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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Over the time of my almost 22 years on this earth, I have had a lot of answers to this question. In order, they were: Princess, Mom, Teacher, Author, Biomedical Engineer, Drama Teacher, Journalist and now…? I couldn’t be a princess because there are not that many monarchies left to marry into. Becoming a Mom is still a goal of mine, but probably won’t be my whole career. Growing up in a family of teachers, becoming one was always in the cards but still not likely at this point in my life. I love to read so for a while I wanted to become an author, but it turns out I am terrible at creative writing. For a brief period of time I wanted to be a biomedical engineer, but the 33% I got on a high school chemistry test shut that one down pretty quick. I was involved with musical theater from the age of 8 until I graduated high school, so I thought I would become a drama teacher for most of high school. Early on in college I wanted to be a journalist, but it never “wowed” me as an option. There have been so many possibilities that answering the question of what will I be and what will I do with my life now fills me with an immense amount of anxiety. 

Growing up, you are told that you will find your career and that will be it. You will find the one thing you were put on this earth to do and stick to it for the rest of your life. However, as a senior in college, I feel strongly that this isn’t reality, at least not for me. What about your second choice? What about the decision that you almost chose? The choice you were so close to making but something stopped you, something got in the way or you discovered that actually you were better fit somewhere else? What was your almost?

This is mine: a first grade teacher.

If you know me, this may be surprising. I am going to graduate in just a few weeks with a degree in political science and international relations. I also have simply never taken an education class in my life. However, despite these facts, this is still my second choice.

This sentiment of endless possibilities and a myriad of career choices that could easily be the right one for me is expressed in “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath. This semi-autobiographical novel follows Esther Greenwood, as she grapples with her mental health struggles and the societal pressures of the mid-twentieth century, while consequently navigating the complexities of young womanhood. One of the most famous passages from this novel has been commonly called “The Fig Tree Metaphor.” The passage reads:

“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. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, 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.”

I have absolutely no idea what the next five years of my life will look like and this reality terrifies me. However, I take comfort in this passage and like Sylvia Plath, I have my own personal fig tree. It looks a little something like this:

I look into the sky at the most beautiful fig tree filled with every possible outcome of how my life may turn out. There are so many potential paths that I can’t even see them all from where I stand. One fig, the largest, is a global policy analyst problem solving and traveling the world learning from history to change the present. Another one grows just below it ripe with the desire to change the world around me: a lawyer. Then there is the one that is reminiscent of all the years I spent on the stage and the rare moments that I miss it: an actress. Another is a writer fueled by my inability to shut up. My tree is full. A mother. An elementary school teacher. A world traveler. A journalist. A diplomat. A professor. Some days it feels like it would be easier to just close my eyes and throw a dart at the tree, though knowing my coordination skills they would probably land on the ground. I don’t know where on this tree I will land, but it doesn’t matter (maybe the more I say that the more I will believe it). Because I am not the fig, I am the whole tree.

Originally from Southern California, studying International Relations and Political Science at Saint Louis University.