DUB Speak

The Millennials’ Fig Trees: Choices and Anxiety

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Have you ever felt that the possibility of being many things is too much of a burden? Does it ever occur to you that the career choices in your path offer opportunities, but act as a trigger for fear, anxiety, and sadness as well? Then, read on to understood why too many choices restrict your freedom.

The new millennium is not only the time non-millennials, and other adults, refer to as a time of social media vernacular, Netflix, and frivolity from behind our gadget screens, but it is a time where mental health and other issues are seen to find a dialogue. This dialogue is no more censored to be inclusive of the misrepresentations around these tabooed themes, and the older generations are right when they call us growing angrier. The millennials are angry, because the millennials are tired of being at peace with the wrong kind of humour, the insensitive form of living.

With the strength in the relative kindness of the millennial age, there comes a certain sense of baggage as well. One has a thousand choices, and there is the age-old question- ‘how far does free will extend’ brewing in intensity, waiting to explode, in the heads, and starting a mentally unhealthy chain reaction. For instance, one eighteen-year-old experienced two episodes of anxiety within eight months, despite being in one of the most renowned educational institutions in the country, because she could not decide her career path. There appeared to be options so many and wide-ranging that it scared her, making her feel anxious about making the right decision at the right time.

The discourse around the current scenario of choices is positive in its outcome as well. In India, it is no more a dichotomy of the engineer and the doctor to be viewed as the barometer for success. Local artists and non-mainstream occupations are acquiring the centre stage. Three decades ago, being a full-time artist would have required either a whole lot of courage or an immense privilege but today a person from a middle-class family can choose his art as a profession to support himself. Choices have always had that going in their evolution. But this situation is often the half-informed, misunderstood picture as well.

There is often a motivational air while saying, ‘Find your passion and do what makes you happy.’ This takes one fact for granted- everybody has an inherent passion, and that skill is what would make them happy in their professional lives. The truth is that there is a very rare chance of being born with the knowledge that there is a burning need to do one particular thing, and then love it, your whole life. Passions are, for most ordinary people, extraordinarily evolutionary in nature. Rahul Dravid may have known that 22 yards were how far he wanted to run to be content, but most people chase many failures and options before realising that one goal probably works a little better than the rest. It is pessimistic, and not something Dead Poets’ Society would tell you, but it is true for most people. The fear of exploring and choosing the wrong option is extremely real, and dangerous beyond the extent for many people today.

One can aspire to be an actor and live the dreams of many lives, but one may also have a love affair with medicine that makes them want its stability and familiarity. The lines between wanting to break free from the script, and finding your own sense of joy within that script become blurred. The romanticism of Ved breaking away towards freedom can then be dissected from another lens, because if there are these many choices one has to make, then one is not probably as free as they think. An argument could be that one can live many dreams, and does not have to be doing the same thing all their life. This may be true for some, but is often associated with a blue perspective for many. Uprooting entire lifestyles, taking off from a long-known familiarity, and starting afresh are big decisions with serious implications on one’s mental health. But the very fact that there is a necessity to do this, and one has to make that decision, can cause a trigger for anxiety, and may even descend into sadness.

Sylvia Plath was sad and ill for many reasons, but one reason that triggered her depressive anxiety was the problem of too many choices. She understood the millennial dilemma before the millennium. In her deeply personal work, she summed up the rather ugly sadness of deteriorating mental health in a rather poetic manner- “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.”


Feature Image Credits: Design You Trust

Anushree Joshi
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Anushree Joshi is trying to be a writer by procrastinating most days and writing on some (productive) nights. This over-thinker studies English literature at your anti-national, feminist hotspot Lady Shri Ram College, and has strong opinions on why your #IAmHumanistNotFeminist attitude is the problem with the society and the system of patriarchy. She writes 1000-word articles, reiterating why To Kill a Mockingbird is the greatest lesson in empathy, and argues that Manto should be taught in schools and colleges. If you wish to rant or report or want me to write your story, mail me at [email protected].

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