I am. I know I am. But I don’t give a damn that I’m asking for a lot.
Asking is something we don’t often do; we tag the word ‘ask’ together with the idea of being perceived as ‘weak’ or ‘desperate’. We have an attitude ingrained in Britain, back when we could claim we were great, to keep calm and carry on. To shut up and get on with it. And I’ve realised I can’t stop myself from doing the opposite. I want to ask and ask for as much as I can.
Asking in its own definition is “to say something in order to obtain an answer or some information”. There’s not even a synonym to weakness in that definition, so why on Earth are we thinking that to ask is to be weak?
Why do we think we lose face by asking?
Recently I’ve realised just how far asking can get you. Call it chancing your luck, but I’ve found a certain joy in asking people about and for things. I’m not talking praying to your God like they’re a cash point or a genie in a bottle. I’m meaning more ‘hi, I don’t understand this so can you tell me about it?’ TO STRANGERS. Complete strangers or acquaintances on Twitter, emails to people I admire, a quick can-I-ask-you-about-X?
We fear we overstep an invisible boundary if we ask for a favour or help. We fear asking for questions could be seen as imposing. I worry how my emails might come across; too bold, to self-assured, to presumptuous. At uni, asking for help is encouraged. I have a lecturer throughout my degree telling us we need to ask, because we are paying to be here. So, we only hinder ourselves by staying silent. But that’s the thing, isn’t it?
By asking for help, we are showing people we don’t really have it all together. The big-scary-secret of being a human being, instead of a super-powered replicant. Everyday we’re surrounded on social media by people who have it together, so why would we admit we don’t?
What is there to gain from exposing this fabrication we all desperately try to keep, by having our lives together?
Well, really, we gain nothing. But by asking, we gain even if we reveal our struggle. For me, asking has now gained this gleam of unknown. I can reach out to people, those who I don’t know, who scare me because they’re so cool. I can ask these cool people questions because it’s dawned on me that they’re just like us, in the way their job to them is the norm the same way serving alcohol every Saturday night is mine. I can gain the help I need or simply have the comfortable knowledge I am allowed to ask. It is okay to ask. I have this power between my fingertips to make changes in my life. All that is my own choice. This power, it’s almost tangible and electric, sparking between each finger. I end sentences with question marks and it can get me to places I’ve dreamed of. Things I want but don’t believe I can get. Simple things like help over assignments. Or in work, a hand stretched up waving as if to say: ‘I need some help, but I don’t want to feel bad about it’.
At 21, I’ve started asking for things. I want to ask about opportunities, movements and things defining our future. I want to ask the people I admire some questions, or send a tweet to say how much I liked their latest piece. I want to know about our past so I can argue effectively over politics, but first I have to start asking questions. Exposing the fact that I don’t know much. Not to challenge those with the knowledge the way Donald Trump challenges The New York Times over ‘fake news’, but how someone can think X. What makes Y worse than X? And where did you get those shoes, because I kinda want a pair but you’re a stranger in Urban Outfitters, so I don’t feel I can ask, but seriously. Those shoes?
I want to ask in order to open opportunities, because in 4th year feels finite as weeks blur into one. I have urges to grab everything and do it. Making up the confidence in myself, until I can do with ease. Make the time, make the space and make the commitment.
So maybe I’m asking for a lot. But life is about initiative and university is a pot overflowing with possibilities. So yes, I will ask.
By Lou Ramsay