Planning for the future starts when we are little kids with our parents asking us what we want to be when we grow up and it never really stops. It changes a little through the decades, turning from excitement about all the possibilities to a kind of dread when you realize that you are not quite sure if you've made the right decisions. What if I had done something different. Should I have pursued dermatology when I realized that I have a mild addiction to clearing my pores? Should I have tried to be a tattoo artist like Kat Von D? Should I have pursued that math degree? Stockbroker? Veternarian? Now that I'm getting more into health and fitness, should I set some kind of body building goal? Or be an animal rights activist? I always liked making and editing videos for school projects....and secretly I think I could be a good actress. Meryl Streep didn't have a breakout role until her 20s so I've still got time to be a famous actor/director. And I want to learn guitar. And invest in real estate. And learn to surf and paddle board and scuba dive. And keep dancing my little heart out and become super bendy and strong.
Everyone has the fear of failure and a fear of the unknown potential future and I think that it's 100% normal to feel like you want to do so much more than you're doing. There's great imagery in The Bell Jar about this. All the potential you have is in front of you in a huge fig tree. And before you make a decision, you can look at all your little figs and be so excited and kind of nervous about choosing the wrong one. What if it's rotten? Should you choose the really sweet juicy fig at the top that's really hard to get to or should you just pick the easy green one in arms reach. When you pick one some others might fall off the tree and get eaten by ants and you'll never taste those figs. Some people know exactly what they want and they pick the perfect fig with no difficulty. Some people taste a few figs on their way up before finding the one they're looking for. Some people just stare at the fig tree and can't bear to pick anything at all.
I think I'm a taster. I collect my figs in a big basket and just nibble as I go. I can't see all the way to the top of my tree but I suspect my perfect fig isn't there yet..maybe it will start to grow in a few seasons from now. While I'm climbing in my tree I'm just enjoying the view, and thinking about how good the fig right in front of me tastes. (Side note: figs are really freaking delicious).
Most people in this world have limitations and obligations and find themselves settling into a life they didn't really get to choose. That's why I think it is so awesome to see my friends and colleagues think about starting their own businesses, and then starting them and watching it grow and grow and grow! Right now my plan is to travel, meet interesting people, do interesting things, find out what SLP setting and geographic locations calls to me. But I don't necessarily need to be an SLP for the rest of my life. If I am, then that's great, and certainly my tree is leaning that way at the moment. But I'm very open to possibilities that have nothing to do with speech therapy. It does feel awesome that I can pretty much have a guaranteed secure and well paying job if my super well thought out plan to be an award winning actress based on one semester of seventh grade drama class falls through. To all my friends and family: I hope you open your studios, sell your business plans, invest in yourself and your happiness and make delicious fig newtons.
Part of the reason I want to go on this adventure is because I'm an only child and my parents aren't getting younger. I plan on taking care of my mom and dad and stepmom when they are older and having difficulty living on their own, and that will involve me staying in one place, tied to a certain geographic area at least. Working in a skilled nursing facility has been great for me to gain insight into the aging process and start to see really good examples and some pretty rotten examples of family dynamics during the aging process. My parents are so so so supportive of me, even when they think I'm being crazy. I really want to be a good daughter and return all the love and support right back on them when they need it.
In the comments below, let me know what's growing on your fig tree!
(Edit: I recently learned that figs are pollinated by wasps. The female wasps crawls into a fig, lays her eggs, and dies inside the fig. A male comes in a pollinates, and sometimes also dies inside the fig. Their body gets absorbed by the fig. In a little while the eggs hatch and become larvae, and then become little wasps that fly out of the fig. And we are left with the delicious fruit (the hard little balls are just seeds, don't worry). Maybe THIS is the scary part of fig farming. I'm not sure how this adds to my metaphor but I like the weirdness. )