When I stumbled upon a Sylvia Plath quote a few weeks ago, I finally felt like the chaos of my internal dialogue subsided.
“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life. And I am horribly limited.” – Sylvia Plath
These words gave me a sense of clarity—it was a clean, polished, and concise quote that finally represented my current feelings.
When I think of my goals for the future, my mind runs wild with ideas. As a young child, I wrote in my preschool journal that I wanted to be a firetruck. Slowly, my goals became more realistic—I wanted to be a chef, a teacher, a lawyer.
In high school, I narrowed my focus to two possible paths: a career in politics or as a pediatric physician. I felt lost as I wrestled to decide which of these two seemingly unrelated fields I would pursue.
When I began the college process and it came time to make decisions that actually impacted my future career, I felt both very directed yet still and consumed with wariness about the choices in front of me.
But I soon realized that my options were not mutually exclusive. I decided to major in political science and pursue a pre-medical track, with the goal of one-day attending medical school and supplementing my medical career with health care policy work.
Once I got to Boston College, I added a journalism minor to satisfy my fascination with media and how the public consumes information—particularly how it relates to public health and perceptions of science.
Most people I tell about my academic pursuits struggle to understand why I “bother” engaging with my varied interests. But to me, the intersection of these disciplines could not be more worthwhile.
Though I was able to unite my seemingly divided intellectual passions in my coursework and career plans, I still ponder my career choices almost every day. From becoming a high school teacher to a literary agent, my mind runs in circles thinking about all the things I could choose to pursue.
To others who play these challenging mental games, my advice is to find a balance between letting yourself dream and imagine, while still staying grounded in reality. If I hadn’t let myself dream a little, I probably would have followed a very traditional path—I would be a standard biology major on a pre-medical track.
There is nothing wrong with that plan, but I have learned that staying on the typical path does not fulfill my intellectual desires. With that said, I have done my best to keep my wandering mind grounded in reality and to take actions to reach my goals with action as often as I can.
These dizzying thoughts of wanting to see, do, know, and experience everything are hard to control, but I’ve learned how to cope with incompletion. Like Sylvia Plath said, “I am horribly limited.” I remind myself that I cannot know what the future will bring, and that one day, maybe, I will see, do, know, and experience all that my mind imagines.
For now, I try to focus on the present. I think one step ahead instead of five and remind myself that as much as I can try to plan, dream, and imagine, I can’t control everything about my future. I am horribly limited, but there is still so much out there, far beyond what my racing mind can fathom.