What is the American Dream? Is it the opportunity to buy a house? Is it the opportunity have a 9 to 5, Monday through Friday job, weekends off, paid holidays, low-cost insurance, and two-weeks paid vacation? Is the opportunity to invest into a 401K, buy some savings bonds, buy a fancy car, and have all the modern appliances and technologically advanced products in the home? Is it owning a computer, and iPod, or the latest cell phone?
I am coming to grips with a reality that was once my American Dream. I grew up in a rental neighborhood, living on the “wrong side of the tracks”… literally. The train tracks that ran along Lincoln Avenue created a zip code barrier that would place my public education opportunity in the ghetto schools. Fortunately, I was able to transfer to a better district, but then I had to learn another lesson from the rich kids: how to keep up with the Jones’.
I swore to myself that I would not follow the path of my parents. I would not be greedy and spend on credit. I would save a portion of my income, and I would buy a house. I would live in a comfortable neighborhood, and I would have the American Dream. I have not lived up to all of my aspirations, though. At least, not yet.
To recount the first paragraph I have accomplished, bought, or owned all of the things I believed that would make me comfortable and happy. I was fortunate to buy a home in 1999 with my husband. I have been fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home-mom and raise my children (with the exception of the first two years of my firstborn). I have worked the Monday-through-Friday 9-to-5 job that offered paid vacations, sick days, holidays off, weekends off, low-cost health insurance, and a 401k plan. I even had the opportunity to buy two new cars (on credit, of course), and trade them in for something “bigger and better.”
So, where did all this affluence go? What has become of me? As I am sitting here, writing and pondering, I am not in sorrow. I smile at the future because of the hard lessons I am learning. I made some mistakes, I’ve made poor choices, and I’ve regretted a few decisions.
So here is where I am:
I can bake bread from scratch; I can sew my own clothes; I can make homemade laundry soap; I can read books instead of watch the electronic babysitter; I can teach my own children with a no-cost curriculum.
Things that I still need/want to learn:
To knit, to change the oil in my car, to cut my kids’ hair, to grow my own garden successfully, to raise chickens for meat and eggs, to learn to live without every modern invention in my possession.
Things I have learned to live without:
A microwave, a cell phone, a second car, cable television.
This may all seem weird, but all those things I have possessed or acquired have not made me any happier. The American Dream is a facade, a mirage of consumerism masked delightfully as happiness. I choose to take the narrow road. I now hope for a simpler life, one of which I can sit in my yard and count the stars. I can have a conversation with my children and not be interrupted by a telephone or a television. I dream of the chance to grow my own food, and be resourceful at every turn.
This is my life and my dream so far. What is your American Dream?