The Struggle to Know

When I applied to colleges as a linguistics major in 2013, I had done virtually no research. A friend of mine had told me linguistics was about language. I was taking AP Spanish at the time and I loved speaking and listening to music in Korean, and that seemed like reason enough to walk down that path.

It was not until I came to New York City to study it that I realized linguistics was a social science that was challenging, technical, and at times impossible to wrap my head around. Thankfully, I loved it, and now, as I begin taking the final courses necessary to complete my major, I feel extremely lucky to have made the right decision in spite of my rashness.

But it makes me wonder: how many happy endings can I expect to come out of choices I make that are backed by absolutely no knowledge?

When I was in high school, my mother often yelled at me for missing out on important things. I would miss deadlines for singing competition entries, or find out that someone from a college I had applied to had come to visit our school only after my friends had come back from the event.

“If you keep this up,” she warned me, “one of these days you will miss something extremely important.”

I have missed some important things in the past few years. It is embarrassing, frightening, and humbling to realize that if I had just taken the time to find the right information, I might not have had to suffer the consequences of making a huge mistake. And as I grow older, there is less room for error. There is more I need to be aware of. Nobody will spoon-feed me that knowledge, or even remind me to figure it out.

Knowledge does not come easily—it is a thing found only through active pursuit. A lack of knowledge is the result of laziness. I can only learn when I decide to search for answers to my questions. There was a time when all I needed to know came from my teachers and parents, and now there are so many things I need to know that other people are not obligated to teach me. I am responsible for my plans and my concerns, and there is nobody I can blame if ever a lack of information keeps me from addressing my needs and desires.

The people I most admire are people that are always in the loop. My mother is a cooking instructor and half the time she is experimenting with recipes in the kitchen, and the other half she has her head buried in cookbooks. My friend Yash, who loves sports, could tell you about what has happened in the sports industry in the past 24 hours anytime you ask. I know people who do this with music, politics, entertainment. Not surprisingly, these people are role models of maturity and adulthood, the people that have embedded learning into their daily routine. They know what they know, and what they do not know. And when they do not know something, they do what they need to figure it out. To be knowledgeable is to be informed. To be informed is to be powerful.