‘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.’
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Written above is an extract from The Bell Jar (1963), Famous American writer and poet Sylvia Plath’s first (and only) novel. I wanted to share the extract as there is, within it, a message that I think we can all benefit from-
a message which emphasises something which we all have-
each and every one of us,
yet, something which we, all too often, forget that we have-
Free will which sees us all having the freedom over/
the autonomy over
a freedom to be able to do whatever we want with our lives/
to be able to make whatever we want
‘what you make it.’
(Though, saying that, with time being as finite as it is, for every activity that we spend our waking hours partaking in, we must, inevitably, forgo partaking in another activity, for, there are, of course, only 24 hours in a day..
The activities that we do not have the time to partake in- or rather, the activities that we do not prioritise partaking in- are known as ‘opportunity costs.’
An example of an opportunity cost in my own life;
When I was a competitive runner, the opportunity costs were my school work, my passion for writing, my relationships- all the things which ‘fell by the wayside’, so consumed was I in training to be the absolute best that I could be at running.
Looking back, I can’t help but think that; If I hadn’t been training at the intensity that I was training at throughout my GCSE’s and A-levels, then, maybe I would’ve got more A’s and A*’s/more 8’s and 9’s. But, I was training. Running was my priority then.
And, now? Now I no longer run- I write, and I sell vintage things online. If I were still running though, then maybe I would be an international athlete, running for GB. Maybe I’d even be preparing for the next Olympics, Paris 2024, my Coaches goal for me back when I was that ‘dedicated’ (obsessed?) 15 year old girl who just wanted to feel like she was ‘good’ at something. But, at what cost? My health? Yes. My freedom? Undoubtedly.
And so, you see? Whatever we’re doing now, there’s always going to be ‘opportunity costs’– all the other things which we could be doing*, perhaps things which we think that we ‘should‘ be doing, all at the back of our mind, making us question if we’re doing life ‘right‘/if we’re on the ‘right‘ path.
*(this is a concept which is also discussed in Matt Haig’s 2020 novel, ‘The Midnight Library’- the idea that there a whole multitude of different possible versions of ourselves, all of whom could be doing different things, often making using question if what we are doing now is ‘right‘)…
The thing to remember though, is that;
‘What’s meant for you won’t pass you by’,
‘If it’s meant to happen, it will happen.’
In other words, we must remember to avoid getting ourselves stressed over what ‘could’ve‘ been/
what ‘should’ve been’-
(for, as the extract from Plath’s book at the beginning of this post highlights-
‘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’-
doing this actually means that we’re more likely to not do anything at all, so stressed are we about getting it ‘wrong‘)-
and, we must, instead, just focus on the now,
bearing in mind that;
‘everything happens for a reason’,
it’s all part of a bigger plan,
a plan that exists beyond our understanding/
beyond the realms of human consciousness, even…
We must remember all this
so that we can all get the most out of every day,
fulfil our full potential,
and live a life our younger selves would be excited about-
a life of free will,