Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Joy of Unknowing

Feminist Thoughts
By Erica Chu

The Joy of Unknowing

I’m going to be a bit more personal here than I’ve been in the past. It’s sometimes easier I suppose to speak in the abstract, but I’m moved to be more vulnerable today if only to put into practice that standard feminist belief that the personal is political.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting on the edge of my bed looking for a pen and was suddenly overcome with a deep sadness. I just wanted to sob but couldn't even figure out what sparked this feeling or why I was experiencing it. The only thing I could think was, "I feel so lost."

The significance of this statement may not be immediately apparent, so I should explain a bit about where I'm coming from. I was raised in an Evangelical Midwestern Christian family. As an adolescent, I grabbed hold of the Christian faith with wild intensity and a deep gratitude for who I saw God to be. At eighteen, I packed up and went to a small Bible College in southern Missouri, and it was only there that I began to feel doubt. Not doubt in who God was to me or even who he/she/zie is in a theological sense, but I began to doubt the institutions from which I'd received so much religious and spiritual knowledge.

Even after transferring to a state university and then moving to this beautifully liberating city, I still thought I was sure of some things--of my faith, of my capacity in my studies and job, of my take on politics, of my understanding of the world. If you had talked to me then, I would have given you a piece of my mind. Then the last few years happened with change after change and stress upon stress. Talk to me today, and I'm not so quick to speak.

Of course, I do have confidence in the beliefs I now have and in the roads I’m now taking (some didn’t change at all), but because I was used to being so sure, I have a lingering anxiety about not knowing exactly where I am, who I am, or where I’ll be tomorrow.

Over dinner, I told my partner T about feeling lost and about the sadness I was experiencing because I was no longer sure about anything. A little later when we were talking about my sister (who is not supportive of our relationship), T said, "She needs to get lost." In addition to her beauty, wit, and charm, T is wonderfully wise. I laughed a little and thought of how my relationship with my sister could drastically improve if only she was forced to call into question all she’d learned and had become so confident about.

That moment at our little dining room table was the first time I felt grateful for the last few years of my life and all my crazy lapses in confidence and crises of faith. Unknowing was perhaps the most precious thing I’d learned.

Although this process has been spiritually, emotionally, and even professionally and romantically difficult for me, I want to underline how happy I am to know so little. Acknowledging how changeable I can be allows me so much freedom to investigate new perspectives, consider new views, and even let go of beliefs I no longer consider just.

Imagine if everyone stepped a little (or a lot) outside all they were so sure of and considered the experiences and views of others. I would encourage all of us--as individuals and as the larger LGBTQ community--to take joy in the uncertainty of what we know and in what we could learn tomorrow that would change the way we see and live in the world.

Erica Chu is a student at Loyola University Chicago and is seeking a PhD in English with a concentration in Women Studies and Gender Studies. She manages the blog and can be reached at

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