Tears and Laughter: The American Dream Is Achievable, But It Requires Sobriety And Both Hands
February 1, 2019 | View PDF
There seems to be a recurring subject in the headlines from various news outlets over the last few weeks concerning the American dream. Evidently it is out of reach, not available to everyone, and otherwise unattainable.
I had to look it up to see what is has even become. I feel like it keeps changing. Growing up I didn’t have a dream. Mine was more of a goal. I wanted out. I marked the last 5 months of my senior year of high school off the calendar like a prisoner. I walked on the stage and got my diploma. I shook the man’s hand, waved to everybody, and was out of town by midnight.
It was by coincidence that it happened on my eighteenth birthday. I considered it a fine ending and a great beginning. From that day forward, I thought I was living the American dream. I was broke, and was working 60 to 65 hours a week plus carrying a 20 hour schedule at college in a city where I didn’t know my way around yet, but I thought I was living it. If I wanted to stop for Krystal burgers at midnight, I could. I called it freedom.
This was several years before so many Americans evolved into having to hold a smart phone in one hand and a touchscreen vape in the other.
The changes didn’t happen overnight. American writer Lewis Grizzard used to say mixed doubles were replacing sex in the eighties, and before that it was writer James Trunslow Adams who first defined the idea of the American dream saying, “Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.”
We all know it is not quite so simple as that. Life can be cruel and is usually unfair. Teachers can vouch for this. Every morning when the children gather in classrooms it is clear that some parents are a little more concerned about their kids being prepared to achieve the American dream than others. Poverty is one thing. But kids showing up from homes where dads are absent and moms are strung-out on meth is another. Children are likely not going to exceed even the lowest of expectations when the abusive voices from home are louder in their minds than the instruction being given in front of them. Even in ideal conditions, dreams that come true aren’t given out like vaccines down at the health department.
The American dream is similar to dreams in all the other sovereign countries of the world in that it requires getting an education or learning a skill, it requires not quitting, it requires not getting a habit or substance abuse issue that takes you completely out of the pursuit or makes you have to start over – over and over again. It is probably also best on the road to making dreams coming true to try and not get multiple DUIs, divorces, or credit cards – not for any moral reason, but because none of them are cheap.
A lot of times, before realizing our dreams it may be necessary to first just reach a point of security where the freedom to make personal choices is possible – as opposed to just getting by. Dreams come true when you make the right choices all of the time. It has to become a lifestyle.
In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that those who pursue the American dream can never be satisfied or fully content because it involves
continually reaching for more than we already have. I don’t know if that is true, but the American dream is not going to fall into your world like a miracle. It takes a sober-minded plan, dedication…and often the use of both hands.