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The Fig Tree

"I saw my life branching out before me."


"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.”

“So, Katherine,” my older friend said to me as she walked into my living room with a fresh cup of coffee, “how about we have a little chat about you and your future? It’s about time we catch up.”

I hate Angela’s once-a-month visits. Every time she comes over she always wants to talk to me about my future. Dear God, please don’t let her ask about my college major or what I want to do with my life. I have too many decisions to make and I really have no freaking clue what I’m going to do.

“Sure,” I replied, sitting next to my friend on the couch.

“So, have you picked a school yet? And do you know what you’re going to study?” She smiled, leaning in.

You’re only the twentieth person to ask.

“Not really,” I hesitated, “I don’t have any single college in mind. And I don’t really know what I’m going to be studying, either.”

“Well, that’s okay, you have plenty of time to decide. But you should at least be thinking about it, I mean, you certainly have a ton of subjects and schools to choose from.”

I frowned and looked down at my shoes. That’s the problem.

“One fig was a husband and a happy home and children…”

My friend gulped on her coffee and placed her mug on her lap. “So how is Jared doing? Are you two still seeing each other?”

“No,” my eyes fluttered. “We’re not dating anymore.”

“Well that’s a shame. What happened?”

“He asked me to become his girlfriend, like exclusively,” I swallowed. “I said no.”

“Now why would you say no to a boy like that? Top ten in his class and extremely polite. Oh, what a fine, young man. That’s a shame. You won’t find another one like him.”

I wish I could tell her that yes, Jared was a wonderful guy and I cared for him a lot. But he was just something I didn’t really want at the moment.

“Yeah, I don’t think I’ll find anyone like him in the future,” I remarked, trying to change the subject. “Anyway, I-”

“Well, what about other boys? All a normal 17 year old girl wants to do is find a boyfriend. At this point in your life, you should be at least thinking about that.”

“I guess I’m not a normal 17 year old girl,” I huffed. “I don’t think dating is really in the cards right now. I like being single.”

“Wow! That’s not a good attitude to have at all. Do you ever want to be in a committed relationship at all? Or even get married in the future?”

I. DON’T. KNOW.

“Being married with a husband, two kids and having a white picket fence sounds nice and all,” I shuffled in my seat, “but I don’t really know if that’s exactly what I want at the moment.”

“Well, that’s fine for now, I guess.”

“Another fig was a famous poet…”

“Oh, and before it slips my mind, your mom mentioned that your writing was featured in your school’s magazine. That’s so great dear. Remind me, what did you write about exactly?”

“Thanks! I wrote a short poem about my grandmother and how much I miss her.”

“That’s nice, I’m sure she would’ve of loved to read it. So you really like writing, huh?”

“I love it,” I replied. “Writing lets me express myself in ways I could have never imagined.”

“Now if only you could make a career out of that,” she said in a disappointing tone, “then you would be all set in life.”

Little does she know that one of my many dreams is becoming a famous writer. I’ve fantasized about it since I was 13 years old.

“Why couldn’t I make a career out of that? There are a ton of authors out there in the world.”

“Well, in my mind writing isn’t a real career, sweetheart. If you tried to become a writer you would never make any money. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. Those famous authors, they just end up lucky.”

I don’t know if I’ll ever try to be a famous writer or anything, but if I do, I guess we’ll see if what she says is true.

“Maybe you’re right,” I blinked.

“Beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out.”

“Of course I’m right,” my friend laughed. “I’d like to think that I know it all.”

Yeah, I’ve known that for years now.

“But really though, you seem so unsure of yourself these days,” she looked me straight in the eye. “That’s not a good quality to have. You need to have at least some sense of direction in your life.”

Well, it’s true that I’m not on one straight path for my life right now. The problem is, I can see myself going down many different paths. A part of me wants to study something boring in college in order to secure a well paying job. Another part of me wants to travel and spend all of my time on my writing. A different part of me wants to find a solid boyfriend and get married to him at the age of 23.

“There are so many things I can do with my life,” I answered, “and I think if I just decide to choose one thing, I would miss out on a lot of opportunities. And I wouldn’t know what one thing to choose right now.”

“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.”

“That’s just ridiculous!” My friend slammed her cup onto the table. “You know you’re going to have to pick some one job or lifestyle or at least know what you’re doing someday soon! You can’t just walk around, knowing nothing of your future!”

“Why not? Who says there has to be a specific order to these things?”

“You can’t achieve all your dreams. If you decide to go to college, you’ll be too busy with your schoolwork to do anything else. If you get married and have a kid right away, you’ll spend the rest of your life taking care of that kid. You really have to chose just one during this point in your life.”

I sighed and suddenly felt sweat pouring down my forehead. I guess she does have a point. It would be kind of hard to do all those things and by the time I’m 30, I’ll be forced to make up my mind.

“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

“Yeah, I know, I just want to do a lot of different things in life, I guess. I don’t want to choose one thing,” I placed my hand on my knee.

“And that’s not necessarily a bad thing but you really can’t have it all. At least think about choosing one career, okay, hun? If you don’t make the decision now, you won’t make it ever. And you’ll end up just doing nothing.” She took her phone out of her pocket. “Look at the time! My husband is probably at home, waiting for dinner. This was a great chat, dear, it’s always so nice to see you. But I must be heading on home now.”

“Bye,” I said, feeling relieved that she was leaving. “See you next month. And tell your family that I love them.”

“I will” she said as she walked out the door, “talk to you soon.” She closed the door.

“I think I’ve done enough talking for one day,” I said out-loud to myself. “Jeez.”

I mean, I wasn’t that worried before, but now now I feel extremely anxious about my future. Really, what is it the one thing I want to do in life?

It has been six years since I’ve had that talk. Luckily, since then, I do feel more secure in what I am doing right now. After high school I decided that going to college in order to attempt to become a writer was a good choice for me. Even though I have that idea in mind, I occasionally remember there is a chance that my future won’t work out the way I want it to. And sometimes if I think about it too long, it scares me. A lot.

When I feel this way, I can hear my my friends’ shrill voice ringing through my head. “Do you know what you want to do with your future?” She grins, waiting for some long, drawn out answer.

NO, I answer her in my head, my heart filling with fear.

But then I take a deep breath, try to shake it off and remember that I am still on my way. Instead of sitting and waiting for the figs to fall from the tree, I want to try and make sure the tree grows as tall as it possibly can. Why shouldn’t I see all the possibilities in the world? I don’t have to commit to something right away. I still have time.

Someday I may end up with one fig in my hand, but right now I am doing okay. And I know no matter what happens, everything, including my future, will turn out to be just fine.

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