"Elphie, what's the meaning of life?"

Elphaba looked up from her book and raised an eyebrow at her roommate.

"Life? You know what it is. It's the thing that keeps me reading and you chattering regardless of what's going on around us."

"Come on, Elphie, you know what I mean."

"But I don't. You're going to have to be a bit more specific. Whose life are we talking about? Or do you mean Life itself? And do you mean what is it, or why is it, or how is it? And is any life fair game, or are we confining ourselves to sentient life? Or even just human life? And speaking of sentient life, since when have you worried yourself over this kind of question?"

"I don't know. Not the biology part. I don't really care about the mechanism of it, it's enough for me just that it is, and that I have it. But more the why do I have it part."

"The why you have it part, but not the biology of housing a beating heart and so on. So the philosophical quest for a raison d'etre."


"A reason to be."

"Yes, that's what I said in the first place. Why do I have life? Why am I here alive and well and concerned with learning to work Miss Greyling's parlour-room sorcery when Dr. Dillamond… isn't anymore, and Ama Clutch spends her days making small talk with the furniture? Where's the sense in it?"

"So you mean where's the justice? Well, my dear Galinda, excuse me, Glinda, who ever said life was fair? It's just not how it works."

"Oh, I know that. That's not what I meant at all. I mean, since it has worked out that I am here, surely there's something I ought to be doing, something I ought to be striving towards, some good I ought to be making. Up until Dr. Dillamond's death I was perfectly content to giggle and flirt and make friends and get invited to all the right places, but now I just don't see the point anymore. It all seems rather stupid, really. How can I keep on like that when I know that at any moment, I could be snuffed out just as easily? What's the point of it all?"

Elphaba closed her book and leaned forward towards Glinda.

"But you've just answered yourself. You ought to be doing, you ought to be striving, you ought to be making good. Didn't you tell me a year ago that evil was ennui, idleness, boredom? Good is working against that, making good is making a difference. We don't know when we may die, so we must begin today, and not wait for tomorrow."

"But when does it end?"

"When you die. Or evil is completely eradicated. But I don't see that happening any time soon. Besides, wasn't the whole point to find a fundamental purpose for a life, one that can last through life's entirety?"

"Well yes, but when you put it like that, it sounds exhausting."

"No one ever said life was easy."

Glinda frowned.

"I think that you are the only person I know that I can imagine ever living that life."

"You're saying I'm the only good person you know? I don't know whether to be flattered or depressed."

"No, silly,I mean that you're very focused and passionate about what you believe, you persist where other people would give up. Like with Dr. Dillamond – from the beginning you respected him and had real interest in his work, and now you're the only one still investigating his death and trying to keep his research alive."

Elphaba's face darkened.

"There aren't many these days with both the open-mindedness to investigate the work of a Goat and the scientific training to understand it. I'm trying to grasp it, but I keep running into colossal gaps in my training. I'm hardly the best person for the job."

"But that's the thing – it doesn't matter that you don't think you're the best person for the job because you're the only person for the job. You're the only person that knows what it might be able to do and is willing to try to carry it on through. You actually have a raisin debtor thingy, and this is it."

"Raison d'etre. And yes, I suppose you could say it is. Or at least its greater aims of dismantling meaningless social distinctions and bringing about at least legal equality for currently disadvantaged groups are. That's the good I want to make in the world."

"I wish I knew mine," said Glinda, flopping back onto her bed.

Elphaba laughed.

"You're thinking about it now, that puts you miles closer than you were a week ago."

"Yes, but it's also all of a sudden made life much more… much heavier, in a way. Weightier, darker almost. The stakes are higher, consequences matter. Without it, the only things at risk are my life and my reputation, which, don't get me wrong, are important. But they're nothing next to the amount of good that I could make or not make, good that could touch who knows how many people and spread who knows how far. I could be responsible for all that good, but then I'd also have to be willing to take equal responsibility for any good that I could have made and didn't, for the lack of that good in the world."

"Glinda Upland of the Upper Uplands, I do believe that you have managed to achieve puberty."

Glinda sat up at once, sputtering, and arms crossing.

"What- Miss Elphaba- Excuse me?"

Elphaba cackled.

"Mental puberty. Don't worry, you can get through it much quicker than physical puberty, though the pain and discomfort and awkwardness are about equivalent. You are teetering on the narrow brink between childhood and adulthood. You can see over into the chasm that is adulthood, and you see the responsibility that comes with its power and you're trying to decide if you're ready to take it. Because once you do, there's no turning back. Once you're in, you're in for life, and it is your life. You can never go back to the blissful ignorance you knew before. True adulthood is not for everyone, there are plenty of grown-ups who aren't adults."

"Oh dear. And I thought choosing to specialize in sorcery was a difficult life decision."

"Oh, it's not a difficult decision, not for you it won't be. It may take a while to sink in and process everything, but once you do, I know what you'll choose, and it will be the right choice."

Glinda stared at her roommate. How could Elphaba be making such serious claims with such confidence? And why had she never heard of this before? She wanted to ask Elphaba what she would choose, but she knew Elphie would never tell her straight out. And what did Elphaba think was the right choice for Glinda anyway? She knew that the green girl thought her a bit of an airhead, to put it mildly, because she had told her as much from the very beginning. Surely Elphaba wouldn't want such power in the hands of an airhead. But at the same time, how could Elphaba, with her love and thirst for knowledge, ever think ignorance to be the best solution, for anyone?

"My head hurts."

"Growing pains," said Elphaba knowingly. "Don't worry, they're good for you. But it is late, and we both have class early tomorrow. I'm going to bed. I suggest you do the same."

As Elphaba busied herself in the bathroom, Glinda gathered her night things in a daze.