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The Unknowable

How many times have you asked yourself: “Where am I going?” “What does my life have in store for me?” “Am I on the right path?” Do you gaze towards the far-off trajectory that your life might be taking you? Do you freeze at the idea that you are going nowhere, or that you are going somewhere? I mean, in a cosmic sense. 

I wasn’t raised religious or spiritual, but I do have one belief in me. One that surpasses any I could ever pick up from anyone else. It’s not certain, or even quantifiable. I can’t even say that there are any scientific bases for this feeling within me. But I cherish this idea for what it means not only to me now, but also what it means to my future. A sense that my life has a purpose, one grander than anything I could ever conceive. Like a destiny written out in a fantasy setting’s lore, I believe that I have an imperceptible direction laid out before me. One that has influenced the values that I hold dear, the goals that I want to achieve, or the dreams that my subconsciousness stirs.

It is a feeling regarding what we are in the vast universe. Not as people, but as beings searching for sense in a world that can make no sense. I may be evoking some type of existential nightmare for some of my audience right now. What I’m talking about might create an image of cosmic horror–this overwhelming sense of uncertainty. We are small and insignificant when compared to the vastness of everything, a minuscule variable in the formula that is the wide and distant universe. A single planet floating in the vastness of infinite outer space.

No matter what the collective humanity may accomplish, how does it stack up against the sheer grandeur of the known and unknown universe beyond our modern reach?

I’ve thought about this a lot. Back when I was a high school student, this idea about what our role is in the universe seemed almost fantastical to me. Mind you, so many of the stories we enjoy try to answer the question of being. Take Lord of the Rings for example, where a humble hobbit comes to achieve great things. Or Star Wars, which is a story about unlike individuals overcoming galactically giant odds. Because of stories like these, when I used to ask myself these questions about my role in the universe, I could shrug it off easily. I would think, “Let some fiction writer find the answer to it and make a boatload of money off of it.” 

But now that I am older, I actually take this question much more seriously. And mind you, high school still wasn’t that long ago for me. But now when I think about what I have done and where I am going, I think to myself, “Wow, how am I supposed to know?” Though then again, how are any of us supposed to know when we force ourselves to think about these questions? Maybe this change in my rationale is thanks to the changes I have experienced in the past few years: Covid, college, and everything in between. Or maybe it's caused by me becoming aware of the world around me. Realizing the responsibilities and challenges that I have ahead of me. That I can’t go run away and hide in the media that I loved, like I used to do as a kid. That at any time life could come and hit me hard. It is a scary realization, even though I may not be able to know when an unsettling change may happen.

The reason I feel so passionately about this is because of my past and what I took from it. I had a blessed childhood, with a loving family and a stable home. However, when I look back at my childhood, I feel a deep melancholic sense. One that I do not think that I should have, but still do nonetheless. I think about all the missed opportunities that I had growing up because of my shyness or my anxieties. I barely had any friends, and I often neglected those that I did have. While my sister tried out every hobby that was presented to her, I rarely picked up any extracurriculars. I never even shared any of my interests with anyone else, keeping them to myself like some treasured secret. I stayed in my lane until I faded into it. When I was a kid, I thought these actions were acceptable for my age. That I was just a shy kid, who would grow into maturity in time.

But by being like this, I easily found myself becoming lonely. When I look back at what I did or did not do when I was younger I feel that I underutilized my childhood, as strange as that may seem. I feel that I lost so many opportunities that I could have taken. I miss how they could have impacted me and changed the person that I could have become. It is like walking on a trail and looking over your shoulder to see the fork that you just passed, wondering where the other way could have led you. When I think about this, I can quickly begin to feel overwhelmed at the sheer possibilities that I might have had in store if I just chose to do things differently. It comes over me like a giant alien monster, an image a younger me would delight in imaging. It’s kind of ironic that I associate it with this feeling now. But then again, I have no idea how my life would be different, yet the unseen possibilities are all so intriguing. What kind of values might I have? Who would be important to me in life? Infinite upon infinite variables could be thought up.

Despite the leviathan feeling that I have about the future, I can still find some comfort in it. Because I think it is something that we can all relate to. We all feel some type of dread about our future because of the unchangeable regrets of our pasts. We wonder about where we are going, what we will achieve, and if we are doing the best things for ourselves, all because of where we have been over the course of our respective lives. It’s both communal and individual. We all feel this way in our own separate ways. 

Then again, I should not be telling you or anyone else what they should feel. That is not my responsibility to render the infinite possibilities of things that you could worry about. For your story is not mine, and mine is not yours. Your past may hold you back like mine did, or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe your dread comes from the present or from the future fears that you have. Each of us are vulnerable to being overwhelmed not only by our fears of the future, but also the wonder that it has in store for us.

We all ask ourselves questions that are difficult to answer. We all worry about a future that we cannot even conceive of yet. Our anxieties can easily lead our imaginations to run amok. What can we ever do to overcome these problems that we face?

My advice? It may be hard to accept it, but sometimes you just have to accept the uncertainty of life and the future. Take each day in stride. Let each moment come in time. Find comfort in who you are not, not the person you were in the past or the one that you might be in the future.

None of us can see the unknowable future that lies ahead. But what we can do is cherish the time that we have now. All that we have achieved so far, all that we hold dear in this moment, and all that we are now. Don’t lose yourself in the hypotheticals about your trajectory in life. (You’re doing great!) Having this mindset is how we become liberated from our gargantuan worries of tomorrow. 

That is how I chose to see life. I might wonder about where my life will take me, I can at least feel free from this worry. When I feel too overwhelmed, I just remind myself that I am doing alright. I am in a good place, and that has allowed me to go down a good path towards my future. And that’s what you should think too. Take comfort in where you are now. Let loose the worries that you have. Because when you feel confident in yourself, then you can find the power to beat the fears that hold you back.

About the Author

Leonard Brattoli is an Honors student at UNLV studying English. A Nevada native, he has been a blog writer since 2021, getting published at the Beyond Thought Creative Arts Journal, the Love Yourself Foundation, and the Original Breath Builder. His experience is varied, with his writing ranging from sharing personal stories to helping promote products and organizations. Leonard is also well-versed in creating social media captions, producing weekly newsletters, and designing creative journals in a collaborative setting.


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