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Lost Dreams,
Part II

Part I

Natalia J. Garland

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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.

Languages open 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.

Nowadays, the 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.

This essay 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 again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2003 Natalia J. Garland