November 02, 2021

No Dumb Questions

By Elayna Johnson
No Dumb Questions

No Dumb Questions


For this rookie mistake I will be taking you back to the root of this habit. School. I don’t want to say I was a bad student. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t true. Feeling a bit like a martyr saying this, but I was not the best student. I had OK grades but I did not do school correctly. Let’s take a trip into the brain of 18 year old Elayna. She was a blast. 


Freshman year of college. Steamy from my walk across campus in the hot September sun.

I am going to be very candid for a moment. I can’t remember what my first college class was. I don’t even remember all of my freshman classes...this memory will be an amalgam of my entire freshman year.

Back to class. There I sat in my class. Let’s call this class Intro Communication (I’m pretty sure I took that). The seats are tight. It is like a movie theater for mice. I have a sweat outline of my backpack on my perfectly pressed t shirt. Electronic notes are prohibited, which is perfectly fine with me because it never occurred to me to even bring my laptop to class. It was 2012 and I will believe that not everyone thought to bring their computers to class. I digress. 


The class begins. A power point slowly flips as the professor speaks vaguely about…communication. A word or two accompanies a photo on each slide. I scribble down the word “analog” and that is about all I got. This power point mostly consists of photos. Do I sketch the photos? How am I supposed to remember this? There are references to the reading. Perfect. I paid an ungodly amount for this textbook, I’ll get to use it! I will read and then this will all make sense.

Class moves along in a natural cadence that seems akin to a college class from a movie. The professor asks a question and someone in the mouse auditorium abruptly answers. Another student asks a follow-up. I stare blankly at the feet of my professor. I notice his feet are small. My eyes scan upwards. I stare at the clock and wonder why I have trouble telling time on an analog clock. ANALOG. I’m brilliant

Fast forward to some absurd amount of time until the first test. It was either really soon or really far away. All I remember is wondering how I was supposed to remember things that quick/long? This part of my memory is fuzzy. The test was on paper but also I had a clicker to report my answers. That doesn’t matter. My elbows rubbed with the the student to my right. My chair was so small and squeaky. I cross and uncross my legs one too many times. My hand was leaving a moist handprint on my dark little desk. I knew nothing. I didn’t not study. I truly read everything and studied the best I could. 

I got the test back and it was something like a 63 and I winced and closed the laptop with great force after reading the score on an online portal. I guess I am just bad at communication. This semester will just be a wash. I continued to study the same way I did for the entire semester. I was too scared to join a study group because I already felt behind and didn’t feel comfortable. I attended a lot of extra credit and ended up just memorizing the book to pass the class with a B. Now take the Elayna method of class taking and multiply it by 5 classes a semester for 3 more years. 


I am wondering if you caught my error(s). I never ever went to an office hour. I never asked any questions in class. I never asked anyone for help in my class. I never asked anyone that had taken the class for help. I just assumed I was not born to understand this information and just accepted that. It never occurred to me that someone could help me do better. 

As time went on in college and I made friends and my classes got smaller and smaller I naturally joined study groups and asked questions in class. So things improved but this was the thesis of my first 3 years of college. 


My questions are stupid and everyone already knows the answer. I am not good at this now and will never be good at it. I will sit here quietly and research alone until I figure out what is going on. 


Now that you have made it through the memoir of a shy insecure student I want to tell you how this pattern of thinking continued into my life and business years later.


When I began printing artwork as prints (copies). I had a million questions. I researched and researched until I burned holes in my keys and retinas from staring at the screen. I was going to use grit to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. One day I got the courage to submit something to a printer. I got a stomach ache when I saw the immediate response of the printer. “Can you please attach the bleeds correctly.”

I don’t know how to do that I guess? I wanted to give up and hide in a hole. Well I guess that I am not meant to print artwork because I don’t know how to do that. I most likely turned on dramatic music and looked out a window for a moment. My google searches were running dry. Correct bleeds are based on what that specific printer needs. I won’t be able to google it. I guess (gulp) I could (wince) ask them how to do it. 

A quick response with instructions and I fixed it and they thanked me. 

A blur of my entire student lifetime flashed before my eyes. What would have gone differently if I had just accepted that I didn’t know how to do something and I had to learn it by asking? I can’t dwell on that now, because things would have been very different. Don’t dwell. 

If you get one thing out of this whole story I want it to be this.

Your questions aren’t dumb. We aren’t born knowing anything. We know nothing and we learned everything. It is easy to assume everyone knows everything, but they don’t. Someone else wherever you are is happy that you were brave enough and asked a question.