What the American Dream Means to Me

I was duped. No, that actually implies that I was unaware of the duping. I knew, knew all along. I fell for the lie, hook line and sinker. I wanted it so badly I threw any trepidations I had out the window. It was not until I was older and mostly burned out that I realized my youthful years were spend chasing the elusive American Dream. The dream which fell short in my case. Work hard and you will have a better life than the generations before you. I believed the bigger house, better car, clothes overflowing, and stuff would make my life better.

I came forth out of the womb always wanting something, more more more was all I could think of. My childhood allowance was never enough, I was always begging for advance so I could get more candy; more candy than I needed or was good for me. Promises of some elusive deed in order to get paid now so I could spend it now.

As I grew older, I continued down the same path. What could I get that would make me happy? That sparkly thing will surely make me happy and when it did not I had to keep looking. Please do not get me wrong, my life was not bad but I just knew the more I had the happier I would be. Since I did not make enough money to continue in that lifestyle, I found credit. We all know what happens then. The tide turns and you end up working just to keep the creditors at bay.

One job turned to two jobs, tired turned to exhaustion, hopefulness turned to hopelessness and so on it goes. I wish I would have learned early in life that things cannot make you happy but I was a slow student, I mean really slow. In the back of my mind, I convinced myself that I deserved these things when, in fact, I was not deserving at all. I convinced myself the next thing would be the one that brought the entire dream together, but it did not. I was exhausted, depressed and deeply in debt.

In the back of my mind, I figured if it got really bad I could sell everything. It turns out that no one wants my used stuff, and if they do they only wanted it if it was cheap. All that money I spent on pretty things and no one else really cared about them. I was a complete fool.

Now the mantra seems to be less is more and I see it now. Your possessions should not own you as mine did. I worked and worked just to pay off the debt and the happiness they were supposed to bring was nonexistent. What if the things you had were functional and/or something that really, truly meant something? How better would life be if you could sit on your porch and drink a cup of tea knowing you did not have to work 80 hours this week to just barely get by. Once that concept really hit me, I realized how wrong I had been. How greedy and thoughtless I had been. Now was my chance to turn the tables.

I have downsized over the years and with each item that is no longer in my possession, I feel lighter. Unfortunately there is still a lot of stuff to go, stuff no one really wants and that stuff has made me feel as if I was drowning. It all needs to go. My experiment for this trip is to take it all down to what I need to live and what brings me a little bit of comfort. One box is all I get to take with me. That box will house my personal belongs that I just cannot live without. If I find along the way, that an item no longer fits that need, I will give it away or throw it away. By the time I return home, I should be well on my way to living with less and hope to never be that person I was before. The person who thought of only herself. I want this trip to change me permanently, I want to be healthier in so many ways; spiritually, physically, and mentally.

It may seem selfish to being taking this trip and I am struggling with that. But if I do not make a major change in my life, I am not sure where I will go. I do not want this trip to be a trip of leisure as much as I want it to be a challenge, the likes I have never endured. I want this trip to be hard and uncomfortable and when I get out of the car somewhere I want to actually see it. My attention span is and has been about as long as a music video (remember those?). I miss the fact that I cannot sit still long enough to read a chapter in a book. I have numbed my brain so much with electronic entertainment that I have lost the ability to converse on a personal level with another human being, I think of what is only next not what is right now and my brain rarely stops thinking about things that are meaningless. These I believe, in my case, are side effects of the American Dream.

It is time to change the ideal of American Dream to be as individual as each one of us is. My dream might not be yours, and vice versa. I believe the American Dream is still a valid concept, it just needs to be changed and reviewed a little more often. Maybe it is not about McMansions and fast cars, maybe it is about helping someone out and living a more moderate life. I hope this trip opens my closed eyes and my closed heart. As I said before, the person in the mirror is a stranger to me and I do not like that at all.

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