Saturday, November 10, 2018

Build Roads, Don't Just Drive on Them by Victoria Wetmore

Life is a crazy thing. I am not here to preach that living is some magical journey that changes the foundation of society as we know it, but people should take advantage of the life that they have been given. To have the ability to run through valleys, feel the wind in our hair, and breathe the air around us is amazing. The sad part of these hidden blessings is that we are all merely a blip in the existence of the world, yet we are expected to make the most of life. However, if life is so small, then what is the point? What are we here for if, in the relativity of time and space, we are only here for a few seconds? Why are humans expected to make a difference, to be somebody, and to carve our own paths for others to be inspired by? It is because we matter. Our few seconds on Earth make a difference to those who follow simply because we are all connected to one another.


In Peter Handke’s poem, “Song of Childhood,” written specifically for Wim Wenders’ 1987 drama/fantasy Wings of Desire, he writes, “...everything is soulful, / and all souls are one” (8-9). Our choices have meaning to those who succeed us; we continue on our journeys laced with the ideas of the ancestors rooted in our heritage, lineage and nation. Even so, the insights and discoveries of our predecessors do not determine how we should act, but they influence the choices that we make today. People are constantly out to be their best, to cope effectively with their existence and to advance human civilization. Hence, there is a constant inner battle with ourselves to be adaptable and to find the ability to make choices that are not stereotypical, biased or pre-determined. 

Personally, I am guilty of competing with others. I grew up believing that if I were not on top, then I was not the best; then again, I often did not show how smart I was to others because that would be showing too much of my hand. I also strived to not deviate from the path that our stereotyped society has created for me. I continued to do the same thing every single daynot because it was habitual but because I was scared to have my homeostasis rocked. In this sense, the character known as The Girl in Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout is a parallel to a younger me. She did not want to go along with the Aborigine and break the cultural barriers of western civilization in the Australian Outback. The white, British, teenaged foreigner could not accept the advances of the indigenous teenager on his walkabout, nor learn his ways of life simply because they differed from her pre-chosen course. To cope with her decision to remain stagnant in a culture that constrained her, especially when her husband disappointed her, she daydreamed of the freedom that she experienced (Roeg, 1:38:03). 

Her swimming naked in the lake waters in the Outback (Roeg, 0:58:09) symbolizes her inner need to undress from a life that forced her to escape her mad and suicidal father, watch over her younger brother and become a boring housewife. The subconscious voice of the British girl yearned for the independence that her conscious mind could not even begin to understand nor allow. What she was seeking was a mind and life of her own, but she was too brainwashed by thoughts drilled into her of how she should run her life. She, as well as I, should learn to “join with the consciousness of others, not compete with it” (Gordon). 

Afraid to adapt to change, I often fall prey to these inner battles over the smallest of decisions. I do not skip class, but usually contemplate it to the point of having a headache. I do not have the ability to say no to even the simplest of requests because it is in my conditioning to be nice, even if I am swamped with work. I cannot join my friends in these basic teenage activities because I refuse to change my ways. For example, I never argue with my parents’ decisions when receiving a firm no after asking to stay out late with my friends. Usually, I am frightened by the consequences that would come from the potential fight, but in my mind what they say goes.  When I wish for a better way to grasp what is thrown at me, I go to my oasis, my waterhole, where I can swim freely. This metaphorical lake is the television. My favorite programs calm me down and allow me briefly to live a different life. If I picture myself in the shows, then I am not in reality. Despite this, as we all know, The Girl and I have not found a way out; we have simply developed coping mechanisms to blind us from the harsh reality that we refuse to change. 


However, there are ways to push past these “fixed” boundaries. Our “writing coach and midwife,” Paul Kirpal Gordon, suggests we create and develop three interconnected and interdependent experiences that check and balance each other. The first is a healthy love relationship with a significant other. If we are all supposed to be one collective soul, then we require healthy, quality human exchanges that help us sustain a love life and vital connection with the person we care most deeply about. To have someone to come back to at the end of the day who cares about you just as much as you care about them is one of the most beneficial things that the human mind, body and soul can have. Studies show, “From childhood until old age, being connected to others in secure and loving relationships helps our patients better deal with stress” (Vallas, par. 7). The second part of this model is to develop a dependable and inspiring core of friends, family and associates who one can trust with one’s deepest issues, fears and ambitions. Having peers to talk to or a supporting family life helps to keep a clear and focused mind and heart. Thirdly, one must discover on one’s own walkabout what one wants to do with one’s life in terms of a meaningful career, vocation and service to others. The Girl thought that she had to follow the predetermined path of compliant schoolgirl, responsible older sister, snobbish foreigner and obedient wife in the overbearing land of stereotypes and comfort, but she really wanted to break free of the chains of civilized man. The longing look of regret in her eyes at the end of the film (Roeg, 1:38:18) portrays her lack of independence and her yearning to return to the freedom that the Outback allowed. 

I want to establish my own path in advertising and become somebody who I can love and respect, not some plastic doll that my parents can dress into whatever career they think will earn me the most money. 


When I and The Girl escape to our imaginative states, we miss out on what reality presents to us, especially the people, things and events that can enlarge our perspectives on life. Coming into college, I had to learn to re-train my senses in order to experience Hofstra University because it is anything but a typical college. Here, there is the inclusion of all races, genders and backgrounds, as well as clubs and support groups that welcome us with open arms. In my town of Brick, New Jersey, such an impartial and non-judgmental community does not exist. Hofstra’s diverse and international community of individuals feels like several indigenous societies brought together into one spot, which has allowed me to immerse myself in an environment of change. It is not a place where I can pretend to be someone else for a little while; it is an environment that is molding me into who I really want to be: a decisive, determined, contributing part of a collective society. 

In order to make my engagement into a true community happen, I have to drop my old ideas about status and labels and categories that do not allow me to explore all the possibilities thrown my way. Lina Wertmuller’s controversial Swept Away helped with this part of my journey. Her two main Italian protagonists, Raffaella and Gennarino, become stranded on a deserted island together. In such a circumstance, one would think that differences would be set aside as survival becomes the imperative mindset of both castaways. Instead, Raffaella could not drop her upper-class ego to allow the lower-class ruffian Gennarino to help her. Her mistreatment of his help on the yacht fueled the fire that metaphorically burned the bridge for a true connection. Both protagonists allowed their social status and political views to constrict their lives on the island. They had the potential to break the norm and join together to construct a love relationship or mutual friendship, sans any previous connections of wealth and class. Nonetheless, trouble emerges when Gennarino starts bullying Raffaella who soon succumbs to Stockholm Syndrome. As described in Ariana Farajollah’s blog post, “An Abused Woman’s Colonization and Declaration of Independence in Swept Away,” “Mental disorder therapist Julia Layton describes the cause of the syndrome: ‘In a traumatic and extraordinarily stressful event, a person finds herself held captive by a man who is threatening to kill her if she disobeys him in any way. She may be abused — physically, sexually and/or verbally — and have trouble thinking straight’” (Farajollah, par. 2). Simply put, the two protagonists tricked themselves into believing that they had a true connection while on the island. However, when they return to the mainland, the stigma of class and status reappear, and they revert back to their own ways. Raffaella ditches Gennarino for her upper-class husband and his wealth. 


The idea that status controls us and inhibit who we can be with is preposterous but tragic. It cuts off the idea that we are all one and of the same place. This persisting issue of ranking falls in line with my own personal problem: I did not want to set aside my intentions of being on top. Nevertheless, if I were to stick to this framework, I would constantly be on this high horse that made me believe that I was better than the people around me. Consequently, entertaining this delusional state of mind would only be limiting my own growth and interpretation of the world. Since entering college, my antennae has allowed me to reach those in need of not only academic help but social assistance, too. I no longer attempt to be the best; instead, I use my tools to benefit others around me. Hence, I am more open to share my thoughts and ideas that used to be secretive. I use my school work to benefit others and to try new things that a younger, hesitant me could not think of doing. I dropped my own stereotypes and have since benefitted morally from the change.

I realized that to enhance my intellectual and moral growth I need to stop ignoring topics I do not fully comprehend. In fact, an obtuse, head-in-the-sand lifestyle can create these differences that further the disconnect gap that I am struggling to close. In order to become a better and more well-rounded individual, I am learning things that help me to better comprehend a larger world, not just things that relate to my public relations major. For example, I am all for mathematics, but I draw the line just at extreme problems that require four sheets of paper to complete. Similarly, I enjoy debating on politics, but I have no control over what the country or the world does, nor do I feel like my ideas fit directly into one political party.     

What I have learned is that every single person has the right to enjoy things that I do not. After all, my ability to accept those differences and participate in life with those who have contrasting ideas from me is what makes us all one. The concept that we can all be connected, no matter our personal beliefs, is something stronger than we are able to perceive. Jamie Uys portrayed this mindset in The Gods Must Be Crazy, in which an indigenous bushman of the Kalahari Desert, Xi, came across a Coke bottle. The piece of glass that was once seen as useful to the tribe was actually the catalyst that created the dispute in the community and eventually drew them apart. Although I agree with removing toxic things from our lives, I do not agree with Xi’s decision to travel to the end of the earth to rid his band of people from this new item. He did not like the disagreement that the bottle caused within the tribe, even though it was a tool that helped to roll out animal skins, make music, and other various tasks. Instead of attempting to regulate the use of the bottle or understand more about it, he threw it away. I tend to handle my problems with information that I do not care about nor comprehend the same way. The bushmen and I should learn how to open ourselves to appreciating the differences between those with thoughts that differ from our original ideologies. Just because we are from different places does not mean that we should be blind to the way others function; “spiritually we are one,” (Enea) but “we are different people who form part of a bigger group called mankind, which makes us one” (Orellana). I have begun to grow as a person by listening to ideas different than my own, and I associate myself with people I originally would have put off after the first meeting. I have gained a new set of eyes. After watching Uys’ film, I connected more profoundly with the idea that we are all one. Rather than seeing ourselves as animals in competition with one another, we are cooperative beings who share the same prerogative to experience the best lives that we can.

In a world where there is so much miscommunication and discrepancy, an imaginary force holds us back. We are closed off because we are blocking out the peripheral vision sensors that we are born with, which prohibits us from seeing the small things and appreciating what is right in front of us. It also lessens our desire to be content with what we have because we always have to be on top with the next best gadget. Although we have the freedom of choice to do what we want, when we want, and with whomever we choose, Walkabout, Swept Away and The Gods Must Be Crazy all portray what happens when we do not break the stereotypes that limit us, when we pretend to be something we are not and when we fail to adapt to change. In Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, angel Damiel drops these notions when he falls in love with a mortal. In what world would an angel be able to follow their heart to take human form in order to be with their mortal lover? Most people watching the film would say, “Never,” but that is because we are so blocked by pre-determined characteristics and the illusion that things are magically set in stone. Well, stones break and crumble. Damiel chooses to give up angelic immortality to know what it is like to love and experience the world first hand. As fellow “fallen” angel Peter Falk advises him, Damiel comes to appreciate the small things, like drinking coffee, bleeding, seeing color and tasting food. He celebrates hope. Fellow writer and Hofstra student blogger Monica Boretsky noted in “Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire: A Reason to Believe,” “Damiel has a visible reaction of joy and contentment. His face eases up and clearly experiences the full sensation that many people have overlooked” (par. 2). Damiel broke out of the mold in order to join life instead of standing outside of it. We do not always understand that we have the ability to control our own fates. 


I have recently been immersed in an environment that has caused me to follow my career ambition and become the best person that I can possibly be, inside and out. I can make choices that benefit me, no matter the original preconceptions that I once had. For example, just because I am straight does not mean that I cannot have LGBTQ+ friends or learn from their experiences; I am female, but that does not mean I have to stay in the kitchen and cook for a man or stay out of the billiards room at Hofstra because the other pool players are male (see “The Art of the Real Hustle,” February 12, 2018, Taking Giant Steps Press Blog). Who says I have to remain quiet and timid when I was born with my own mouth to speak freely about feminism and equal rights? My own mind allows me to conjure up my own opinions and formulate my own lifestyle that transcends any and all stereotypes. Attending Hofstra University has done wonders for my growth and for expanding my mindset to a whole new level. I want to be myself! “Why lie and cheat when you have the confidence to be yourself?” (Gordon). I am tired of trying to be someone that I am not just to please the people around me. I am sick of the assumptions that make people believe they must be different or better than everyone else. Breaking those boundaries has expanded my comfort zone. In an attempt to network properly and get ahead for the years to come, I have found myself growing closer to students in my major. I am the person in charge of determining what happens with my life. 

I struggled to make friends when I first entered the university. I wandered around campus and introduced myself to the folks at the ultimate frisbee table. They made me feel accepted. When I attended their scrimmage, I was immersed in kindness and felt a communion with all of their wild spirits. I did not feel the need to be different or change who I was in order to be accepted. In this moment, I also realized that this is a group of people who do not judge anybody. They also played together as seven cogs in one cohesive machine, as opposed to seven individuals on a field. This type of comradery is what proved to me that this was the form of society that I needed to be a part of in order to thrive. 

In an attempt to get to my goal of being in advertising faster, I joined the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). I wanted to get a head start. I learned that I have to make my own path in order to get to where I want, not expect things to just fall in my lap. If I want to make it in this field, I must learn to work together with people, for being part of a team and acting as one is an important skill to have in this work setting. Damiel’s tenacity is exactly what I need to develop in order to stay strong in the business field. Handke’s message that we are all one is what reels me back if I lose the teamwork model. My seventh-grade teacher, a man who taught me more about myself at the age of twelve than I have learned in my other eighteen years of existence, presented me with this quote: “Learning is not attained by chance; it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence” (Founding Families). Abigail Adams wrote this to her son, John Quincy Adams, telling him that wandering is not the way to traverse through life. He has to be focused and know what he wants (which relates back to the three ideas for love-friends-career). Wenders takes this idea and flips it on its head, for it shows the journey of an angel, of a spirit, searching for something that transforms him. Damiel is on the hunt for love, for feeling, for something real; he is done with the business of watching and witnessing. Peter Handke’s idea that “all souls are one” influences Damiel’s decisions, for he does not let the fact that he is an angel stop him from loving a mortal and incarnating that dream. 

I am still learning to not let the preconceived notions of society weigh me down and make me feel trapped and unable to make my own choices. I have been on this journey for a long time and do not expect to stop when times get tough. Even though we are “of the same root but different flowers” (Gordon), we are soulfully one and have to remember that, under the umbrella of gender, sex, color, race, creed or religion, the sun shines equally on us all. Before college, I was in a town that was set in its old ways. After entering Hofstra University, I have been welcomed by individuals who see the world as a place to interpret thoughts and ideas for ourselves, rather than following a map that has already been written out. Perhaps it is better to deviate from those pre-written directions once in a while. I mean, what is a true adventure without getting lost a bit? While a good majority of rules should be followed, it is not up to our old stereotypes and predisposed information to determine our destinies. Instead, I am learning to figure things out for myself. I have even found joy in activities like writing and arts and crafts that I never found excitement in before college. These new experiences allow us to be unique and individualistic, but it is the same idea that we all want to be ourselves that make us all one. I am happy to report that I am going in the right direction and have Hofstra University and all of the people that I have met thus far to thank for it. 

Works Cited

Boretsky, Monica. “Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire: A Reason to Believe,” 

Enea, Kristen. Class Discussion. 18 Apr. 2018.

Farajollah, Ariana. Taking Giant Steps. "An Abused Woman's Colonization and Declaration of 

            Independence in Swept Away," 1 Jan. 1970, 

Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. 

James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2018.



Gordon, Paul Kirpal. Class Discussion. 18 Apr. 2018.

Orellana, Roger. Class Discussion. 18 Apr. 2018.

“The Positive Effects of Love on Mental Health.” Psychiatry Advisor, 11 Mar. 2016, 


Roeg, Nicolas. Walkabout. Perf. Jenny Agutter, David Gulpilil, and Luc Roeg. Twentieth 

Century Fox, 1971. Film.

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