have gotten or go into a store and talk to someone. Once you have some baseline information, you can adjust the amount you want to spend and move forward to create a savings plan.
You may not find out everything you need to know in that one hour, but doing a little digging may get you on the right path and lead you to some valuable resources. It may still take some time to completely solve the problem, but at least you are one step closer to getting what you want! And having at least some information is better than making blind assumptions and then worrying based off those assumptions that might not even be true!
You know that feeling when you are really nervous about something for days, maybe even weeks, and then when it finally happens you realize that the lead-up was way worse than the actual thing? This is often what happens when we finally shine a light on the unknown – we realize that the stress and the fear we felt when we were in the dark was actually much worse than the reality of the situation.
Because even if the reality sucks, at least now we can move forward with the facts rather than continuing to guess about worst-case scenarios in our minds. The reality we are afraid of – enormous credit card debt, a failing relationship, an email we don’t want to open – is going to be there whether or not we want it to be, so we may as well arm ourselves with knowledge and face it head on!
So, what is your unknown? What is it that you are afraid of but not confronting? What small step can you take today to learn a little more about that unknown so you can turn it into a solvable problem rather than something that continues to fester behind your back?