The blushing of trees and chilly winds around this time is a clear indicator of yet another seasonal change, but defining its start can be troublesome. Did it come at the start of the fall semester? With the end of daylights savings time? Or perhaps, when we started rummaging our closets for warm jackets that were stored away during the summer? It is this ambiguity of arrival that makes us expectant, mixed with doses of wistfulness, frustration, and hope. Wistfulness because we must let go of the joys that the current season is bringing; frustration because we have already enjoyed everything the season has to offer and the coming season is just not coming fast enough; and hope because a new season means a new start with little perks uniquely allotted for the particular season. Likewise, our future has an ambiguous arrival that makes each one of us more expectant for it. If we knew the what or when of our future, would we be learning from the struggles or by taking chances?
Humans are uncomfortable with ambiguity, and we strive to eliminate as much as possible by labeling. Resumes of companies even ask us to label ourselves, such as who we are, what our goals are, and what we can offer them. It is not to say that this is wrong, but the point is, these questions are difficult because no one truly fits one label perfectly. A person who describes himself as diligent may once in a while procrastinate. A person who describes herself as passionate may feel her spark diminish at moments of difficulty. The ambiguity in the label brings internal chaos, but it is not our weakness; it is an incentive for development and reason for anticipation. If we choose to label ourselves with a certain adjective or noun, though at the moment we may not be completely so, we can work to become one, and like the seasons, its arrival may be subtle or catch you off-guard, but you will recognize it.
In the interview with the associate editor of the renowned journal Science (page 12), what was most surprising was her response to the question, “How did you become a publisher in scientific journals?” Surely to be an editor of such famous publication, she must have planned in advanced for her ultimate goal. Instead, she states that it was by accident that she stumbled into a career talk on publications. Because ambiguity leaves open options and does not tell us that it is impossible or possible, it allows us to dream and strive for that dream. While keeping in mind she was a person ready for the job with a distinguished academic background and research experience, ambiguity presented her the chance.
As university students, we are surrounded by all of these ambiguities, not knowing when or if, who we are, what we will become, and what opportunities lie ahead. But, it is also important to realize that there is a kind of beauty in ambiguity – frustrating as it may be, we lust for whatever is hidden behind it, and it becomes a great incentive and motivation. Ambiguity keeps us guessing, builds up the anticipation, and drives us to live.