Learn to be okay with Confusion


Confusion is an easy place to hide. When we’re confused, our inclination is to do nothing, until we figure it out. But this is the absolute worst thing you can do, especially when dealing with larger life questions like figuring out what you want to do.

Instead, it’s better to take action towards something. Any direction is better than no direction at all.

I was never the type who knew what I wanted to do growing up. I didn’t have a clue. I spent highschool more worried about girls and athletics than academics. I got good grades, but I could have done way more. I just didn’t have the motivation.

I went to college and studied computer science because I didn’t know what else to study. I had always been into computers from video games, so I figured programming would be cool. Plus my parents were hell bent on me studying either science, math, or engineering. If I didn’t study one of those, they wouldn’t pay for my schooling.

Then the misery began. I worked my ass off to make it in computer science. Unlike my peers, I didn’t start programming until I went to college. I have memories of staying up until 3 AM trying to debug my programming labs and then waking up at 6 AM to go to swim practice. Fortunately swimming only lasted for one year, but then I started working a 10-20 hour a week job.

I was extremely bad at making myself happy during school. I had little to no social life, and all I knew was work. This continued on for 3 years until I graduated.

Looking back, it was all worth it. I wound up with a job at Google right out of college, but at the time, I was full of questions and confusion.

Why am I working my ass off for something I don’t even know I want to do?

Instead, I worked because of 2 motivations:

  1. My parents were dropping an ass ton of money for me to attend college, and there was no way in hell I was going to waste their money.
  2. We are defined by what we do. At the time, I was spending the majority of my time in school, so I figured I might as well be good at it.

So I went for 3.5 years in a state of massive confusion. The motivations above never seemed “enough” to me, but I kept working anyway. I always wondered if I should switch to a cheaper school where I wouldn’t feel so guilty about spending my parents’ money.

But 7 years later, my actions paid off. I have a happy career in computer science that I’m extremely proud of. And I watch as many of my friends are still struggling to finish school, or they’re stuck in jobs that don’t pay well.

It would have been easy to sit around during college, but I’m so glad I didn’t.

When you’re confused, you want to do nothing. You don’t know which direction to go, so what’s the point of moving in any direction? But the problem is that years go by, and still nothing is clear. You’re just as confused as you were years before.

Much of this is caused by not knowing who we are. We have no idea what we value, and because we don’t know what we value, we don’t know what we want.

How much do you want to be making in 5 or 10 years? Where do you want to live? What does your ideal life look like? What does your ideal relationship look like?

If only I could answer these questions and stick with the answers, things would be so much simpler. Then it’d be a straightforward process of taking action until I get what I want. If I failed along the way who cares? At least I was taking action, going after what I believed in.

But things aren’t usually that cut and dry. Most of us have no idea what we want because we don’t know ourselves well enough to understand what will make us happy. So we sit and do nothing because why take action for something when you can’t see the benefit?

But having the discipline to take action despite your confusion is a better path. The feeling of stagnation is far worse.

It’s better to do something, anything at all, even when you have no idea where it’s leading you. Pick a direction, and start walking. You’ll almost certainly wind up in a more interesting place than you left. And you might even figure out who you are along the way.

I learned this lesson during my 3.5 years of confusion during college. Despite not having a clue where I was going, I was extremely satisfied with the outcome.

Hopefully, when I’m confused again (like right now), this post will serve as a reminder. Have faith. Embrace the confusion. Everything is going to be fine.

Photo Credit: Shubhika Bharathwaj