This was published in the June 2013 edition of Pagan Edge. The theme was a young person’s (~20s) quest to figure out who they really were and wanted to be. For those nerds like me who are fans of Babylon 5, this basically looks at answering the questions, “Who are you?” and “What do you want?” For those Brit Lit fans, you may notice this is somewhat inspired by Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.
Mary slowly opened the apartment door and squinted at the sunlight. A middle-aged, smiling woman with glasses was staring at her. “Aunt Jane,” she murmured. “I thought you weren’t showing up until 11:00.”
“It is 11:00. 11:03, actually. I’ve been knocking for three minutes.”
“Oh. Sorry. Come in. I need a shower. Don’t worry, Minako is staying with her boyfriend this weekend.”
Jane entered the small apartment as her niece shuffled to the bathroom. She waited another half hour while Mary pulled herself together. She finally rejoined her aunt with a big glass of water. “So, how was the party?”
Mary shrugged. “Not too bad.”
“Are we still on for lunch?”
“Sure. I think I’ll be up for some food soon.” She took a long drink. “Do you want anything?”
“I’m fine, thanks.”
“Are you going to yell at me?”
“I’m not your mother, Mary,” Jane said.
“And you’re not going to tell me how Ellen would never drink so much and end up hungover when her aunt came to visit,” the younger woman said snidely.
Jane sighed. “Your sister is a very different woman.”
“Yeah. Like Mom and Dad always tell me.” Mary took another drink and groaned. “But they still want me to be like Ellen. The perfect student. The great athlete. The sensible one. Oh, yeah, and she’s engaged now.”
“Ah, so you were celebrating her good news,” Jane said.
“Yeah, sure,” Mary said sourly, and gulped some more water. “Man, I could go for a bacon sandwich.”
“I’m sure we can find a place with BLTs.”
“Thanks.” Mary finished her glass of water. “Go on, say it.”
“What you’re thinking about me. I mean, I do look like hell and I feel like hell and it’s my fault.”
“I’m worried about you,” Jane said.
“Don’t worry, I’ll graduate.”
“Not that. Your sister is smart, a hard worker, and very accomplished. She’s also lucky enough to be a stable relationship. And I know your whole life you feel like you’ve been living in her shadow.”
“I have, Aunt Jane. Nothing I do is ever good enough. Ugh!”
“So you didn’t try to do well in school and you go out and party and you aren’t serious with any guys.”
“Hey! I’m living my life on my own terms, damn it!” Mary retorted.
“Ellen never partied, so you do. Ellen studied hard, so you don’t. Ellen was good at sports, so you never tried out. Ellen is ready to settle down, so you aren’t. Ellen always tried to please your parents, so you don’t even bother.”
“So what?” Mary snapped.
“So everything you do is still defined by Ellen,” Jane said. “Except you’re defining yourself as not-Ellen. So you’re not Ellen. That’s fine. There are over seven billion people on this planet who are not Ellen and you’re the only one working so hard to make sure everyone knows that.”
Mary stared at her aunt for a minute. “I never thought of it like that.”
“I’m worried because I think you’ve worked so hard to be not-Ellen you don’t know who Mary is. So, who are you, Mary? Do you like political science or did you just pick it because it’s as far from chemical engineering as possible? Are you this party girl?” Jane asked.
“I don’t know,” Mary answered.
“Well, you think about it. In the meantime, let’s find some lunch.”