Sometimes Words Aren’t Enough

I never finished college that first time after high school.

I was in too big of a hurry to start my adventures in the world. So I quit in the middle of my sophomore year at UCLA and started my life.

Years later I returned. Married, with a career on the wane, and two kids now grown and off on their own adventures, I became the oldest coed in all my classes. Everyone thought I was the professor and they stopped being nice to me when they found out that I wasn’t.  It was hard work and I started to question what the hell I was doing there. I had been in no hurry to go back, but I wanted to get a degree. I always felt a little bit less than all those college grads I kept meeting in my life. I thought that going back and finishing something that I had started might make me feel more confident, more sure of the knowledge that I’d already accumulated along the way. I never thought I’d learn anything new. I was an old dog incapable of learning new tricks.

But I was wrong.

I took a class in 2008 and learned some things I guess they forgot to teach me as I was growing up. It was unsettling, as learning some truths can always be. Santa Claus? The Easter Bunny?  Sometimes the myths we’re taught as kids aren’t meant for adulthood.

The particular myth I was learning about there in that lecture hall in 2008 unsettled me and made me question so many other truths I had been taught along the way. We had to write a paper, and I struggled with what to write.  Sometimes words just aren’t enough – film can do it better.  So instead of writing an essay, I made this little film, “American Dreams.”

I wish I could say that ten years later this film has lost its meaning.

But it hasn’t.

In many ways it’s more meaningful now than ever before.

And it saddens me to write that.

 

27 thoughts on “Sometimes Words Aren’t Enough

  1. That’s sad. I’m sure all countries will have had a racist policy at one time or another but you expect too progress from that when the world is full of people running from war, deprivation, cruelty and starvation.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

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  2. Beautifully done Dar. I don’t think this mentality is only American. You see the same issues in most countries. People have a tendency to populate in communities with others like themselves. That natural inclination is what helps to bond us to some and alienate us from others. Your grandmother was a brave girl to travel here, so far away while still so young.
    You did a wonderful job capturing the history.
    Did you get that degree?
    I didn’t. With no support or encouragement from family or counselors I didn’t think I was good enough for college. By the time I realized the fallacy in that I was a divorced mother with a full time job. I came to realize that a college degree wasn’t in the cards for me. In spite of that I excelled in my advertising career and achieved more success than I could have ever imagined. Born in 1951, I believe my family felt that college was still not for women and I would find a husband to take care of me.
    America, and the world at large, has a long way to go but I’m happy to have seen change evolving all around me. You are one of my examples of that❤️

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    • You would ace college, Nancy. Intelligent, curious, fearless, a wonderful writer and overall communicator. You’re already practically at post graduate level. Start by taking one class in a subject that really interests you, and you will be hooked. And you have so much you can teach those young folks, too. I grew close to several of the students I had classes with and I really enjoyed working with them AND learning from them.

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  3. For a while, many of us dared to think films like this were no longer relevant. We were wrong. Sigh! But then, some of us are old enough to remember our parents feeling the same way after the Nazi’s and the Imperial Japanese Army were defeated. Deep sigh!

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    • I remember my father telling me that it could happen here in the U.S. Even though he was a combat veteran from WWII, he said our country could always become like Germany some day. I didn’t believe him at the time – It was during the 1980s when he said it. But now I know Dad was right.

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  4. Darlene,

    I wrote this comment to post on the blog but it wanted my WP password and I’m out of town (can’t remember it). So I’ll write you here. XXXXXOOOOO

    Darlene…that was so profound and enlightening to me. I was never taught any of that either, I went to college late in life and for the first two years it was humiliating to sit in the tiny desks with the 18 year olds. I was the oldest one in the college outside of seniors auditing classes for fun. It wasn’t until I got into my major (junior/senior) and had the same kids interested in the same things did I feel accepted…but not by many of my professors. The movie is wonderful. Thank you for sharing it.

    Love, Linda >

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    • Yes, I agree – Once I started to take classes in my major the door opened up for me to have friendships with other students. Originally, I had been a Theater Arts major, but I had already explored a similar field in my career as a professional screenwriter, so I switched majors. When I first started back, I had an idea for a play that I wanted to write and I thought maybe I could get credit as an Independent Studies course. The Theatre Department wasn’t interested (and the professor was really rude); the Anthropology Department wasn’t interested AT ALL; and I was close to dropping out before I had even started. As a lark, I sent an email to the Women’s Studies Department and they replied right away: “Sounds interesting. Which professor do you want to work with?” When I first went to UCLA – back in the Dark Ages – I remember that the first Women’s Studies course began that year. Once again, as a lark, I signed up. The room was wall to wall women – from sorority queens to women with no makeup. It was so full that women were sitting on the floor. There were no tests, no papers to write and only one requirement: work on a project that would be turned in at the end of the year. An easy A, I was sure. So I took the class and my project was an audio recording about the lack of good roles for women in the theater. I only did the project because I was an actress at the time and it allowed me to act several roles and tape myself doing them. But damn if I didn’t start seeing that there WEREN’T a lot of dynamic kinds of roles for women. That class really opened my eyes and made it a little bit easier to switch from acting to screenwriting in a few years. When I returned to college that second time and discovered the Women’s Studies Department friendly, and more than willing to welcome me with my creative ideas, I took a deep breath and signed up to be a Women’s Studies Major. It was the best decision of my life and really made me want to create on a more personal level. Anyway, that’s my college story and I thank you for sharing yours with me too.

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  5. Darlene, I have been deeply moved by your video. As a first generation, Italo Americano, I never heard Italian growing up in rural NJ. One had to fit in. I am sharing the blog and video on my Nonna’s Mulberry Tree FaceBook Page. Brava.

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  6. Darlene, as usual I am in awe of your ability to put such important and moving videos together. This one brought me to tears as I think of the children we are kidnapping from mothers. Who would think that we would allow the president to get away with this? It’s alarming. One of my specialities is teaching Multicultural Education to teachers to fulfill the credential requirement. It was always a surprise to me, even though it should not have been, how difficult it was to bring teachers into the appreciation of another culture. So we don’t teach in schools our history and we don’t show in schools an inclusiveness. Thank you for sharing this with me. Ann

    >

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    • It’s always good to hear from you, Ann. I appreciate you taking the time to come to my blog and read my post, also to watch the video. That class I took eight years ago really opened my mind to other ideas. Up to that time I think I was only “half-educated.” I think it’s so important for people to be “life-long learners” and to never close their mind to new information. Multicultural Education is so important because we are not just one kind of people with only one kind of experience in this country. I think the more we learn about each other the more we become tolerant of each other’s differences.

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  7. Gosh, Darlene – that was superb! Wonderful to learn more about your grandmother ‘Jenny’ that over the years I heard bits and pieces about.
    Turbulent times currently, but as you indicate with your historical perspective – not the first time.
    Best regards. . . kerry

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    • As usual something you create is awe inspiring. I luv how you interweave from this documentary on your family story to your book then back to your blog. You make history fun..and do readable..blessings Alesia

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      • Thank you! We can learn so much from history – I know that I do whenever I write something that’s historically based. I try to pass that on to the reader or the viewer, and I try to do it in a way that’s entertaining. We live in turbulent times and we need entertainment right now, as well as history lessons.

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    • Good to see you here, Kerry! Glad I could share a little bit more about the woman we called, “Nanie.” She was so courageous to come here – but she didn’t have much choice. World War I was breaking out and there was no source of income for those sisters. It was a dangerous time. Reminds me so much of the many immigrants right now seeking asylum for the turbulent times happening in their countries. It’s important that as a nation we have a collective historical memory – if we remember the past, we will repeat only the good and not the bad. But if we forget the past we will just keep repeating the mistakes we’ve made along the way.

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