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Ask questions

| Wednesday, September 13, 2017

During our freshman year, my roommates and I lived across the hallway from our RA. We would stop into her room several times a week with questions — about our dorm, Notre Dame in general and occasionally even classes. She always patiently pointed us in the right direction, even if it was the third or fourth time we had come by her room that day.

As a freshman, I wasn’t afraid to ask questions. But coming into this year, as a sophomore, something changed. I felt as if I was expected to know everything I was supposed to do. I was embarrassed to ask when I didn’t understand something or know how to handle a situation, fearing it would make me look incompetent.

However, having taken on new responsibilities and classes, I soon came head-to-head with everything I didn’t know. I worried it reflected poorly on my abilities and quickly became frustrated. At this point, I decided to finally seek advice — from my parents.

“People don’t expect you to know everything,” my mother said to me. “They expect you to be able to learn.”

This advice helped me to reframe the way I viewed the things I didn’t know. It was no fault of my own when I had questions; rather, it was a natural part of learning. Whenever I approached a professor about a topic I didn’t understand or asked an upperclassman for advice, they reinforced what my mother had said and encouraged me to continue asking questions.

I found that, generally speaking, people are happy to share their knowledge and talk about their experiences. There are plenty of people willing to answer questions — if someone makes you feel stupid for not knowing something, they are not worth your time.

I also discovered I will never have everything completely “figured out” — not when I am the one answering the questions I had once asked, not when I have my first job or my last. This was also incredibly freeing. The pursuit of knowledge, I came to understand, is not a journey with a final destination, but rather a continual process which will never be complete. Even the wisest and most knowledgeable person in the world still has things to learn.

I also found I know more than I thought I did. As I revisited my work from last year and answered freshmen’s questions myself, I saw how much I had learned in the previous year. I realized I will be able to gain even more experience this year and continue to increase my knowledge so that one day I am able to pass it on to others. Even then, I will never have all the answers, so I will continue to learn and ask questions.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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