FROM THE ARCHIVES: When You Want to Do Everything
We've published hundreds of stories from 100+ writers in the last three years, so we're highlighting some of these timeless posts in our new From the Archives series. Enjoy!
I interviewed a senior in college for an internship today which 1) made me feel SO OLD (even though it's only been two years but seriously, hand me my cane...) and 2) brought me into a reflection on my own life over these past two years. And naturally, this led me to think about everything before these two years ("WHY did I say that thing to that person in the seventh grade") and all of the years well on into the future because what's a Thursday without a fun little panic attack...
In all seriousness, though, I felt like I had transported right back to where I was my senior year, caught in the in-between of trying to hold on so tightly to those last few months of my life as a student, and looking so forward to venturing out of it. But it brought back that old familiar, restless feeling—the same feeling I had when I got back from London, and when I first moved here—of wanting so many things and trying to figure out a way to make them all coexist.
In The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, she writes about a metaphorical fig tree and how each piece of fruit represents a different life: one fig is a dream career, one fig is traveling the world, one fig is settling down, and so on. And she expresses her fear that if she picks one of them, then that means that she can't have another, to a point where she becomes so distraught that each fig falls to the ground before she can make up her mind and choose between them.
Preach, Sylvia, you so get me. I want to be settled and secure with a 401k plan and dental insurance and a brick fireplace and oh wait, no I don't, I want to get on a plane with no certain destination and live in a tent I can't be tamed!!!
I can't make up my mind for the life of me, so about a million fig trees would be killed in this process, but I so understood feeling this way after school when, even though you felt like your options were limitless, you also felt like you had limited options. But even now, it is so normal to go from feeling totally content with where you are one day and then crying to your mom over cosmos the next. It's so normal for your mood to change as often as the weather does, and it's so normal to question things, question everything even. And yes, studies show ("studies" being crying to my mom over cosmos asking her) that it's so normal, natural, necessary, human, to worry.
Sometimes, I know or remember things that truly surprise me. Other times, I don't know things that should be common knowledge by age six and that truly surprises me (a few weeks ago, I didn't understand what a PO box was at work and everyone stared at me for seven minutes). But then I remembered when I was the one being interviewed, and here I was, a year later, still unsteady and unsure and forever neurotic and spilling soup all over me as I write this. But I had grown. With lots of getting lost (in Portsmouth...), lots of doubt, and lots of support and love from those around me who have let me be my neediest self ever, I had grown. Often, I feel like we are so busy thinking that we haven't that we don't let ourselves realize that we have grown.
This young college girl, with one semester of her life as a student left to go, was so sure of herself and so confident (I think I said two words and maybe coughed a few times during my first interview) and so eager to learn, and when we asked her what she wanted to do here she simply replied: "everything." And that is the way (at 22, and all of the years both before and after) you should spend every single second of your life. Because ultimately, you're going to end up exactly where you need to be. And maybe you're already there.
Besides. Figs will grow anywhere that you decide to water them.
[This post was originally published on January 26, 2017.]
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