Branching out: Embracing Life’s Fig Tree

Careers Jul 9, 2024

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked….and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.” - Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

This quote from the Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath deeply resonated with me when I first read it back in 2022. In the year of 2024, amidst the abundance of opportunities, I believe that students all over the world face the challenge of struggling to choose ONE path as opting for every choice seems compelling and wrong at the same time.

‌Personally, I want to become a surgeon, a painter, a diplomat, a journalist, a researcher, and so much more. How does one choose a single fig when all of them look equally delicious? How am I supposed to make this choice before they all go bad?

‌‌Here are some tips so we don’t starve to death under the intimidatingly daunting fig tree;

1. Don’t Limit Yourself: You dont need to stick to ONE fig. Take your time to explore widely. Take part in as many extracurriculars you can; the sky is the limit. Highschool is the prime time to experiment and eliminate everything you don’t resonate with. Instead of sticking to one path at this age, make highschool a playground of exploration; keep an open mind to every experience so you truly learn what you want to pursue. Engaging in diverse activities will also turn you into a well-rounded individual with a deeper understanding of what excites you.

2. Appreciate the Figs (You can pick more than one!!!): Instead of finding ONE passion to focus on, I’d recommend nurturing multiple. People can be passionate about more than one thing; we need to recognize that we are multifaceted beings. Embrace the diversity of your interests and talents. Each fig represents a potential avenue for growth and fulfillment. Pursue them with curiosity and dedication, knowing that each experience adds depth to your character and skills. It's okay if your path meanders or if you decide to blend different passions into a unique career or lifestyle. The key is to nourish each fig as you explore, allowing them to ripen at their own pace without the pressure of choosing one at the expense of all others. This approach not only enriches your journey but also ensures that the figs of your life remain vibrant and nourishing.

3. The Figs Will NOT Go Bad: It's crucial to remember that opportunities and interests don't have an expiration date. Unlike real figs, your potential pursuits won't spoil if you don't pick them immediately. Take your time to explore and grow; each experience adds to your understanding and maturity. The world is full of people who change their paths later in life and find success and fulfillment in unexpected places. Trust that your journey is about discovering what truly resonates with you, not a race against time.

‌‌Remember, the fig tree metaphor speaks not just to the fear of making choices but also to the fear of missing out. Embrace the process of exploration and self-discovery, and trust that each decision contributes to your growth. Keep in mind that life is about navigating through choices, not about avoiding them altogether.