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Lost Dreams,
Part I

Part II

Natalia J. Garland

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I like free stuff. For example, I have several free magazine subscriptions. Anyone who has a credit card is probably familiar with the process. The credit card company sends you a selection of free magazine subscriptions because, they say, you are a valued customer. It is a simple process and so far I have never had a problem with it. When the free subscription expires, I call the credit card company and discontinue the magazine so that I do not get billed for further issues.

Recently, I received a deal in the mail for one free issue of Architectural Digest. Maybe you got one, too. Architectural Digest offered only one free issue. Most magazine publishers give you six months or one year. Anyway, I appreciate anything for free and one issue is better than nothing. To their credit, they quickly sent me the July issue of Architectural Digest, "The International Magazine of Interior Design."

When I was a young girl I wanted to be an architect. I had some artistic talent, and designing buildings seemed like a practical way to combine talent with making a living. In those days, girls did not have many employment options. Girls who went on to college could choose basically between nursing and teaching. Girls who ended their education after high school could work in offices, factories, restaurants and shops. Getting married would often mean dropping out of college. And, getting married after college would often meet with the mantra: what a waste! The translation of the mantra was: what a waste of her parents' money on all that education because now she will only become a housewife.

I suppose I was a little naive in my career choice, but at least I had a dream for my future. The high school I attended offered three preparatory courses for learning about architecture, beginning in the 10th grade: Mechanical Drawing, Technical Drawing, and Architectural Drawing. In the 10th grade I enthusiastically enrolled in Mechanical Drawing.

I was the only girl in the class. I felt that the teacher treated me as though I was not a legitimate student. He never made eye contact with me. He never spoke to me while he reviewed my drawings. At the time, I believed that he did not want me in the class, and therefore he blocked me out of sight and out of mind. Looking back, perhaps he just did not know what to do with a female student. Perhaps it was a new experience for him, too. The male students also had various reactions to me, none of which involved treating me seriously as an equal. I also had my own reaction to them: most seemed to be going into architecture for the money and not for the love of designing buildings and homes. Some of them really wanted to become doctors (for the money), but they were not doing well in their biology and chemistry classes.

That class was not a good experience and I did not enroll in Technical Drawing in the 11th grade. I lost my dream of becoming an architect. Since the 5th grade, that was what I had wanted to do. Looking back, and judging by today's standards, it might be easy to say that I should have pursued my career choice despite the difficulties. But I was young and living in an era of very different expectations for women.

There are two avenues of thought that my free copy of Architectural Digest inspired: (1) that some of our patients come to us to resolve their lost dreams and broken hearts, and (2) that social work and architecture have something in common.

Let's take things in numerical order. Sometimes I have encountered patients who are pretty high functioning. Perhaps there was no sexual abuse or other devastation. Perhaps they had some emotional and personality strengths (and opportunities) which enabled them to become achievers. Nevertheless, they also had some unresolved disappointments in life. Life took some unexpected turns. Perhaps they did not get into the college they had their heart set on, or their true love married someone else, or they lost a good job or had to relocate to another city, or they had more than their share of accidents or illnesses.

These are higher-level complaints, but nonetheless worthy of resolution and healing. Early disappointment in my life seemed to leave me in shock. I was always looking back in nostalgia while stepping forward with self-doubt. I used to second-guess myself a lot. Let me clarify that lost dreams are different from personal failure. Lost dreams occur as a result of unforeseen obstacles. Life is unfair. No matter what generation we come from, we might have to cope with certain alterations in our ambitions and plans.

Some patients are struggling to move beyond their survival level, or toward different areas of achievement. They desire a life with meaning and purpose. They want more than money. Therapy can help them utilize their emotional strengths and reach for true adulthood. Becoming a mature adult is no easy task. Perhaps that is the real value of encountering obstacles: it can help us grow in resourcefulness and creativity. Obstacles can be moved around to our advantage, motivating us to explore other areas of development that we would not have considered otherwise.

When I was in the 5th grade, I wanted to do what adults do. Kids imitate adults for better or worse: I already knew how to read blueprints. When I was in the 10th grade, I was behaving at an age-appropriate level. I was preparing for high school graduation and my future. When I decided not to pursue Technical Drawing in the 11th grade, I was probably reacting with a combination of influences: my own emotional vulnerability and immature problem-solving skills combined with the social standards of the time. Perhaps another young lady with more stamina would have gone on to pioneer social change and become an architect. I eventually became a social worker, and I am none the worse for it.

If I may claim a personal victory, however, I never lost my love of design and decoration. I lost a potential career, but not the essence of my self. That brings me to the realization that architecture and social work have something in common. Both are concerned with the environment we live in. One of the original concepts that social work contributed to the study of human behavior is that the environment can have an impact on behavior.

Architecture and interior decorating involve both practicality and beauty. Sensitivity to the client's lifestyle and the natural surrounding is essential. The goal is to make the client comfortable while maintaining the integrity of good design elements. In short, it is a way to improve and protect life. Social workers do the same thing, but with different working materials.

Now, back to reading my free copy of Architectural Digest. Thanks for listening. (Written 08/11/03 - Revised 12/01/03: bibliography available.)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2003 Natalia J. Garland