Ask Jenny

Fig Girl

February 10, 2020

Today I was startled, which is one of life’s rarer emotions. For context, I’ve been unhealthy for no clear reason in the last few months (and years, if I think about it). Ulcers, flare-ups, aches, flu-like symptoms. Doctors have struggled to identify a cause. Today, I was startled by a phone call from my doctor who told me I have a high cancer marker in my most recent blood test.

I’m 22 and still emotionally volatile, so I felt justified when I cried all afternoon.

Since I moved to Pasadena, I’ve been sneaking out of work to visit the local farmers market every Tuesday morning. I like to flirt with different fruits and vegetables each week, but I always buy the figs from Kirk, who comes from a farm in West Covina. Kirk’s calimyrna figs are especially delicious. I buy enough to eat with breakfast for the week. When I go to bed at night, I feel conscious excitement at the thought of waking up to my figs.

I have a sticky personality. By that I mean I get very stuck to my interests, when I have interests. In the World of Plot Twisters, I often bring the Gift of Passion. Right now, I’m quite passionate about figs. I researched all about the different types of figs, how they grow, what nutrients they have. Did you know that a fig is actually an inverted flower? It blooms inside itself. Isn’t that a fascinating image?

When a female fig wasp is ready to lay her eggs, she will fly around looking for a suitable fig plant to pollenate and hold her larvae. Once she finds a fig she likes, there’s no turning back. Since the fig is an inverted flower, she must go on a stressful journey through the passage at the bottom of the fig to get to the center of the flower. She will lose her wings and antenna on her journey. But for her future kids, she’s willing to make the sacrifice.

But there’s a catch. There are two types of figs. Ideally, she’s sacrificing herself for the male fig, because at the center of a male fig are perfectly shaped flower parts designed to carry her eggs. If she successfully enters a male fig, she will fulfill her journey and comfortably lay her eggs. Baby fig wasps will hatch a few days later, then they’ll dig their way out and fly out on their own journeys again.

But, if she enters a female fig, she’ll be met at the center by a long, abrasive stylus, unable to escape. Crowded by unfriendly flower parts, she will eventually die, unfulfilled and alone. The fig breaks down her body. These become the edible figs, the ones that I eat with breakfast.

Sam says none of these medical issues are my fault. My mom says otherwise, that I take on too much responsibility, I expect too much of myself, I care about the wrong things, and that I should’ve taken a 9-to-5 salaried tech company offer with full insurance benefits straight to the bank and got a loft that costs $2000 per month in the city. She didn’t immigrate here and work so hard for me to be so stressed out and get cancer. She wants me to get massages on the weekends and eat at nice restaurants with a handsome and protective software engineer.

Whether or not these medical issues are my fault, I get what she means. She brings the Gift of Prudence and True Love. My mom would rather me be healthy than successful. And we both know that the Gift of Passion is closely linked with the Lemon of Restlessness. She doesn’t want life throwing me any more Lemons.

Last night I had a dream I was buying rare vegetables at a foreign street market, then a thief stole the vendor’s purse. So I took off sprinting after the purse thief through the market. That was my dream.

I told this to Blaise, who said, “Sounds to me like you’re dreaming about being a hero.”

I have the best friends in the world. They’re not only patient with my busy work schedule, they’re also very understanding that I have to be a much pickier eater since my health started becoming the axis of my life. I get check-in texts out of the blue, my phone calls are always answered, and some travel all the way across town or the country to hang out. They’re also totally okay with me only going to the pregames, never drinking, and leaving when it’s my bedtime.

I’m also very grateful for my jobs. Matthew is an inspiring boss, and Plot Twisters is becoming real. I love working with students and talking to people doing inspiring work. I fall regularly into the state of flow. Sheer kiddish enthusiasm. I am very happy on that front.

The other night I called my friend Matt, who is almost done with yoga teacher training in New York. There is just one last essay to write: what would you do if you had 24 hours left to live? Then I pulled a “funny you should ask” and I told Matt about how I might have a tumor. Funny, but uncomfortable and dark.

What would you do if you had 24 hours left to live? I said I would probably go healthfully. Keep to my current routine. I am doing everything I love. I’d probably allot more time to just sit and relax, maybe take a long hot bath, write some thoughts, watch a good movie.

Lil Wayne’s 6 Foot 7 Foot has come up on shuffle often in the last few weeks. It makes me laugh, especially this part:


Life is the bitch, and death is her sister
Sleep is the cousin—what a fuckin’ family picture
You know Father Time, and we all know Mother Nature
It’s all in the family, but I am of no relation

Unfortunately, unlike Lil Wayne, I’m totally just a human, a little fig wasp making her sacrifices, and I think all my friends and family are correct. At the very least, Life, Death, Sleep, Time, and Nature are warning me to choose the right fig, to be more careful on my journey.

The cancer marker is not indicative of cancer. I have to go in for more tests throughout the next few weeks. In the meantime, I will sit and relax, take a long hot bath, watch something good.

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