It's all part of the plan and you know it
Do the work for a rich man to turn in
You get what you deserve
And you deserve what you're born in
So quit complaining
You can be anything you want
But you're nothing at all, nothing at all
The American Dream is falling
Into nothing at all, nothing at all
~“American Dream” by Cereus Bright
The American Dream has always been a bit troublesome to me, and maybe these lyrics touch on why.
It’s inspiring that the American Dream says you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps, rise above your station and all that jazz. Theoretically, you’re never trapped in a low socioeconomic class. You can make your business, earn your way, follow your dream.
However, that same American Dream says a few less desirable things along the way. It says that if you haven’t reached a certain level of success, you haven’t worked hard enough for it. And since you haven’t worked hard, you don’t deserve success anyway. The American Dream says you’re not American enough if you don’t have a certain life outcome – you have less worth if your hard work doesn't pay off.
My third Living Room Conversation concerned this topic. And thank goodness for diversity of perspectives because I had a pretty cynical outlook on this one.
The participants of our conversation made a sort of proposal: What if our generation has a New American Dream?
What if we stop pressing upward financially, with pressures of success and a predetermined way to achieve it all? What if we expand the American ideal beyond starting a career, getting married, buying a house and settling down? What if the Dream leaves a bit more elbow room than that? What if one person’s winning their dream doesn’t mean a lifelong loss for another person?
What if the millennial American Dream is less about selfishness, extremity and achievement and more about moderation, fulfillment and fairness?
Maybe the New American Dream is about travelling to learn about the world. Maybe it’s about education – to learn about the things you don’t know and didn’t know you don’t know. It’s likely about pursuing what will bring you joy and meet the world’s needs, rather than stomping your way to "the top" no matter the costs.
I think the American Dream is getting a new face, and that makes it harder for me to hate.
One of the questions we talked about in our conversation was, “How are you inspired by your personal American Dream?” Our answers showed that the American Dream is alive and well, and it doesn’t fit into the same box it used to.
We were all women, all pursuing different career paths through various courses of study; and as one person in the group noted, ”This wouldn't have even been possible one hundred years ago. It’s only possible because of other people’s American Dreams.”
I can attend a good college although I can’t really afford it. Scholarships and financial aid and support and the draw of education and the grace of God have put me here just as much as (likely much, much more than) my own hard work and the passion of a "dream."
The American Dream can’t be as individualistic and unfulfilling as climbing a ladder to the top. It’s got to be more about provision of resources for yourself and others to help reach a goal that meets a personal and communal need.
Let's dream something that makes the world better.