Finding Comfort in the Unknown

The unknown is an uncomfortable thing. Especially for someone like myself where planning is a way of life (I am my mother's daughter, after all). But now, as I come into true adulthood, I find myself amidst the most unknown part of my life I've possibly ever experienced.

I may have sought consolation in the odd friend or two about how I don't yet know where I'll be this summer, or what I'll be doing. It's May, and to the average college student not having set summer plans at this point is a nightmare. But the truth of the matter is, my seemingly inescapable apprehension regarding the summer appears to be only a taste of what's to come within the next year or so.

The next steps in my life are strikingly unclear. Go to school, go to university, graduate, get a job. But it's not so simple. There are choices- hard ones. And after that, there are jobs to get, visas to sort out, and increasingly more decisions to be made. If the prospect of taking the next step into adulthood isn't difficult enough, I have the addition of the practicalities of being a non-citizen weighing on my shoulders. That is, if I stay. And for now, the answer to that life-altering question is a resounding yes.

But making these hypothetical decisions doesn't relinquish me from the often crippling worry of the unknown. As much as I'd like to map out my life at this very moment, I know that I can't. The question of "what do you want to be when you grow up?" becomes all the more important. And sometimes, I think that when I was 10 years old my answer to that question would have been more clear then, than it is now.

And so I look back. I recall the times in my life where things weren't so certain.

When I was 17 years old, I was absolutely certain that I would be going to a small, prestigious liberal arts college in New York City. I got rejected. Things weren't going to plan, to say the least. The next phase of my life was unknown. I had a choice, yes. But that choice was not the tunnel-vision image I had in my head.

In the times since then that I've gone back to New York City, I've breathed a sigh of cathartic relief. That this was not the life I chose. Or, more accurately, that this was not the life that chose me. That even if I had known exactly what my future had been that December- if I had taken the road that I had pictured for myself- maybe things wouldn't have been as exhilarating. That isn't to say that the life I planned out wouldn't have been exciting- but it certainly wouldn't have been as unpredictable.

But the unknown didn't stop there. Even when my choice was made, a move to Edinburgh was a gargantuan leap of faith. It's a question I get at every job interview, expressed with a tone of amusement, and a twinge of incredulity: "Why did you decide to come to Edinburgh?" Whether I'm being asked out of curiosity, or whether my response will go on the record, I can never quite tell. But I usually respond with a genuine smile, and an explanation that always ends up somewhere along the lines of "adventure."

And this is true- the whole prospect of coming abroad felt like the greatest adventure of a lifetime. But the logic behind it all? I wasn't the girl who was dreaming of coming to Scotland all her life. I wasn't the girl who even knew that going abroad would be a part of her future (bar maybe the standard semester abroad). So, in truth, I didn't know. I could ramble off thousands of reasons why coming to Edinburgh has been an incredible experience for me. But I probably couldn't tell you why I decided to come here in the first place. Perhaps the idea of the unknown had a certain romanticism to 17-year-old me. I just didn't know it at the time.

Maybe uncertainty doesn't have the same allure for me now that it did when I was a naive high schooler. In fact, I don't even remember being distinctly scared or nervous when I first set foot in Scotland. But now I spend some nights in the moments before I fall asleep worrying about my future- about my career prospects, about which country I'll end up in, and about the student loans I'll inevitably have to pay off. If I could harness that same unbridled excitement and fervor for life that 17 year old Leda had, I would in an instant.

I look back on these moments of transition, and I remember that the unknown is just a natural part of this progression. And I now find comfort in that (or at least I try to). And although I still battle the temptation to try to map out the future, I know that my past has shown that this is futile. Now more than ever I feel that my life is in flux. But I know that there's no use fighting it. Because sometimes life comes at you in unexpected ways- and from what I've learned, that's the best part.  


  1. What a brilliant post Leda! I love these out of the heart sort of posts because they are the kind of posts I can relate to.
    I have been where you are and it is not much fun but boy thing of all the things that you can do and the sort of freedom you have. I used to make plans about my life. By 25 I will have finish with my MSc, by 28 I will be done with my PhD, by 30 I will travel the world. And guess what?None of them happened as I wanted them (and when I wanted them) to happen. So I started embracing the unknown and I think you should to. Let life show you little signs and follow them, let that be an impromptu trip or starting a summer job that is completely out of your field and standards. Life is an adventure after all!


  2. Great post! I have been fearing the unknown recently, but you've just got to embrace it!
    a life of a charlotte


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