What you believe is indecision might actually be the quality of wanting to explore more than just a single path in life.
In The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath wrote one of the best descriptions of what it feels like to be an indecisive person. The protagonist, Esther Greenwood, uses the image of a fig tree to explain how she imagines her possible futures, and how she’s unable to picture only one: “From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked.” Then she mentions each possibility: a traditional family, a successful career in the academic field, an inspiring life as an artist, and an exciting one as a traveler. Many more options spread in the form of figs in each branch of the tree, but as she looked at them without deciding which one to take, all of the figs withered, leaving her with nothing, precisely because she wanted everything. Do you relate to this idea? Is your indecision similar to Esther’s? Sometimes, instead of wanting everything, the exact opposite happens: we don’t make up our minds because nothing seems satisfactory enough, appealing enough, or exciting enough to keep our attention for too long.
Indecision is generally interpreted as a negative thing, like immaturity or even irresponsibility, specially when it comes to the career paths we choose. But not everyone thinks about it that way. Writer and coach Emilie Wapnick, for example, calls herself a “multipotentialite.” She believes that, if you feel you’re an indecisive person, you could be one too. She argues that indecision is not only perfectly okay, but it could have plenty of benefits for you and the multiple paths you choose. As she defines it, a multipotentialite is a person that doesn’t have just one vocation but several throughout their lifetime. Being a multipotentialite means learning a lot about as many subjects as you want and gaining diverse skills that will actually be helpful in the next professional and artistic fields you choose.
Can someone survive in today’s society without sticking to one thing? Emilie Wapnick says that, indeed, having ever-changing interests fits perfectly with modern times. As the world changes faster than ever, the ones who quickly adapt to those changes can do so because they keep following their own internal shifts. Indecision, ultimately, can provide the ability of embracing novelty. While the positive kind of indecision that Emilie Wapnick refers to isn’t the only one, other kinds can be less fruitful.
How does your personal indecision look like? Do you spend months learning about Victorian literature to later decide that you actually want to learn how to play the piano? Or are you unable to reach the last chapter of every single novel you start reading? Emilie Wapnick's term invites us to be more accepting of people who simply don’t want to do exactly the same thing every day and for all their life. However, we should also have to recognize the difference between being an extremely curious person who wants to experience many things, and being unable to make a decision on our own because of insecurity.
As a multipotentialite, you would look at your personal fig tree and go for several figs at once without hesitation, enjoying a handful of them until they wear out. But if you're just an indecisive person, you run the risk of living Esther Greenwood’s fear: losing all opportunities in the end. So don’t waste the wonderful privilege of choice, and don’t wait for someone else to guide you through life and make your decisions for you. Let your own curiosity guide you, and follow it with courage and persistence, even if it looks like you want to grasp too much. Embrace your potential and allow yourself to grow in every area you want.
Images by Eloise Ambursley
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