University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

The Dilemma of Deciding on a Dying Fig

Badger Admin

ByBadger Admin

May 13, 2024

By Megan Delaney (Staff Writer)

I often fall into a spiral of fantasising about every possible other choice I could have made in my life, which would mean I would not be sitting here right now doing this. Maybe if I were having a miserable time, it would be understandable that I feel this way. But I love what I study, I love where I live, and I genuinely enjoy the life I lead. So, what is the problem?

I find so many things enjoyable, and the fact that I have to choose between things is an impossible task. To pick one is to give up another, and my regret after making a choice is suffocating. When I first read the fig tree analogy in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, I finally felt seen. She depicts how a tree branches out before her, and on every branch hangs a fig each representing a different path her life could take. In front of her were different versions of herself: a poet, a wife and mother, an athlete and so on. As she stands at the foot of this tree, unable to choose a path to embark on, she watches as each of the figs shrivels up and dies at her feet as she “starves” with indecision. 

I battle with my fig tree daily. There are so many things I want to do, and so many versions of myself that I would love to be. I seek comfort in the fact that many other people relate to this, but even still, I find the feelings of regret impossible to shake. It reminds me of my decision to drop out of uni a few years ago, which felt like the end of the world. Even though it felt right, I now look back and wonder if that version of my life was the ‘right’ one, the right fig. I realise that this is just the manifestation of being a chronic overthinker. In reality, so many good things came from that decision, and although it’s natural to think about what could have been, it is an insidious task to regret the present. 

Decision paralysis is a recipe for insanity. I’ve fretted over so much, from choosing my module courses to a brand of mouthwash. But I’m finding it easier to brush these thoughts away. What helps is finding small amounts of good in my current reality. For instance, I’ll have one hard lecture, spiral, and convince myself that my degree was the wrong choice. But instead of letting this consume me, I now try to find three good things for every bad. Instead of focusing on what I didn’t like that day, I’ll go and find three other interesting things from the module that I have enjoyed. It’s small, but it helps me to appreciate where I am without getting overwhelmed. 

The looming presence of the fig tree can be seen in one of two ways: it can stand for the lives you did not choose, and you regret letting that fig rot. Or you can see it as a gift. To have so many interests and passions in life means you will always have something to strive towards, another version of yourself always waiting to take shape. Remember that the fig tree will blossom again, and more figs will grow. Just make sure to look after it well. 

Badger Admin

By Badger Admin

The Badger Newspaper

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