Wednesday, December 7, 2011

re-imagining the american dream

Many of the students I've seen over the years come to me with one of two career goals in mind: medicine or law. Now, in some cases these students have spent a great deal of time researching industries, considering their options, aligning their interests and skill-sets with different fields, and have have chosen an end goal accordingly. But often, folks end up in these aspiration buckets by default. After all, everything around us says that aside from celebrities, doctors and lawyers are on the fastest track to attaining the promises of the "American Dream." The problem is we can't all be doctors and lawyers, nor should we be.

Photo by Chris from Skinned Knees in Short Pants
So my question is what is the "American Dream?" Does it exist? And if so, does its promises make sense for you? These are questions I've considered a lot over the last decade. As a New Yorker, there are many aspects of the "American Dream" that I'll never attain. For example, it's unlikely I'll ever own a home in New York City. And if I did, it certainly wouldn't be the home of my childhood (tall trees, green lawns, white fences). And for a long time, this haunted me. After all, how could I prove to my family, classmates and friends that I was a success, if I had "less" than the generation before me. However, in the last five years, as so many around me have struggled to keep their jobs and homes, I've realized that home ownership is a fickle warranty of achievement. And if it's a primary tenet of the American Dream, well that dream is fairly elusive.

The nomadic lifestyle that many families, writers, artists, and journeymen are embracing these days (see the WiseRoutes Project and EcoWomb for examples) is one way to re-imagine the American Dream. They use this country's awesome landscape to realize their passions and curiosities. And I, for one, am fascinated by their stories.

What about you? How do you re-imagine the American Dream?