Looking For Answers? I’m As Clueless As You Are

looking for answers

I didn’t know what I was doing when, as a child, I begged my parents for a dog.

Yet I found myself, 12 years old, with a puppy. I had to get up every morning at a time I’d never before heard of to clean up its mess. I had to go out in the wind and rain and winter-chill to take it for a walk, day after day after day.

Today, I own another dog, and I still don’t exactly know what I’m doing. Sometimes she sits when I ask her to. Sometimes she gives me a look, “so you think you can tell me what to do, huh?” and wanders off to sniff the flowers.

I didn’t know what I was doing when I embarked on a career as a writer.

A naive graduate, with an earnest heart, good intentions and a healthy dose of ambition, I believed writing was all about expressing my soul. Sometimes it is, but more often it’s about fulfiling a client’s brief, good communication skills, and savvy marketing.

I didn’t know what I was doing when my Mum gave birth to me.

I was so bad at being born I made her wait in agony for 18 hours labour until I decided to show up; then I caused even more heartache by being whisked off immediately to intensive care. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I found myself born, and screaming about the injustice of it.

I didn’t know what I was doing when I proposed to my girlfriend. Five years on – many arguments and compromises and wonderful days later – I find myself married. And I’m still not sure how to do this right.

So often, we think we know what we’re doing. Or, more accurately, we pretend we know what we’re doing, like life is a math quiz and we’re stolen the answer sheet. We have clear aims and goals, dreams of how a particular change will make our lives perfect, or at least less sucky.

Then we reach our goals and find them to be far from how we imagined. Not that reaching our goals is bad, but it’s often different to how we thought it would be.

We didn’t know what we were doing when we embarked on this journey, but we find ourselves here, most of us still walking, not quite knowing the final destination. We find ourselves invited to this party called life – with its compromises, heartaches, and moments of sublime beauty – and the only thing we can’t do is say no to the invitation.

I’ll let you in on a secret.

The people you admire, who have it all together? They didn’t know what they were doing when they took the first step to where they are now. They’re probably not even sure how it all worked out. Maybe they can tell you what they did, but that’s not the same as knowing what they were doing at the time. Probably, they rolled the dice, and the gamble paid off. Definitely, if you get to know them deeply, you’ll find they have their own battle scars too.

All the self help books, magazine advice columns, YouTube videos, podcasts and TV shows can help you make a good (or a bad) guess at what you’re doing, or should be doing. But ultimately they only reveal that none of us exactly knows what we’re doing. If we knew what we were doing, why the need for all the help?

If you knew what you were doing, the world would be at your command. You’d be a god. Is that what you want, really?

Take a deep breath, and look up to the sky. That’s the universe. That’s life. Vast, mysterious, and full of darkness and light.

Life isn’t a math quiz. There’s no answer sheet.

If you’re struggling right now, give yourself a break. You couldn’t have seen all this coming. You didn’t know what you were doing when you chose the path that got you here. No matter how certain or uncertain you feel right now, you can’t really know what you’re doing, not totally.

Whatever path you choose from here will be both right and wrong. Or rather, it will be neither right nor wrong. There is no map, no answer sheet.

And that’s a beautiful, humbling and life-affirming thing to know.

Photo by Ansel Edwards Photography

29 thoughts on “Looking For Answers? I’m As Clueless As You Are”

  1. Does anybody really know what they’re doing? Probably not, at least when we first embark on new journeys. Perhaps we learn a little along the way. Nice post.. Thanks.

    1. I don’t know what I’m doing, but it’s an adventure trying to figure it all out. And Dan, you’re right that I am definitely learning a few things along the way – about myself, others, the world and why.

  2. This was just what I needed this morning I was just talking about this the other day to a friend. The universe has been around billions of years…doing fine…then all of a sudden we pop into existence with a subjective experience of self and are figuring everything out a long the way. I read a quote once that said “nobody is as sure of themselves as they seem.” Your post nailed it. Each one of us is doing our best to figure life out a long the way.

    “Whatever path you choose from here will be both right and wrong. Or rather, it will be neither right nor wrong. There is no map, no answer sheet.”


  3. Barbara Pintoro

    It seems to me life is like one big school house – and we don’t ever really graduate because there is always something else that we are meant to learn. Enjoyed your post – thank you for sharing.

    1. I’d see life as more like a magical kingdom with many exciting and wonderful places to explore. Not sure if we need to learn… or rather, if we are learning anything, it’s about learning to be.

  4. All of us come into this world without an Instruction Manual on how to live life. In my own journey, I have found that life experiences, listening and searching for the truth are what brings one to a crisis of belief about what life is all about.

    In my own search for the truth, I had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ during a time of “spiritual wilderness” and miraculously, spiritual blinders were removed from my eyes after I invited Jesus into my heart. Everything is now filtered through His eyes of Love and truth and He gave me an Instruction Manual (the Bible) and the Holy Spirit to help me navigate through this life which still has its challenges and victories, but I now see things from an eternal perspective, not a temporal one.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Diane.

      I too have a deep personal faith, rooted in the Christian tradition. Yet for me, faith is often about mystery, doubt, and unknowing. At the same time, it’s intensely personal, and that’s a beautiful paradox.

      As for the Bible, it’s full of great and terrible stories. There’s divine inspiration there, and a lot of wrestling with what God is (and isn’t). But instruction manual? I’m not so sure.

      1. Thanks for your comments and appreciation of where I was coming from. I used the word “Instruction” as I believe that when we look at the Bible through the eyes of Jesus, to me, it is a love story from God…… about courage and victories as well doubt and defeat, with messages of how to live in spiritual victory if we follow the instructions (teachings) in the Bible.

        I have lived both ways and I know from first hand experience that when you follow the “Instructions”, you have such a life of testing, training, adventure, passion and purpose without getting derailed or lost as much without them.

        One of the Bibles that I use is the Max Lucado Leadership Bible which is based on the New Kings James Version. For me, it is such a wonderful resource to help me and others I work with understand the principles of leadership and what makes great leaders (servant leadership ) vs. self-centered leadership.

        Thanks for the opportunity to respond.

        Diane Lloyd

  5. The moment that I know exactly what I’m doing and feel I understand everything, is the moment I should hang up my hat.

    That kind of arrogance will prevent me to stop finding ways to improve how I help my clients.

    It’s a huge wake up call to remember that we are all human first, and no one is born knowing how it all works.

    Great article!

    1. Thanks Wendy. I really liked your comment, and it set me thinking. I was thinking:

      No one passes away knowing how it all works either.
      Sometimes it’s nice to hang up your hat, kick back and put up your feet for a bit.

  6. I had this realization a while ago that no one really has it together. No one who seems to have everything figured out, no matter how successful, has all the answers because we’re all learning as we go.

    Hell, I have no clue what I’m doing most of the time and neither does the most influential person you can think of know. Life doesn’t have answers, but we try anyway.

  7. I really enjoyed this article. There are so many times when self doubt arises because I think I don’t know or understand enough about something. There are always so many professional people that appear to have it all together and “get it” on such a higher level than I do. It is frustrating and I know it interferes with my progress and success. Knowing that “nobody knows what you think they do” and remembering this will help me get through those rough patches. Nice reminder that we are all human. Thanks David.

  8. Great Post David! It felt like you told what’s in my heart.. I always wonder and wander clueless with the things and tasks what I do. But you focused on raising the question merely. What’s the answer dear ??

    1. The answer? There isn’t one. Just journeys and stories and sharing and hope. If I had to give an answer, it would be two very simple words: it’s okay. (Also, it’s not okay, but that’s the paradox).

  9. That’s the great thing about blogs…..everyone has the opportunity to express their opinion so your article and message certainly did that,David. Thanks for sharing from the heart.


  10. Yes….sometimes I think why can’t I just log out, simply say I don’t want to continue any more, l keep calling God please this is a very hard game and I’m very fragile I can’t afford it, this whole world is very tight very narrow that I can’t find a place for me……And after 25 years of life still l didn’t get it, what are the rules who is the good guy and who is the bad guy ,nobody knows….sorry for the depressive words but ur article touched my scars at least I’m not alone in this ocean, thank you David.

    1. What beautiful words, Aya. Though you are struggling, I can tell you live in a deep and wonderful place. Where you are now, you will find lots of treasures to share. Even if you struggle to see that right now. Keep going. If you’d like a fellow traveller to share the journey, drop me a message. You’ll find my contact details on my website.

  11. mahavir nautiyal

    Beautiful, soulful write up, David.. Yes, i may be conceited enough to think that I am master of my destiny, but lo and behold, some uncanny twist to life comes and i am left wondering and shaken at my belief. I call out to God to help but He seems too busy untangling the mess the human beings have created ( environmental pollution, deforestation, terrorism, talibanization, recession, ungodliness etc ). Even He seems helpless or has probably lost interest !So I am not too sure whether I am properly anchored. The only comfort is that I am in good company as your blog and responses show !

    1. Beautiful comment, Mahavir. If you are not anchored, it sounds like you are at least well-grounded in the school of doubt, wonder and postmodernism, the world we all live in and wrestle with. We human beings have made a mess of this world, haven’t we? I wonder what myths they will tell about us and songs they will sing about us 10,000 years from now.

      Good to meet you.

      Maybe you will like the words of this poem by Brendan Kennelly:

      I give thanks
      To the giver of images,
      The reticent god who goes about his work
      Determined to hold on to nothing.
      Embarrassed at the prospect of possession

  12. I have lived my life wondering what’s right and wrong too! Now I feel: Life is short, do not look back, what’s past and gone. Let go and move on. Focus on feeling content and live life to the fullest. Be happy.

  13. If you’re out there looking for answers, what you’re really saying is that you want a problem. Are there any real lasting problems or is it all just a play? Things got a lot “easier” for me when I decided to just do my own thing, do whatever it is my self naturally wants to do. This isn’t hedonism, this isn’t “I want to drink this entire bottle of booze,” “I want to sleep with as many women as possible.” Hedonism is just a symptom of a sicker society. When you really put yourself at rest, you discover your body doesn’t want to do these negligent things to itself. Surprise! Life gets a lot easier when you stop taking it so seriously and when you stop doing what you’re told.

    Oh, were I to have discovered this a decade ago. But hell, the entire journey is responsible for me finding myself here. Life is so weird. How is it that our entire society has colluded to make things so difficult for everyone? It really doesn’t have to be that way for any of us. You can opt out. Here’s the answer: stop seeking and all will be revealed. Stop striving and just be.

  14. I have no f*ck*ng clue what I am doing in this life… and while I feel it to be a necessary learning experience, I still feel it to be unjust, and I have no clue how to deal with that feeling either.

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