A dream can be something you have for yourself, or you can have for someone else. A dream can be something that occurs while you are sleeping. A dream can be something you aspire toward. You can even daydream allowing your imagination to run free. A dream can be created. A dream can create.
I am dreaming right now, and I bet so are you.
I am an American, I grew-up in the Land of the Free, where we are all chasing after the Dream. Whatever that means. We tell ourselves, if we work hard enough, and believe strong enough, anyone can be anything they want. However, those are just lines that we tell ourselves. If they were truths, then were in the world are all those happy people? All those people living the dream?
Not in a sarcastic way, like when you ask someone how they are, and they respond, “living the dream”. I mean, why is that a joke anyway? To me dreams are not to be taken lightly.
Funny thing is, we all are living a dream. A dream of our own creation. So what does your dream look like? The American Dream of success? The programmed dream of society?
Let’s face it, even though the American Dream is ideal, and it can be tailored to an individual, most people believe it looks a certain way. Sadly, because of the belief that the American Dream looks a certain way, it holds many people back from the true essence of happiness.
Who knows this story…Follow the rules, work hard, focus on academics. Go to college, find a job, marry the best possible mate, buy a house, have babies, better your house, better your job experience, buy the hottest new things, save for retirement, retire, then die.
Gotta keep up with the Jones!
How many of you are pushing for the classic American Dream? How many of you feel the success and full achievement of that American Dream?
How many of you have felt less-than because that wasn’t what life had in store for you? I know I have. I have lived most of my life feeling like a disappointment. I have felt as if I did not fit into the story, the story that is supposed to pave the way to success.
There is a snap shot of my life.
I was born. My parents divorced when I was 3 or 4, be honest I don’t really know. Both of my parents remarried. While my Dad and step-mom lived a fairly standard life, my mom did not. My step-dad was murdered by our neighbor, when I was 7. I am the second born to my mother out of 5 kids.
We grew up “poor”, but never went hungry or without necessities. I was molested as a child. I went to public school. I used drugs and alcohol early in my teens. I was expelled from school when I was in the 8th grade (got back in for high school). I was arrested twice before I was 16 years old.
I wasn’t the best student because I never cared to apply myself. I never thought about college, or what career I wanted to have as an adult. I had a baby 3 weeks before I graduated high school.
My daughter’s father went to jail shortly after she was born. I never imagined my dream wedding, and I always said I didn’t want kids. I grew up in a small, mostly white, conservative town. I am of mixed race, my father is from Iran.
These things shaped me before I was old enough to think with a fully developed brain. I was a victim and full of blame. I definitely never felt that there was a chance for me to “live the American dream”.
I mean seriously, I think back, and I ask myself, what could have changed my mind into believing I could change my story? Like what? A magic fairy godmother was going to come along and show me how to change my life, and break me out of depression and low self worth?
No, there is no magic for that. But what there is in life, is there is standards. There is a standard that we as a collective believe in. We believe if you work hard you can get what you want in life. I knew this, I was raised to work hard and earn what I wanted or needed. When I became a mother at 18, I knew I needed to focus. I wasn’t great at it, but I knew.
As a young adult with a baby, and a failed relationship, all I wanted was for things to make sense. So, do you know what a person does when they are down, but at the same time they know they have to make life better? They work hard. They closed their eyes, work tirelessly, and try their best not to question anything.
When I was in my early twenties I began focusing my life, I had a one track mind. I kept that track on repeated, I told myself, “do what is expected of you”.
I didn’t start my adult life in the classic way. Oops. That’s ok, we all know that is ok. I just needed to pick up where I left off. Right? This is America, there is always second chances when in the pursuit of the American Dream.
It’s ok that I had a baby young, and I didn’t go to a four year college straight out of high school. I could still make my life perfect from there. I attended junior college with every intention to transfer to a four year college.
Oops, I messed up again, didn’t make it to that four year college. Third chance, is a charm, I mean come on, this is America, I get as many tries as I want to reach the goal of true happiness.
I got married. Now I am on track, marriage makes conventional sense. I got a good state job. Perfect. As a married couple we are aligned for a bright future. Buy a house. Build debt that we don’t notice. Have kids. Build more debt, with all the right things. New cars, TVs, cell phones, home improvements. Work. Work. Work. What else…oh yes! Consume all the possible distractions.
I know what some of you are thinking. You are thinking, “no, everyone has their own path, and success is relative”, or maybe you are thinking “none of this makes sense”, but think about this, who are you to say that? Did you align yourself with the American Dream? Or are you a guiding light, a free spirit, who never played by the rules anyway?
Don’t get me wrong, I agree, 100%, that no matter what, a person is living the life they are meant to live, but here is the kicker, I agree now. I would not have agreed 5 years ago, maybe not even 2 years ago. My level of acceptance that my life is perfect and successful, has only just began.
With that said, here I sit and think about the people out there who are beating themselves up, and hiding who they are because they are not living up to the ideals of someone else’s dream?
The story doesn’t have to be, college, marriage, kids, blah blah blah. The story can be told many ways. Here is the tricky thing though, any version of the American Dream is a story, told and retold to keep it alive. This increases the likelihood ,that our way of life will continue to fuel the movement that “standards” of success are sought after and respected as FACTS.
How do we stop retelling the stories of the past, and start telling the stories that make personal history?