Since I first discovered the works of Jane Austen, I have felt a kinship with her, as all Janeites do. I had just returned from a trip abroad, where I had felt that sensation of going home when I saw England for the first time, and the film Sense and Sensibility was coming to theaters. I am not being dramatic when I say it changed my life.
I empathized most with Eleanor, the elder sister, who like me, had to keep the family together after a dramatic event. The Dashwood girls lose their father, leaving them, and their mother, fairly destitute. Our family returned home from the trip to learn my stepfather had been having an affair, and when things fell apart, I took care of my younger siblings.
While I have great love for Pride and Prejudice, it is Sense and Sensibility that still resonates with me most. I, of course, have lost count of how many times I’ve watched it at this point. I used to watch it whenever I felt the least bit sad, or was hormonal, or just needed my Austen fix. Goodness. That could mean it’s upwards of a few hundred viewings. ((insert surprised face emoji))
From that point on, I watched every film based on her work I could get my hands on. I bought her books. I researched the time period, which in turn began to filter into my own writing. I have a screenplay set in her time period in Bath, where she spent a great deal of time.
While writing that screenplay I made an intriguing discovery. The time periods I am most fascinated by are all separated by 200 years, roughly – the Victorian era, the time of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, Medieval times – and Jane and I were born 200 years apart. I was born in 1975, she in 1775. It was a strange sort of mind bending feeling when I realized this, so the protagonist in that script has a connection to a certain number, which I explore.
When people jokingly ask, “Who is your spirit animal?”, my answer is Jane Austen. I just get her. I mean read some of her quotes:
There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.
The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it.
I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them.Jane Austen
It’s like she’s reading my mind.
So Happy Birthday, Jane! Your life may have been short, but you made a big impact. Not only have you given me something to strive for, delighting and entertaining readers/viewers for centuries, you also remind us to take advantage of the time given to us, to not settle, and to follow our dreams.