I recently overheard a debate between two acquaintances about the American Dream. One claimed it was just a myth which never really existed. She went on to say only the privileged can achieve this mythological American Dream and a few that stumble upon it by luck. Otherwise, the rest of us average Joes are just struggling to get by. I disagree with her view.
The other person claimed the American Dream is real. He has a house in a nice subdivision with a nice yard and pool for his wife and three kids. He and his wife both like their jobs, the kids are doing well in school, and they’re currently leasing two low-end luxury cars. Neither of them came from affluent families and say they are both doing better financially than their parents were at the same age. He says they are living the American Dream. I disagree with his view.
My disagreement with them stemmed long before listening to their arguments for or against the American Dream and I can sum it up with one word: THE.
Who’s to say there is only one American Dream? “The” implies such an assumption. People try to sell us on one American Dream with a few pre-packaged components: wealth, a single-family house, and certain material goods. Who’s to say those are the elements of the ideal life in America.
Sure, wealth would make things easier, but it’s not necessary. I don’t particularly enjoy my job, but it pays the bills and gives me a little spending money. I’ve been much happier at work since I started this blog – but more about that later. Let me share a few bits of information I’ve learned about some of the people I’m blessed to know.
My friend Mark recently posted a picture of a log cabin which he’d love to own. (Or build something very similar.) He’d love to have it on a lake in the mountains somewhere. It looks awesome and I hope he achieves his dream. ‘Tis a fine dream. But I don’t share that dream. I’d love to visit him once he builds his dream home – perhaps it’s just a vacation dream home, I can’t recall specifically – but I wouldn’t want to live there myself.
My friend Greg is a fantastic designer. Whenever he shared a new website he designed I did my best to visit it. He has real talent and clearly a passion for doing it. I’m not sure if this is exactly his dream, but I’m willing to bet it’s a big part of it. I used to sketch and did some basic layout and design work and still like to tinker with it today. I also have a simple knowledge of HTML and basic web design, but no more than that elementary skill at best. It’s not my dream to pursue such a career, as fun as it may be.
My friend Keith wants to own his own business. I have often thought about doing the same, but as I haven’t really put anything into it, it clearly isn’t my dream as well. I feel great satisfaction in working hard and seeing the fruits of my labor; I love to plan; I love dealing with numbers, especially from a business viewpoint (perhaps this is why The Economist is my favorite magazine); and I just love coming up with new ideas for businesses. But that’s not really my dream, it’s just something that fascinates me.
In a nutshell, and deep down we all know this, there is no need to speak of THE American Dream, because it differs from person to person. We are individuals with different desires, talents, backgrounds, etc. Too often in our society do we try to lump everyone into groups, and the American Dream narrative tries to lump our desires and vision of success into the same, homogenous package deal. Don’t buy that package – build your own.
What’s my dream? Well, I’m still working on it. I enjoy writing and creating. (I have four kids; of course I enjoy creating!!) That’s why this blog is so important to me – it offers me an outlet I was lacking in my creative life. For years I had been hating my job; but now it’s more than just tolerable, it can be fun at times. There will be ups and down days there, but, in the end, I’ve added this last piece to the great life I already have. I love my wife and children; I love my town; I love my Church; and I love my house in the city without a pool and only one car. And I love writing this blog. Whether it’s read by everyone in the world or just my wife (who’s acquiring evidence for my commitment hearing), that’s fine. It’s a piece of my dream, and I’m happy to have it.
Now, the big question; what is my wife’s dream? She always told me that she had two dreams: to be a nurse and to be a mother. She no longer works as a nurse but fulfilled that dream after college. And she is one hot mother. I guess she has another dream as well – blog entries of a more serious tone as opposed to the ones that make her cringe. Well, honey (except for a few random jokes), this one’s for you.