What do you think of when you hear the phrase “American dream?” A big house in the suburbs? A white picket fence? A family with three children?
For many, the concept of the American dream, or the idea that hard work produces wealth and happiness, is an antiquated myth. It’s becoming more common that hard work, especially for those burdened with poverty, does not guarantee eventual wealth.
To make the picture even bleaker, the Census Bureau released data last Thursday showing 14.3 percent of Americans live below the poverty level. It’s worse in California at a rate of 15.3 percent. With statistics like this, it’s easier to understand why the American dream is going out of style.
For a starry-eyed college student, however, these figures don’t resonate as deeply as they do with single mothers. Deep down, many of us believe that we will be the exception to the 14.3 percent. We hold out hope that when we graduate, we will kiss our “college-poor” days behind and step into the workforce, the land flowing with milk and honey.
For a number of us, the land of milk and honey is undoubtedly nigh. The rest of us, however, should consider redefining our American dream.
The new American dream looks a lot more realistic, and more responsible, than the one of decades past. It’s a dream that recognizes in our economy, wealth will never be within everyone’s grasp. This realization brings a responsibility to look out for those who have fallen behind—the single mother, for instance. To whom much is given, much is required.
The realism of the new American dream brings a more attainable level of satisfaction. Beyond basic needs and caring for those dependent on us, everything else should be considered gravy—not a right.
The new American dream seeks a job that satisfies the need for creative opportunity, not necessarily the fatty paycheck. It’s like the bumper sticker that says “Love what you do, do what you love.” A cliché, yes, but apropos.
The new American dream is not afraid to dream—to imagine a better life—but that dream is measured with responsibility and realism. The new American dream is not the cutthroat, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses grind that our predecessors held high. It’s a way of life that derives satisfaction from working hard, living within one’s means, keeping an eye out for the less fortunate and enjoying bouts of fun here and there.
Here’s to living the new American dream.