This was published in Pagan Edge in November of 2012. The theme for the month was “redefinition,” or “redefining oneself.” There were a lot of ways to interpret that theme, and this is what I came up with. This is something a bit close to me because I sometimes I felt like I couldn’t define who I was, or sometimes was afraid to do so. What if I defined myself as a writer, only to find out I wasn’t very good at it? My definition of self is still changing, although I hope without catastrophe.
“Through a Lens Darkly”
Ranya sat down at the desk and faced a familiar woman. “Well, here I am.”
“Here you are,” said the other woman. “Where is here?”
“Rock-bottom,” Ranya sighed. “I failed the Bar exam. I broke up with Justin. The wedding’s off and Mom and Dad are out about two-thousand bucks in deposits and I’m out about a thousand. No one understands why we called it off. I was laid off from work, so I have to move back in with my parents until I figure out what to do. I’m in my mid-twenties and right back where I was when I was a teenager.”
“Yeah, that’s bad,” the other woman agreed. “How did that happen?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know? If you don’t know, who does?”
Ranya stared angrily at the other woman for a minute. Then she sighed. “You’re right. I ought to know. I got here because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to go to college and get into law school and become a lawyer. I was supposed to get married and settle down and have kids.”
“Why were you supposed to do all that?”
“Because that’s who I am. I’m the overachiever. I was going to have a high-powered career and be the super-mom with the family. I’m the responsible one. I don’t fail. I don’t fail at tests and I don’t fail in life,” Ranya answered miserably.
“So you never did what you wanted, but only what you were supposed to do, because that’s who you are?” the other woman asked. “But if that’s who you are, why wasn’t this what you wanted?”
“I don’t know.”
“Ranya,” the other woman said sternly, “if you don’t know, then no one knows. Who are you?”
“The responsible one,” she answered.
“No, that’s how your parents define you.”
“No, that’s how your family defines you.”
“The big sister.”
“No, Ranya,” the other woman said patiently. “That’s how your brother defines you.”
“That’s how Justin defines you. Don’t you know who you are? How do you define yourself? Can you define yourself without using the labels others give you?”
Ranya looked down at her lap. “I-I’m not sure,” she said hesitantly. “Maybe I really am back to being a teenager; trying to figure out who I am and what I want. I think I’m too old for this,” she said, looking back up.
“No one is too old to realize they’re on the wrong path. It takes courage to admit it and more courage to try to find the right path. Maybe staying with your parents isn’t ideal, but at least you have a place to go while you figure that out,” said the other woman. “It won’t be easy. It won’t be fun. But it’s necessary, and you know it.”
Ranya nodded. “You’re right. Maybe it’s good my life fell apart. It’d be worse if I married a man I shouldn’t have or gotten stuck at a job I hated but felt guilty leaving. I’ll get through this. Maybe I won’t figure out the right path right away, but at least I know what’s the wrong path for me. Now, I’d better get back to packing. Thanks for listening,” she said to the familiar woman. Then she picked up the mirror from the desk she’d been sitting at and packed it into a box.