Who Hijacked The American Dream?
How did we get so far off the track? Who stole our sanity?
At one point in time, my countrymen and countrywomen aspired to the American Dream .* They did big things. They took massive risks.
No mountain was too large to climb. No mission was too scary to undertake. No voyage had too much risk. No venture was too perilous.
Americans raced across a newfound world.** Americans built railways. Americans started businesses. Americans lived with reckless abandon.
Americans relocated family and home to move west for a chance to strike it rich. Americans put a man on the moon. Americans weren't afraid to fail.
Americans invented. Americans created. Americans went places and did things that nobody before had ever done.
Americans were never afraid to take risks. Americans were never afraid of a challenge. Americans were never afraid of something new.
Goliath stood before America time and time again. Every goddamn time, Americans stood up to the challenges and struck them down.
Yet somewhere along the way, the dream was bastardized and stolen. Somewhere along the way the dream became too hard to achieve. Somewhere along the way risks became too risky. Somewhere along the way the mountains became too tall to climb.
We used to give two fucks about others opinions. We used to eat risk for breakfast. No longer.
The dream used to be about standing out. It used to be about excellence. It was replaced with conformity and mediocrity.
Quite truthfully, I'm actually not just speaking about Americans. I'm speaking about humans. About our global culture.*** This epidemic of change has no borders. It's infected a nation. It's infected the world. A global pandemic, but not the kind in the news.
People used to stand out. Now we try to fit in.
Let those words sink in. Let those words mean something. Let me say them again.
People used to stand out. Now we try to fit in.
Our nation has its roots in individuality. In risks. In uncertainty. In novelty.
Our nation is now fixated on conformity. On safety. On the known. On the predictable.
We get good grades as a kid.
We play sports that everyone else plays.
We apply to the good college.
We get more good grades.
We get a good job.
We make a good income.
We climb the corporate ladder.
We date the right person.
We buy the right dog.
We date the right amount of time so we can then get engaged at the right moment.
Then marry at the proper age.
We buy the right house in the right area.
We make the smart bet, and contribute to our 401k.
We plan for retirement.
We keep climbing the corporate ladder.
We take the right vacations.
We drive the right car.
We have the right friends.
We have the right hobbies.
We retire at the right age.
We have the right amount of money.
We have the right plan.
We retire to the right spot in Florida.
We conform to this ideal of doing what we're "supposed to do."
Until one day, after doing all the things we're "supposed to do", we die.
Yes, we die.
But where, in that long, long equation is doing what we felt was right? Where was taking a risk? Where was pursuing a dream? Where was changing the world?
We've spent our whole lives fitting in. We never stood out.
We had a light within us that was waiting to shine. Yet we hid that light from the world.
We ignored our calling. We ignored our potential.
I worry for humanity. We work so hard to fit in, we never give ourselves the chance to stand out.
I think we ought to plot a new course. Tell "the man" to fuck off. Tell the financial planner to find a new client. Tell the social pressures that we're heading in a new direction.
Who cares what you drive. Who cares your salary. Who cares your status. Who cares your retirement. It can all fuck off.
I envision a world where people aren't true to some worldly ideal of success. I envision a world where people are true to the calling deep within their soul.
If that means they sell all their stuff, quit their great job, move to Peru to work a surfboard shop and sell smoothies, then fuck yes. Go do that.
Who fucking cares what others think.
Somewhere along the way, we started lying to ourselves. We created this "ideal." This goal.
It's time to cast off what we're "supposed to do" and go do what we feel called to do. It's time to once again take risks. It's time to once again value the unknown. It's time to once again do the impossible. In our own lives, in our country, in the world.
The path of conformity ends in regret. I don't want to die with a life left unlived. Nor should you.
Stop fitting in. Start standing out.
*Let me also say, I don't think these ideals belong to America any more than I own the air in my lungs. Yes, people who live in America have used these ideals for many years. Yes, these ideals have led to many big things. Yet, these ideals do not belong to Americans. They belong to humans. Any human on this Earth could do just the same as any person or point in time that I refer to.
**Let the records show that the land we call America existed for many First People as home and country well before it exited to the colloquially considered Caucasian "Americans". I will be the first to recognize this history and heritage. Please pardon any insensitivities you find in this article surrounding the topic. I'm bound to piss somebody off. By no means is that my intent.
***In case you haven't realized until right now, this article is not about politics. It's not about a certain country or people. It's about humanity. It's about values and goals. Somewhere along the way, humans began idealizing the wrong thing. And this new ideal doesn't have a happy ending. We ought to make a change.