My first call with Jen was in July of 2020 while I was on a road trip in Utah with one of my best friends from college. I was matched with her a few weeks after my orientation with Social Call, an organization I found on Google on a Sunday afternoon, when I decided that I needed to expand my perspective beyond the Silicon Valley millennials. I felt lost, trapped, locked in the box of my San Franciscan three bedroom in the middle of a pandemic. Four months into the pandemic, and I started to feel like a hamster, running in place on a wheel. The same running routes, the same food, the same four walls, the same routine — work, run, cook, eat, sleep.
I only knew one thing about Jen when I was connected with her — she loves poetry and writing, as I have requested. I wanted someone creative, because I knew I had the best connections with creative souls. At this point, I’ve spent a few months networking professionally on Lunchclub over Google Hangouts, and even went on a couple of dates over Zoom. But I have never met anyone on the internet in the context of friendship, let alone someone who could be my grandmother’s mother. I was excited about how nervous I was to embark on this new friendship.
After several calls with Jen, I realized that I was not fully being myself. I felt a blockage in our connection because I was holding back questions I had for her, about the world, about myself. I wasn’t sharing the most intimate part of myself — the part that is most uncertain, most frightened about the future. I was scared to be alone, to be without a partner, to have my friends coming and leaving the city, to have my family across the seas, to be working so isolated, to be so unsure of who to rely on. In essence, I felt unsafe, unsteady, and utterly alone. This feeling that lingered all the time in the back of my mind revealed itself in its full monstrosity in my three-bed-one-bath. And I realized that I needed Jen more than she needed me.
Carefully, without dramatic backstories and complex explanations, I found opportunities in our conversation to loop in my questions. One day, I confessed to her that I felt that I lacked confidence. Then, in my little sister’s asking-for-candy voice, I asked her, “how do I become more confident? How do I become sure of who I am?”
She said, softly and surely, “You know by learning. You will do things, and some things will make sense, and others will not. Over time you will know what you want. You are a smart girl, you will learn.”
Simple as that, is it? Confidence. certainty. It’s just that, trial and error?
I thought about this for awhile, and one day while trying to sleep at 3 a.m., I remembered in one of my conversations about my ex-boyfriend, I had been distraught about my lack of confidence in myself. And my friend asked me, “How can you be confident if you don’t know what you want?” What is it to know what I want?
So I asked myself, what is knowledge? Knowledge is the experience of truth.
Faith, belief, and trust all hold some uncertainty, because only with uncertainty do you need faith and belief. If you know there is a God, there would be no need for faith. Faith is having trust that something is there even when you can’t see it, hear it, touch it, or sense it in any way. Not being able to experience it with your senses makes it uncertain. So, faith is not knowledge. Knowledge is experiencing the truth. You don’t believe in gravity, nor do you have faith in gravity, you know that gravity is there. You experience its reality. You don’t have to trust the sky is blue, you see it everyday.
However, you need faith to get to knowledge, because without faith, you cannot have the courage to bear the world of unknown. Venturing into the unknown is how you can explore truth, how you can experience what drives you, what makes you happy, what makes you feel alive. Then, what you put value on, what you feel are important, are built off of that knowledge. What does pretty shoes and shiny cars ultimately bring you? You will discover if material possessions are your values. What does your riches bring you? You will discover if symbols of status symbols are your values. What does your family and friends bring you? You will discover if love is a value.
Piece by piece, bit by bit, feeling your heart and sensing your soul at each and every turn of experiencing your life, you’ll know what makes you joyful. When you are there, when you know, fully, and completely, what brings you joy, there is no more uncertainty.
Then, you go into the world, certain of what you value, certain of your goals. That’s confidence. You are not measuring yourself against anyone else’s yard stick but your own, because you know your values, what you want to accomplish, and where you are on that journey. When you’re doing that fully, there’s no falling behind on the journey, because you know at every step of the journey where you’re going. You know your destination, you know you will get there, because you know your goals, your values, and how to measure your success. It’s like studying for a test that you know how to study for. You know the ways, the methods, the routine. It’s just the matter of doing it.
After a few weeks of problems with my phone during my time in Taiwan, I finally got a hold of Jen. I was more than thankful to be able to catch up with her, hearing her lively voice through the phone, along with her loving family. Talking to Jen again, I was reminded of the spirit in her that I felt in myself — the spirit of exploration, of aspiration for connection, of a heart full of warmth and thanks. We share pieces of our spirit, across generations, across history, across cultural differences. I was reminded of the spirit of just doing, of confidence that builds over time, and the courage and faith that holds its foundation.
Life is full of uncertainties right now, we don’t know what will happen in the next few months, where will we live? Where will our friends be? What would be the state of our jobs, our economy, our family? I guess there will always be parts of life that will feel uncertain. But I think in time, we grow more and more confident in ourselves, in the way that we navigate the world. As long as we open ourselves to our senses, and truly feel what makes us happy, we can always come back to what is certain.