I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of the American Dream. You hear the term used often and most people seem to have an idea of what it means. Depending on who you are talking to, the American Dream can be something desirable that one should strive for, while others may speak of the wish to obtain this dream as a negative. But, what exactly is the American Dream?
For a quick, but hardly exhaustive definition of the American Dream, you can search Wikipedia. Here the America Dream is described as “a national ethos of the United States in which freedom includes a promise of the possibility of prosperity and success.” So, it’s a promise? I think that may be part of it. But there seems to be more. To some it’s their ideal house, with a big front yard and a white picket fence. Or it is the ideal family, a beautiful spouse and a certain number of well behaved children. Maybe it involves the perfect career equipped with the right amount of digits on the paycheck. Whatever the American Dream may be to you, it is apparent that not all American Dreams are the same. One thing that is true of all American Dreams however, is they are an idealized vision of the way we want our lives to turn out, many times all neat and tidy with minimal conflict as possible. While the dream may include hard work, there is always the assurance that it will pay off in the end. There is little possibility of failure in the typical American Dream.
Thinking about this notion of the American Dream interests me immensely. When contemplating my own future, I wonder how much of what I envision has been skewed by the concept of the American Dream. In order to further examine this thought, I have decided to write out what my ideal future may look like if I were able to dictate all aspects of my life, keeping in mind that the American Dream includes hard work, perseverance, and that success happens to those who help themselves. I am going to try to be as descriptive and specific as possible, mostly to personalize my American Dream and differentiate from others who may have a similar American Dream. This should be fun… And away we go!
In my American Dream, I would be happily married with at least two children, one boy and one girl. I wouldn’t limit it to only two children, but two is the minimum. If I had to set a max, it would be 4 or 5 (The 5th could come later in life and be an accident that turns out to be a blessing). Of course, my wife will be beautiful and because I am a health and fitness person, she will also be physically fit. We will most likely exercise together, probably in the morning. This will be convenient because our house will include a fairly well equipped exercise room, nothing too spectacular, but good enough to add variety to our workouts. My children will most likely be athletic as well, but even if they are not, they will be intelligent. I wouldn’t mind if a had a child who excelled at music or art, even if they had little interest in sports. As long as my children are healthy and engaged in some sort of activity that challenges them, I will be happy with them.
I will now describe the ideal location of my house and property according to my American Dream. The goal is to live out in the country, with a lot of open land, maybe even farm land. However, it will be convenient because I will be within 10-15 minutes of a city or town, so I am always in close proximity to some form of entertainment, such as restaurants, movie theaters, shopping centers, etc.. My house will be located either at the top or the bottom of a pretty large sized hill, that overlooks at lake or pond. A spectacular view of the horizon is a must, in order to watch the sunrise or sunset and also an open sky for star gazing. My house will be large enough to comfortably accommodate my family, while still feeling cozy. So, we’re not talking about a mansion or anything, but by no means a double wide. It will include a large kitchen, connected to an open living room, that way whenever my wife or myself are cooking, we are still able to interact with whoever is in the living room.
The basement must be finished and will serve as a rec room or entertainment room, where my friends and I can watch sporting events or play video games. It may even include a pool table. Of course, there will be an adequately sized plasma television mounted on the wall, as well as on the walls of many rooms in the house. Surround sound will be a necessity as well. The basement will be large enough to include the aforementioned workout room; however, this room will be separate from the entertainment room.
The garage will be at least a two car garage, but will also have extra space for my motorcycles. I will have at least one cruiser type motorcycle, and possibly one dirt bike or four wheeler. My wife and I will spend a lot of time in the summer cruising on the motorcycle. We’ll probably even take it on some pretty substantial road trips. I will not go into details on the types of cars we will posses, considering in ten years from now, my taste in automobiles may change, but I’m sure I will own a few nice cars, and I may even have my own classic muscle car, preferably a Mustang.
There may be a pool in the backyard, but it isn’t essential that there be one; although, my house will include a large deck with a hot tub and plenty of room to grill out in the summer and invite guests over. Also, in the back yard will be a medium sized garden, where I will grow organic vegetables to be enjoyed throughout the year. We will own plenty of land where I will be able to ride my dirt bike or four wheeler. The pond will be stocked with plenty of fish for my children and their friends to catch and have a fish fry. The fish will be delicious.
All this will be made possible because I will have a job that offers a great paycheck and financial security. I do not know what exactly this career may be, but I do know that I will have worked hard to get to this point and I will deserve what I’ve earned. My wife may also have a job, and it will be because she wants to work and loves what she does. If she chooses not to work, then she won’t have to work. But it will be her decision and I will support it.
So, I could probably type for hours about all the great things my American Dream will include, such as family vacations, perfects holidays, birthday celebrations, and successful business endeavors, but I will refrain from doing so for sake of lengthiness. The truth is, most of these things I have just described will probably never occur in my life. And I am fine with that. At least, I hope that I’m fine with it. The whole point of this little exercise has been for me to identify my version of the American Dream, so then I can kill it! That’s right, I said KILL IT!
This kind of thinking can be extremely dangerous. This kind of thinking is my enemy; and it is important to know what I’m up against. I don’t want to be a person who lives their life chasing after some idealized notion of how it should turn out. “I will be happy when this happens or when I have that.” Saying things like, “once my student loans are paid off and I have a solid career, then my life will be good.” I don’t want to live my life believing these sorts of lies.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that all the things I described in my American Dream are bad things. Most of them are indeed good things. There is nothing wrong with wanting to live a happy life and to have nice things. I think it’s human nature to visualize your future as being ideal. The problem is, this kind of thinking will most likely create a feeling that you need more or else you won’t be happy, or even create a sense of entitlement. Also, it feeds this false belief that you can obtain whatever you want just by working hard and earning it. Unfortunately, this is not true. There are many goals in life that may be unrealistic. Things can happen that just aren’t fair. Setting these lofty expectations of attaining the perfect life, the perfect marriage, having the perfect kids will just cause you to live always looking toward the future, rarely appreciating your present situation. Most likely you will never “make it”, because “it” will keep changing, evolving into something new, something better.
Perhaps the more desirable route is to live your life being grateful for every day that God has given you, not taking anything for granted. I don’t want to sit around, dreaming about the perfect life, only to wake up one day wondering where the past ten years have gone and feeling like a failure. Honesty has been a huge theme for me lately. If I want to live an honest life, I need to accept that I cannot micromanage my future. Part of being an honest person means being honest with yourself. Always living in the future is akin to lying to your brain. I want to be a person who lives fully in the present.
I wish I was more able to live this way, but truthfully, right now I fit more of the American Dream way of thinking. It’s not too late for me though. There is still time to change my thought patterns. But more importantly, I must change my actions. That is why I must kill my American Dream. Renew my mind and kill the dream. This will be easier said than done. But maybe, just maybe if I try hard enough, I’ll be able to do it…And away we go!