Author’s Note: A lot of us knew what it was like to have those final talks with the student advisor. They were there to help you clarify your future plans and give you a bit of a roadmap to set you on your way. Some advisors were great, others not so much. Lydia Powers (partly named after my third grade teacher) is based on the kind of advisor I wish I’d had both in high school and college, who should have invested a bit more than just doing the minimum required by providing that personal connection that’s sometimes needed. In this case, Annie’s worries aren’t so much based on not getting the proper advisement though, it’s based on wanting to make a good impression, which is very much in character for her.
“Anna-Nassi! There you are. You’re a tough mandossi to track down.”
The human voice to her left startled her so much she yipped and skittered to a halt in the middle of the hallway, nearly spilling all her books to the floor. Another mandossi student right behind her chirped in surprise and almost plowed into her, turning to avoid her at the last moment with a flustered grunt.
“Eiyah,” she groaned, as she turned her head towards the office she’d been trying to avoid for the last month and a half.
“Annie, can you please come in so we can talk?”
Lydia Powers, the school’s student advisor, stood in the doorway with her arms crossed and a lopsided grin on her face. Ria Lydia had been trying to corner her for ages to discuss her Future Calling, and Anna-Nassi had made it a point to avoid this certain hallway as much as she could. She’d been lucky and seen the door closed when she had to sneak by. But today she’d completely forgotten to be as vigilant. She’d been too distracted by Diwa and Kaffi’s estate plans, and it had slipped her mind.
“A-ai,” Anna-Nassi muttered. “I, uh, need to get to class, ria.” She pointed blindly down the hallway. In all truth, this was her free period, and she was heading up to the roof for a little peace and quiet and perhaps the possibility of meeting up with Cole. It was a flimsy excuse and even she didn’t believe it.
“You’ll get there with time to spare,” Lydia said with a smile and waved her in, stepping aside. “Come on, let’s get this over with. I promise, I won’t bite.”
Anna-Nassi twitched her wings. She could make a run for it (ria Lydia might be short for a human but she had been known to keep a frighteningly close pace with several species), claim she had to meet with another teacher (who would march her right back to ria’s office), say she was heading to the nurse’s office (which was in the exact opposite direction) …and realized she’d been beaten. She’d finally been cornered. She nodded slowly, and followed her in.
“Really, Annie,” Lydia said, laughing kindly. “I’m harmless despite all the rumors, and yes, I have heard them all. But I need to do my job here. The more you run and hide, the more strategy I’ll need to find you. And I will eventually find you. I’ve been at this school too long, and I know all the good hiding spots. I use some of them myself.”
“Yes, ria,” she said, and sank down on one of the low benches next to her desk.
Lydia sat next to her, took out her notebook and started writing. “You know, Annie…every year I get the same bunch of students,” she said. “They’re afraid of me, though I do not understand why. I mean I do, to an extent. Many of you probably have no idea what you want to do for your future. You have enough on your plate right now, why should you stress about your future on top of all that? You’re led to believe that your Future Calling must be set in stone, which could not be further from the truth. For some students, they already know what they want, and they come to me with confidence. Others would rather keep their options open and provide me with the vaguest of answers. And that’s fine too! My job is not to wrestle a concrete answer out of you, or to assign you to something you’ll hate when you don’t give me an answer. What my job is…” She reached out and patted her on a lower arm. “…is to listen and hear what you have to say and provide you with the resources to help you reach whatever goals you might have. And you can say anything you like. No barriers, no right or wrong answers. Go with what’s truest in your heart and in your mind. That’s all.”
Anna-Nassi felt her face heat up. “There’s not much to share, to be honest,” she said.
“A vague idea is better than none,” she said, and started writing again. “I know you’ve been close friends with Diwa, Kaffi and Cole for years. I spoke with Kaffi last week, and he was rather excited about his plans with Diwa. They’ve recently committed to their apprenticeship at your estate. He also tells me that you and Cole have chosen to be a part of this plan.”
She felt a warm flutter in her heart, and a smile started to creep across her face that she couldn’t stop. “Eiyah, they’ve got their future planned a lot more than I do, you know? They’re the best friends a mandossi could ever have. I feel so proud of them, but it makes me feel…I don’t know. Inadequate. Incomplete.”
Her wings twitched again. “I guess I’m not sure what I want to do, neh? I mean, I sort of know, but I’m not sure if it’s right. For me. My entire family is connected to estates in one way or another. Both amma and padda are key members of the tenancy committee. My two ahmé are already top members at their own estates. I feel like I’m expected to follow suit.”
“It’s normal to feel that way,” Lydia said quietly. “You’d be surprised how many students tell me that, almost verbatim. When you end up following in your elders’ footsteps, it’s easy for people to assume it’s done out of expectation rather than inspiration. What you need to ask then, is this: what is it that you, Anna-Nassi sho Leima er Fieya, want to do with your life?”
“Believe me,” Anna-Nassi snorted. “I’ve been asking myself that for ages. When I finally have an answer that I’m happy with, I will let you know.”
Lydia grinned, laughing quietly. “I hear that a lot as well. You should never expect to feel bliss every time you think about your future, Annie…that’s impossible for anyone. You just need to feel confident that you can make it your own. Listen – I want you to think about it for now. Remember, you never need to give me any solid answers. Sometimes what you want is not a goal. Sometimes your goal is already there, and you just need to come to terms with it or figure out ways to approach it. I know you’re interested in estate work; you’ve told me as much in the past. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just…listen to what your heart sings to you, okay?”
Anna-Nassi sighed. “Okay.”
She patted her on the arm once more. “I’ll set you free for now, Annie. My door is always open for you and your friends.”
Anna-Nassi stood up and bowed slightly. “Thank you, ria Powers,” she said. “I think I really do need to do a bit of thinking.”
“Good. See you around.”
She left ria Lydia’s office and headed towards the roof patio. She wasn’t angry or mortified, but there was something there now that she couldn’t quite put a name to. A feeling of confusion, perhaps, but it felt more like an unexpected clarity. Like she knew the answer to ria’s question was right there in front of her…but she wasn’t sure if she was ready to accept it just yet.
ria – (mandossi) – feminine honorific (Ms, Miss, Mrs, etc)
amma – (mandossi) – mother
padda – (mandossi) – father
ahmé – (mandossi) (ah-mey) – sister(s)
Annie’s full name translates to “Anna-Nassi of Leima and Fieya” (no set order of gender, though in this case it’s mother and father, and only the mandossi side of the given name is used).