The first thing I remember wanting to be when I grew up was a firefighter. I remember the fire department coming to my school and teaching us about fire safety. We learned about how dangerous fire was and how people were at risk in their homes from various sources. In my eyes, even at a young age, people were in danger and I wanted to save them from that danger. It was my first impression of what a hero could be.
Throughout the years, I wanted to work at an animal park working with the animals, an astronaut exploring space, a spy (thanks James Bond), and just before going to college I wanted to be a fighter pilot in the military. I applied for one of the Academies, didn’t make it in and ended up going to a ROTC program in one of the United States’ fine universities.
It was there I decided against joining the military since I couldn’t see myself taking life, at least on the order of somebody else “no questions asked”. I examined what I felt I could see myself doing with my life and pursued a direction I felt I wanted to go. I have hit a section of my life where that direction has failed me, not for lack of trying, and as one does, I began to ask, “Why?”.
You see, we grow up with these great aspirations of what we want to be, with our parents and others telling us the world is ours for the taking. Yet, we hit this wall full steam ahead. There are windows that pop up in this wall and some people are lucky enough to make it through those windows. This means that the idea of the American Dream can survive because some people make it, and you could be one of those who makes it in this world.
For others, there’s this idea of college being this great payoff. You go to college and you’ll get a good job and be able to pay off the loans you may have taken to go to college in the first place. The reality seems to be that we buy into this and then get stuck in debt for the rest of our lives never truly getting ahead. As such, we’re stuck in this weird loop of survival, where survival no longer means escaping from a bear or hunting for our food, but finding a job where you can make at least enough to pay for your shelter, clothes, and food, and pay off debt from going to college.
Many are able to keep up the illusion by using credit cards and other loans to make ends meet, meanwhile going further into debt. The American Dream about making it big rarely pays off, really, with many who seem to have made it creating this illusion and selling it really well. So, the question is, what do we do about it? Can we create a new American Dream? I think we can, but it’s going to take more cooperation than division. Let’s work on some ideas…
Until next time,