The case for I don't know

You don't have to have it all figured out

The case for I don't know

Thoughts
Ella Choi
a small studio
By 
March 20, 2024

“I don’t know.”

That never has and likely never will be an acceptable answer to these questions:

  • What’s your dream project?
  • What type of creative do you want to be?
  • Where do you see your career in 5 years?

It's dismissive. Lazy. Careless. Crass. Never is “I don’t know” seen as curious.

But it should be– for someone with one year of experience, with five, with 20, even 30. In the creative world, in the world at large for that matter, there is such an emphasis on knowing. It kills us not to know, let alone to be at peace with it.

“I don’t know,” is always considered unconsidered. It’s never thought to be an intentional answer. An open-ended, curious answer. One that purposefully leaves the door open for a different type of response.

When we aren’t thinking about whether our dream project revolves around branding or advertising, it gives us room to think about whether our dream project is one of learning or mentorship. If we aren’t thinking about whether we want to be a motion or product designer, we have time to think about being the type of creative that perhaps doesn’t dream of work at all. Maybe when someone asks us, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and we say, “I don’t know,” it can mean we want to explore, play, and go where our creative curiosity takes us– of course, we wouldn’t know where that would lead us in 5 years.

I’m speaking as an emerging creative. As someone who finds these questions, and more importantly, the common bullet points of expected responses to be frustrating and limiting. There are times when I’ve sat down to think about these questions that have caused such a feeling of a tightening and constriction in my chest that I thought surely the answer would have leaked out by now. But it hasn’t.

It remains a single drop of water in a cloth– impossible to wring out.

That’s okay. For now, I don’t want to know. You don’t have to know. We can be selfish and not answer those questions. We can want to edit videos, create motion graphics, design a website, make social media posts, and build a brand. We can learn how to work in a small studio and a large one– one that’s in-person and remote. We can design in-house, outside the house, and at the neighbor's house. We can be mentored and mentor. We can experience different industries at their peaks and their lows. We don’t have to have everything about our careers figured out before our frontal lobes are developed. We can turn “I don’t know,” into something meaningful to strive for rather than a no checkbox on a recruiter's interview notes.

“Time is long but life is short.” - Stevie Wonder

We have the time to figure it out. The answers won’t pass by us today, tomorrow, or the day after. But they might the day after that, and the next day, and the next if we don’t seek out the experiences we want when our curiosity demands it of us.

Maybe by the time I’m ready to retire and I’ve added countless drops to the cloth that is my career– by the time I’ve had 15 jobs and a constellation of experiences to guide me, I’ll be able to wring out a cloth dripping with answers. But not today. Today, Idk ✌️.

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