Once upon a time I woke up and realized the American Dream was staring me right in the face.
It was real. It was attainable. It was more alive than ever. And hardly anybody knew what it was.
Years ago, about the time when a bustling America had lost everything in the Great Depression, a freelance writer named James Truslow Adams, started spouting off his thoughts on hope and freedom and coined the term The American Dream. For Adams, the American Dream was simple. He just wanted his country to be a place where "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement". A place where anyone could have a chance to achieve their goals regardless of class, religion, or politics. A place where anyone could discover a happy and fulfilling life. This idea has always been at the heart of America, but America has often had a tough time living up to it.
Back when Adams was around, not many people had an opportunity to participate in the American Dream. White men were welcome to it, but pretty much everyone else had to sit around and wait for change. Women, minorities, the handicapped, the homosexual, the mentally ill, and even children really had no chance of partaking in the American Dream. America wouldn't let them. The country simply wasn't ready to live out it's grand vision.
Fast-forward to today and things are quite different. The "American Dream" is available to more people now than ever before, and that's a great thing. Yet from all the complaining, you would think the American Dream has gone backwards, that it's deflating and its time is up.
No, No, No people. The American Dream is just getting started. It might not be what you thought it was, but the Real American Dream is very much alive and ready for all of us.
Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness
What do you think the founding fathers and Mr. Adams had in mind when they envisioned a land full of opportunity and a higher quality of life?
Do you think it had anything to do with manicured lawns and hybrid vehicles?
Do you think the American Dream really has anything to do with your mortgage and your paycheck?
The American Dream has nothing to do with wealth, or success, or keeping up with the Joneses. That might be your dream or your bank's dream, but that was never America's dream.
All the American Dream has ever promised you is the opportunity to maximize your potential. A chance to venture on your own personal quest for health, happiness and fulfillment, and America has promised that it won't stand in your way.
I know many of you may disagree. Many of you may say, "Whoa kid, wait a minute. What about my taxes? What about the layoffs? What about having to pay for basic health care 'til my wallet bleeds? How do I get anywhere in this crazy country when everybody is trying to hold me back?"
Well, you deal with it, same as anything else. America never said your dream was going to be easy to achieve. All it said was you'll have the chance to achieve it. And really, whose holding you back? America is full of 15 year old millionaires, homeschooling RVers, and SUV driving soccer moms. On any day you can see thousands of people doing exactly what they chose to do that day. Comparatively, America is easy.
I remember living in China and having dinner with a 75 year old school principal who had just returned from Italy. It was the only trip he had taken in his life. He recalled the pasta tasted like medicine and noted that the 10 years he had waited for a visa just to travel outside the country was not worth it.
In most places the American Dream is a literally a dream.
There are people and families, from numerous countries, that risk their lives everyday to sneak into America. But I don't see many Americans risking their lives to move elsewhere. We go when it's safe. And we go knowing we can always come back and start again.
That is the Real American Dream. Not the debt or the house on the hill. The American Dream is knowing that you can try and try and try - and try and try some more - until you find your way. The American Dream is opportunity despite your place in life. It is a promise that says, as long as you don't get in your own way, you can do whatever you want. And there's a lot of people out there who would risk everything for a taste of that promise.
Create Your Own American Dream
I can not think of one instance in my life where my country prevented me from doing what I desired. Sure, sometimes I have had to jump through some hoops, but that happens everywhere. Rarely have I felt I couldn't work, or be creative, or expand my beliefs, and the few times I have experienced such feelings or setbacks, it was my own fault.
Somehow America started believing the American Dream meant that if you get a job and go to work everyday, then you will wind up with a big house, shiny car and a happy marriage. Somehow America forgot that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" doesn't suggest a free path to royals and riches.
I live in a small condo in Boston, MA - America. I have the perfect wife and kids. I have a good job working with teens and not making a lot of money. I ride my bike to work. And I have dreams of traveling the world with my family for the rest of my life. I am living the American Dream.
It doesn't matter if I ever travel or not. It doesn't matter if I lose my job or make millions. America never promised me any of that. All it promised me was an opportunity. An opportunity to dream as hard as I want and pursue my goals, and that's exactly what I have gotten from America. All the rest is up to me. I can create my own American Dream anytime I want.
This post was just a small part of a great group collaboration from a bunch of other families who are trying to live out their own versions of the American Dream. Make sure you go give them a look.
Break Out of Bushwick - Good Morning, America, Let's Occupy Wall Street!
Livin On The Road - To dream a little dream of ... travel
New Life on the Road - Living the Australian Dream
Family on Bikes - What is the American Dream?
Around the World in Easy Ways - An American Dream Fairy Tale
Fullness of Life - The Global American Dream
1 Dad, 1 Kid, 1 Crazy Adventure - The American Dream
A King's Life - Redefining an American Dream
Raising Miro - Erosion of the American Dream
Bohemian Mom - The Illusion of the American Dream
A King's Life - Livin' the not-so-American Dream
Family Travel Bucket List - Bye Bye Miss American Dream
Thanks so much for visiting us at The Great Family Escape. Our family is learning how to turn our dreams into realities and we love to share and learn with others.