“Hey, look who survived the late night buses!” Judi greeted me, slopping wine from her glass as she thrust it into the air. I gave her a small smile, reflecting that it was okay our carpet was dingy beige and wouldn’t show the spill.
“We’ve declared tonight an I Love Lucy marathon,” Carla’s voice came from behind the TV. “When I get the VCR working, that is.”
Judi was giving me a hard stare. “What’s the matter?”
Even with a few glasses of wine, she knew me too well. “I’ll tell you later. I have to write an assignment for class tomorrow.”
Her eyes narrowed. “After you’re done then, girl,” she said, in a tone that warned I’d get the grand inquisition later. I nodded, tossing my coat onto a hook and heading for my bedroom. Perching on the edge of my bed, I booted up my computer and opened Word, then started typing.
I wasn’t going to write this paper, because I thought it short and silly and a waste of time. I’m a third-year student who should be doing serious research papers. But tonight changed that, and I’m going to tell you about my friend Alana. I’ve always wanted to be like her, though not for the reasons that you are expecting to find in this paper about our role-models.
When we were growing up, Alana had everything. Her parents both worked and they bought her whatever she wanted. Food at their place was fancy – it wasn’t homemade like the stuff on my table. Alana got all the nicest clothes to start school with and she had the fancy binder and pencil case and brand new pencils. If I was lucky, I could have the stuff she used last year.
Her parents paid her way through university, in a business degree, and when she graduated, she landed a high-paying job as an executive secretary. She worked her way up the ladder from there. She bought a huge high-rise condo, decorated it with the latest home fashions, leased an expensive car, found a hot boyfriend. Her closet was full of designer clothes and she complained about not having enough space for her shoes. But she wanted bigger. I figured if I was where Alana was, I could sit back and be happy for the rest of my life, but she talked about this being a stepping stone to a better job, and someday she’d get a fancier car and a bigger house.
During that time, I had traveled around Europe for two years and then worked several jobs at once to save up money to attend university. I looked up to Alana as someone who had made it – she’d had all the breaks in life and it had gotten her where I wanted to be. I applauded her ambition and hoped someday, with a lot of hard work, to have the same money and status and things that Alana did.
Tonight I went to visit Alana in her fancy apartment, because she never comes to my tiny basement suite. She was sitting on her patio drinking martinis, and told me that she had cancer. Her boyfriend had run off with the car. She hadn’t been to work in a week, and nobody had called her to find out why. Her parents split up years ago and she hasn’t talked to either of them since. She looked at me and said, “You’re all I have left, and now that you know this, you’ll leave too.”
Alana is still my role model, because tonight she taught me that I already have everything I need. I have a family who loves me and friends who stick by me. I have professors like you who challenge me and believe in me. And I don’t need the big apartment, designer clothes, or fancy cars to have “made it.”
I proofread the paper quickly, hit print, and then turned off my computer. After tucking the single sheet into my binder, I went out to find the girls laughing so hard they were holding their sides. Carla wiped a tear from her eye as she looked up at me. I got a plastic glass from the kitchen and poured the last of their bottle of wine into it. Raising my glass, I said, “Here’s to us, the richest girls in the world.”
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