I have a new catch phrase: “Who the heck knows?”
I started using it last fall, and ever since then I’ve found that it applies to almost everything that might arise in the future.
I don’t claim originality, but here’s how I came up with it:
At a class reunion in October, I was asked to be part of a panel of law school classmates who had veered off the usual lawyer-track and now worked in a totally different area.
Specifically, I was asked to address a simple question: Why did I leave my work as a lawyer/law professor and decide to focus primarily on writing?
First, I explained that I’d always loved writing, continued to write even while I worked as a lawyer, and left my law-related jobs when they no longer seemed meaningful. I added that my move to San Francisco led to launching my blog and publishing my first two novels.
“If I stay healthy and my brain keeps functioning, I want to continue to write, with an increasing focus on memoirs…. I’ll keep putting a lot of this kind of stuff on my blog. And maybe it will turn into a book or books someday.
“Who the heck knows?”
After I said all that, I realized that my final sentence was the perfect way to respond to almost any question about the future.
Here’s why it seems to me to apply to almost everything:
None of us knows what the next day will bring. Still, we think about it.
In “Men Explain Things to Me,” the author Rebecca Solnit notes “that we don’t know what will happen next, and the unlikely and the unimaginable transpire quite regularly.” She finds uncertainty hopeful, while viewing despair as “a form of certainty,” certainty that that “the future will be a lot like the present or will decline from it.”
Let’s cast certainty aside and agree, with Solnit, that uncertainty is hopeful. Let’s go on to question what might happen in the uncertain future.
We wonder whether the midterm elections will change anything.
We wonder whether our kids will choose to follow our career choices or do something totally different.
We wonder whether our family history of a deadly disease will lead to having it ourselves.
We wonder whether to plan a trip to Peru.
We wonder whether we’re saving enough money for retirement.
We wonder how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in an upcoming case.
We wonder what our hair will look like ten years from now.
We wonder what the weather will be like next week.
And we wonder what the current occupant of the White House will say or do regarding just about anything.
You may have an answer in mind, one that’s based on reason or knowledge or probability. But if you’re uncertain…in almost every case, the best response is: Who the heck knows?
If you’re stating this response to others, I suggest using “heck” instead of a word that might offend anyone. It also lends a less serious tone to all of the unknowns out there, some of which are undoubtedly scary.
If you prefer to use a more serious tone, you can of course phrase things differently.
But I think I’ll stick with “Who the heck knows?”
Warning: If you spend any time with me, you’ll probably hear me say it, again and again.
But then, who the heck knows?