Years and Years of Questions (feat. Answers)

I recently read the book Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, and while there is a lot I could say about the beauty of author’s writing throughout the story, there was one line that really stuck out to me, and has stayed with me in the months after I finished:

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”

When I initially read it, I read right on through it, liking the wording but not thinking much of it. But as I got a few more pages in, I realized how much my mind continued to wander back to those words, paying little attention to those that had followed.

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”

Suddenly I found myself thinking of the years of my own life that truly have offered nothing but questions. Where I should go, what I should do, who am I, who do I want to be. Some nights I stay up begging for answers, only to wake up the next morning with more questions. But as infuriating as it is, I took Zora’s words as a reminder that sometimes, as much as we’d like to deny it—especially on those late nights—we’re simply not ready for the answers.

See, we all need to ask and be asked questions throughout our lives, many of which will not be easy to answer. In fact, there’s a good chance some questions will only lead to more questions, which will lead to more questions and so on, making the original question even harder to answer, if not all but impossible to clearly identify. What we need to realize however, is that in asking this seemingly endless string of questions, we are in fact drawing closer to an answer. And while it might not be the answer we originally wanted or it might be an answer to a different question entirely, it is a valuable answer nonetheless, because it in turn can lead us to more questions and then to more answers.

Being a very curious person myself, I ask questions all the time. I’m always the first to Google anything and everything that may come up in conversation and need clarification, and I think this is why Zora’s words meant so much to me. Because even though the years plagued with questions are hard, they are necessary. More necessary perhaps, than those that offer answers. For we can learn a lot about ourselves through the questions we decide to ask, both in why we want to ask them and how we hope they will be answered. Sometimes we’ll even find that the answer is the question itself.

So even though I know I still might have many a night ahead of me when I’ll lay awake feeling like the world has little to offer me but uncertainty, I’m comforted by Zora’s words: That clarity will always come through in the chaos, even if we have to wait a little longer than we might like for it to find us. And how in the meantime, even if it’s the last thing we want to do, we must keep asking questions and then more questions and then more questions, because somewhere in there, we’ll find an answer, maybe not one we were looking for, but rather one that we need.

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