I Don't Know

A woman and a young boy, both with puzzled looks on their face, shrugging their shoulders

By: Anne Wilkinson

 

If you knew me, you would know that these are the hardest three words for me to acknowledge–I DON'T KNOW. I'll give you some background information. My job is to know things. My job is to find answers to questions. My job is to make predictions based on historical data, trends, facts, and figures. I am very good at my job. More than just my job, some people would say these things are ingrained into the essence of who I am. Every personality or competency test I've been given seems to echo my need to know. On Strength Quest, I'm a Learner; on True Colors, I'm Gold. You get the idea. In addition to that internal struggle I have (i.e., needing to know things) comes the expectation that I have created for myself in relation to family, friends, and coworkers by being who I am with them. They have the expectation, or I perceive them to have the expectation, that I should know things.

 

In today's world, however, my answer keeps circling back to I DON'T KNOW.

 

What I find unsettling in these current times is the prevalence of not knowing. This occurrence has crept into every facet of my life. I had a boss one time say that my biggest asset was my ability to figure it out, it being any problem. That's what he relied on me the most for every day. Right now, the thing that I am best at is the thing I am having the hardest time doing–figuring it out.

 

I am the lucky mom of a beautiful son with special abilities. I think about him going to school this fall in a novel coronavirus (COVID-19) world. Should he go to in-person instruction? Will schools even open? Will he be safe? Will there be services provided for him in a safe and effective way? What happens if he's in a hybrid or fully online situation? He has unique challenges in learning and processing emotions and information. He needs his teachers and therapist. To say that homeschooling and therapy sessions delivered online have been rough is to put it nicely. What is the alternative? What is the best scenario for him entering third grade? I DON’T KNOW.

 

I look around at the state of the U.S. and the social justice issues that people are demonstrating about and discussing. I review the stories and videos of queer, straight, trans, gender binary, and gender non-binary black and brown human beings being murdered, unjustly accused, and harassed by those in authority. I look at the Black Lives Matter campaign and the need to do more stirs in my very soul. I hear the calls to eradicate systemic racism and look inside myself to be more than a perfunctory ally. Am I doing enough? Am I doing it correctly? Am I saying the right things? Am I saying it fast enough? Am I in self-reflection enough? Am I being real? Am I being supportive? Am I amplifying voices of the movement enough? Am I being the ally I need and desire to be? I DON’T KNOW.

 

I am very proud of my field of work and the staff I get to interact with. It can get daunting working on work teams in a remote setting and looking at returning to campus with us imagining a 'new normal.' I sit in Zoom meetings for 4-6 (or sometimes 7-8) hours per day, looking at the faces of my colleagues and knowing the struggles remote work may pose for each of them. I feel those struggles myself: physical struggles like eye strain, change in routine; psychological struggles like stress and its effects on my well-being; sociological struggles like isolation, lack of comradery, physical distancing, or physical overload when the people you live with don't leave. I believe in this department and its mission to enhance the physiological, psychological, and sociological lives of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni through co-curricular experiences in our facilities and programs. I believe in what we do. Am I performing my job to my expectation? Am I supporting my colleagues? Am I clear on Zoom? Is my internet connection working correctly? Can we meet the deadline for the projects? Have I tried to connect with everyone and are they OK? How do I come across in Zoom–my tone, my facial expressions, my everything? Am I doing enough to get us ready for the Fall semester? I DON'T KNOW.    

 

I DON'T KNOW.

I DON'T KNOW.

I DON'T KNOW.

 

Here is what I do know.

 

I can't predict the fall elementary school schedule and how services will be delivered for my son, but I do know we'll get through it. I know he'll adjust. I know I'll have to as well. I know we will stumble and at times it will be hard. I know I will be there when he needs me. I know the teachers, therapist, and administration are doing their best. I know I'll be watching them, and they know it too.

 

I can't predict how we come out of the current social unrest and what the new U.S. looks like, but I know we will because it is past time to do so. I know I will continue to do my best to be a better advocate and ally. I know I will misstep, misspeak, and make mistakes. I know I will not always be the support someone needs. I know I will engage in self-reflection, in learning, in reading, in understanding my role in systemic racism. I know I will work to better understand my white privilege and my fragility. I know I have made vows and promises. I know others will be watching me, and I'll be watching too.

 

I can't tell you how to make remote or return-to-campus work enjoyable, and believe me I've read all the articles, but I know the staff at Campus Recreation have been learning, investigating, debating, and planning for the safest return to campus possible for all staff, students, and alumni in the recreation buildings and programs. I know the 'new normal' will be in place. I know that my brilliant colleagues and I have put in countless hours creating and encouraging recreation without our usual walls. I know we have reimagined our program offerings for spaces that are both in-person and virtual. I know we strive for the ideals of recreation–to enhance the lives of participants through our facilities and programs, strengthening the psychological, sociological, physiological lives of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. I know we won't be perfect. I know we will need to adjust to serve our population. I know we will be watching ourselves closely, and they'll be watching too.

 

On any given day, I can slip into the sadness and frustration of my I DON'T KNOW mindset. At first, I fought to know, but realized in some cases I wasn't going to know. I decided that when I slip into that uncertain mindset that I can work through two steps. First, acknowledge the reality of not knowing. Second, make a choice to focus on how to know or what I do know. To be honest, it doesn't make the not knowing any less frustrating, but it does give me an actionable next step. That next step, any step, brings me closer to knowing, and for now I know that's okay.