Earlier this year, I fulfilled my duty as a moody woman in her mid-twenties and finally got around to reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. The novel itself was quite good, but what struck me the most was its most famous metaphor.
Our protagonist views the different possibilities of her life branching out like a green fig tree. One branch represents marriage, another a successful career, another travelling the world, on and on, branches upon branches of potential lives.
“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,” Plath’s protagonist describes. “I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest.”
For so much of my young adulthood I have felt this choice paralysis. I am overwhelmed by what I could possibly do with my life and equally overwhelmed by what I might be giving up in the process. The potential of my twenties has often felt less like opportunity and more like limitation.
Coming to the University of Edinburgh as a masters student meant I was forced to pick a branch from my own fig tree. In doing so, I encountered several profound losses – of my budding teaching career, a very serious relationship, and the familiarity of home. There were many times in these early days in Edinburgh where I feared I might have made a catastrophic mistake. What if I had picked the wrong branch?
Here is where The Student comes in. I’ve always been chronically over-involved in extracurricular activities and I vowed to maintain this tendency in Edinburgh. The newspaper welcomed me with open arms. I swiftly became a Sport Editor and this autumn I was elected Deputy Editor-in-Chief. These roles improved my writing, editing, and leadership skills as you might expect, but their primary value was much less tangible.
In-between writing articles about ice hockey and literature and Love Island, I joined a community unlike any I have ever known. The staff of The Student are a passionate group of hardworking journalists carrying on the legacy of the oldest student newspaper in Europe. They are also among my best friends in the entire world. The Student has completely defined my student experience at the University of Edinburgh, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was an honour to be elected to the Editor-in-Chief team alongside Joe and Callum.
Sometimes I still find it tempting to view my time at The Student through this metaphor of the fig tree. What else might I have done with the hours I spent labouring away on WordPress? What other societies might I have joined? How different would my life in Edinburgh be?
As I look past graduation and towards the future unfurling ahead of me, I recognise that these are pointless questions with fruitless answers. If I spend my life agonising over my options, I’ll starve to death in front of a fig tree. I’m happy that I chose Edinburgh and that I chose The Student. I’m proud of the person this newspaper has helped me become. I’m ready for what comes next, whatever that might be.
I picked the right branch.
Image courtesy of Katherine Coble.