Natalia J. Garland
Let's see, only 14.1 million dollars will buy a villa on the
Amalfi Coast. The villa is built into the face of a cliff and
has terraced gardens. Oh, excuse me, I was just enjoying my
second free copy of Architectural Digest. Although I
canceled the subscription immediately, this August issue was
probably sent before they got their mailing list updated.
Anyway, the photos of Gore Vidal's villa overlooking the Gulf
of Salerno prompted me to continue my voyage through the topic
of lost dreams.
Yes, I really
would like to be rich enough to purchase Gore Vidal's estate.
There, I admitted it. I would like to be rich! I wish I could
afford an estate, but not because of greed or vainglory. It is
just that a beautiful environment with places for privacy and
solitude, as well as room for family and friends, seems ideal.
It usually (though not always) takes a lot of money to buy
quality. For example, my fantasy (or one of them!) is to own
an original work of art. Maybe a Monet or Pissarro. Just one
painting. I could be humble. Even just one Monet in my house
would provide constant emotional nurture to my daily routine.
Now, words and
grammar are cheaper and more precise than visual art, and they
can be structured into infinite spoken and written beauty. A
novel by Gore Vidal is a novel by Gore Vidal, whether you buy
it new in hardcover or as a used and tattered paperback. You
can buy an inexpensive reproduction of a painting, but it just
is not the same. Words, however, do not change when
mass-produced. I realized this when I was a young adult.
Words provide an economical richness for those of us on tight
budgets. So, I traded in my expensive art supplies for a much
less costly pen and paper.
That is why I
changed my college major to linguistics. I went to college
in a era that had become modernized in course offerings. In
addition to the standard academic courses in science, history,
and literature, courses in anthropology, psychology, and
sociology had gained respect. Along with this, however, was
the growing tendency toward specialization. The old-fashioned
liberal arts major had mostly disappeared along with the
twist and the watusi. A major in linguistics,
however, enabled the student to traverse different academic
departments (especially foreign languages, literature,
philosophy--somewhat similar to the old liberal arts major),
but at the same time bound the various courses together
thematically. And, despite its crossover diversity,
linguistics maintained its rightful presence as an academic
department in itself.
new worlds of travel, literature, and friends. Language opens
the relationship between therapist and patient. Traditional
therapy involves talking. It means that the patient needs to
have some minimal verbal skills in order to participate. My
major in linguistics served me well in that respect. I had
decided that I could make my living as a librarian or French
language teacher, but life's compass eventually pointed
toward social work. The losses of the other two career
possibilities were not lost dreams, but simply changes in
plans based on more options and my increased self-awareness.
Funny, how it
all fits together in sum: a respect for the environment, a
need for shape, form, color and texture, a love of language
and communication, a fascination with feelings and emotions,
a memory of lost dreams, a quest for purpose and meaning, and
an acceptance of the aging process while ever moving forward
over obstacles and to goals. We all have choices to make.
Sometimes our choices are within a limited range, but usually
choices are available and we have to take responsibility for
how we managed our lives.
Losing a dream
or two or three can always be compensated for. We can
transform lost dreams into viable alternatives. Serious harm
is done only when we lose our humanity, mental stability, or
spirituality. There are unscrupulous people and unjust
systems in this world that would ruin our capacity for caring,
undermine our mental health, and negate our faith. Summing up
our life's choices can fill us with regret and self-reproach,
but it can also reveal and affirm the essence of who we are.
Young women of
today have many more opportunities than I did. Sometimes that
can be a problem, too. If I were a young person today, I am
not certain what I would do with my life. There are so many
choices. Growing up in a post-September 11th world would also
have an impact on my caretaking tendency. I can imagine
that I would have been among the young people who joined the
military immediately after September 11th. Although there
were some women in the military when I was young, it was not
considered a good career choice by most young women.
military represents opportunity for both men and women. It
also provides a buffer between high school and college for
young people who are indecisive about career choices. Some
people are against women serving in combat. Combat may be
unsuitable for some types of women (and men), and my saying so
is not meant as a criticism of the military or of women. The
fact is that history provides evidence of the bravery of women
soldiers and warriors. For example, most people are probably
familiar with the story of Joan of Arc.
Today we are
entertained with popular television reruns such as Xena
Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We
like to see good triumph over evil, and we like to see a woman
play a central role in this. Femininity is not
one-dimensional. The marvelous thing about living into the
21st century is to be able to respond to the calling of
carpe diem as a sexless and ageless beckoning.
started in one place and ended up in another, but so has my
life. Thanks for sharing a part of the voyage with me.
(Written 08/18/03 - Revised 12/01/03: bibliography available.)
Until we meet