The saying “Ignorance is bliss,” they told me, means that what you don’t know ought not to worry you. Yet in this world we move in, ignorance is shunned upon and knowledge is power. So how can ignorance ever grant one the happiness?
I’ve recently taken the job as a coordinator for Training and Operations in the student media unit of a university. The youthful vibe was invigorating. There was potential everywhere I looked. Funnily though, my friends and colleagues assumed that I have taken a teaching profession, far off the tangent from my previous job in magazine publishing. I looked like a kid in the workplace; I can sit with a group of junior college students and I would blend in just fine. It was amusing, flattering even, for some time, until it got to the point where everything felt misconstrued. It was as if I didn’t know who I really was. As if I was difficult to place. As if the joke was on me, but I didn’t know it yet.
I paid no mind. I told myself I was fine. I did my job as I should, but one day, I just woke up and everything felt amiss. I suddenly wasn’t sure of what I was doing; my mistakes started piling high. Six months into the job, I found myself admitting to the struggle. I felt like I wasn’t cut out for it.
I started to wonder how it could be so tough— training student media practitioners to be competent in their chosen disciplines while maintaining strong foundations in humility, ethics, and social responsibility. For days on end, I pounded my head and asked the question: “What is it that is making my job harder than how it reads on fine print?”
Industry knowledge and experience were things I had, things I brought to the table. I had made big adjustments in transitioning from working in a startup business to being employed in an educational institution. I was prepared for a job that dealt with teens and young adults with propensity for rebellion. But what I wasn’t prepared for were the expectations set on me.
I was only three to five years senior to most of these students, yet I was expected to think, behave, and speak like a role model. I would stand as an adult companion during off-campus affairs, all while being clueless on how to watch over my own well-being. I was turned to for counsel, but I sometimes found myself giving advice my stubborn self would not even take. I couldn’t afford to make mistakes- not with people watching.
It was like facing an uphill battle with the unknown. I wandered but with no real direction. As my 25th birthday approached, I allowed myself to slow down and evaluate the choices I was been making. “Am I doing anything to improve my situation? Is this chaos designed for me, or by me? Am I losing? To whom?” were the questions in my head.
Silence and time were all it took for me to understand that the only thing that was sabotaging my peace was the expectation I set on myself, steeper than anyone had ever imposed. That there was no room for mistakes, that I must always be on top of things, that I should know every corner and every recess of this job— these are the sharp knives that cut my progress. I suffer from shortcomings on a lot of things, and I knew it was about time that I come to terms with it.
So does that mean I’m not the perfect person for the job? Well, not exactly. Because there’s no perfect person for any job at all. Because perfection is an illusion, but greatness is real. And greatness is born from relentless practice and the pursuit of the betterment. I slowly learned how to position myself better in my job when I loosened up and admitted that what I knew in life and my profession were not enough, and that I had a long way to go on both ladders I learned that making mistakes is equally important as getting things right. That aside from what my mentor and boss could teach me, I must learn from my students, too. That even though they would never teach me what an actual job can, there are more important lessons to learn when I listen. And much like them, I am a student in this boundless school called life. That I know practically nothing, but that’s fine. And the more I said words like, “I don’t know how to do it, but I’m willing to learn,” “Please guide me. Please teach me,” or “Let’s work together because I think we can do better if we collaborate,” the more things fall better in place.
In knowing that I have so much more to learn, I started waking up each day more comfortable with my ignorance on so many things. I became grateful for realizing how ignorant I am, because it is one of the few things that could make one person boundless, with tons of lessons to learn and relearn in this world. It doesn’t matter who knows more or who’s ahead, because this is not a competition and there is no finish line.
I thought they knew what they meant when they said ignorance is bliss. They didn’t. And I am glad they were wrong about it.