Mattie’s Musings: Question Marks and Moving Parts

For the past few years, I have been greeted by the same flood of emails every day. College after college has thrown themselves at me through poorly “personalized” emails and follow up emails and more emails—all because I checked a little box that told CollegeBoard to provide them with my contact information.

Slowly, as December of my senior year turned into February of my senior year, the emails have slowed down to a near stop.

I’ve been looking forward to this day, the day without a cluttered inbox. I’ve been looking forward to this change.

And there are more changes happening. Although I’m not graduating or receiving acceptance letters yet, smaller changes are adding up to guide me to a whole new chapter of my life. But I don’t know what that chapter is going to look like or where it’s going to take place—my current situation feels like a big question mark.

We’re used to question marks, though. I could mark the timeline of my life so far with the different questions that have been forced upon me. They’re the questions that all-too-often arise at family gatherings or in conversations with adults.

In 2016, the question was “where are you going to apply for college?” In 2017, it was “where are you going to college?” followed by “—oh you don’t know yet? Okay then where do you want to go to college?”

At the time I was asked, I never really knew the answers to the questions. Because once I finally do, the time has passed and there are new questions to be asked. I used to think that once all this college stuff was over, once I knew where I was going and my inbox was relatively clean, all of the uncomfortable situations that featured myself being bombarded with the same questions, “college this” and “college that,” would also be over, that from then on, my timeline would no longer be labeled by question marks.

But, I realize that I’ll never reach the end of the questions. “What college are you going to?” will turn into “what’s your major?” until that turns into “what job are you looking to get?” until that’s replaced by “are you in a serious relationship?” until we trade that out for “when are you getting married?” and on and on. Someday these different questions will place me into a world of discomfort, someday I’ll be searching for an answer to the question, “when are you going to have kids?”

It seems like a vicious cycle, ourselves merely subject to the permanence of question marks. Maybe that’s not so bad. After all, it’s these questions that drive some sort of purpose into our lives. They are all the synonyms for the larger question that I never want to lose sight of: what’s next?

Maybe I’m tired of the never-ending inquiries, but I’ll never be tired of moving forward. The question marks on my timeline won’t limit me. There will be unexpected answers, unpredictable questions, beautifully skewed paths on our timelines.

As time goes on, we’ll be making trades, one question for another question, a cluttered email for a cluttered dorm room, one chapter of life for another.

So I’ll try not to clench every muscle in my body next time someone asks me a question I have heard a hundred times before but still don’t know the answer to. It’s just a little reminder that I’m on a path and I’m moving forward. We live a life of questions and progression; we live a life of moving parts.