The “American Dream”

Yellowstone Lamar Valley

Backcountry camping in Yellowstone Lamar Valley. Photo: Susan Georgette Whaley

I think the ‘American Dream’ isn’t even American. It is a human dream, a human lifestyle. Do what you want now and be happy. It is so simple. I want to measure my success in different ways than what has been wired into my brain since a child such as having a good job, going to college, getting married, etc. I have experienced parts of the world and moved around and learned about myself from within. I have learned to love and am on a spiritual path and I enjoy the activities that fill my day. But … oh yes there is always a but.

But, lately I have been feeling down on myself as I see friends get cool jobs and graduate college. I chose a very different path and like everyone else, I question it at times.

Not everyone is on the same path in life. We all have priorities and things we want to accomplish. I think I know what I want to accomplish, but getting there is so tough and I tend to fall back into what I know and am comfortable with. That is working a, don’t like to use this word but, meaningless job and am not even close to graduating college … like ever. So what does that leave me with?

If you could fill your day with anything, someone asks you what would you say? I would say rock climbing, writing, reading, being outdoors, playing chess, being with people I love. Well, it seems that is already what I do and I am fufilled. So why do I buy into the whole mindset of feeling like a failure because I am not accomplishing anything in my career? Is that the only way people can measure life by?

Is a career what we define our happiness and success by? I like to write, but if I never make money doing it then have I failed? What kind of mind set is that to have in our society? I know I am not the only person that has felt that way about their passions and hobbies. The ‘dream’ is to make money from what you love to do, but can’t you just do what you love and not get paid for it and it still be meaningful in life? I guess I don’t mind working a lame job, but if I had the opportunity to do something else hell yes I would do it. I just don’t want to work my ass off for my entire 20’s and 30’s and 40’s trying to make a lot of money so I can retire one day and then start enjoying life.

Gaining the ‘American Dream’ entices most of us and I even can admit I fall into the seduction every so often, such as today as I write about the squabbles within myself. But is that what i really want? Is it actually what most people want or is it wired into their/our brains since childhood?

College, marriage, car, house, kids, retirement … wow that is a long list of what the ‘American Dream’ entails, that the way to a happy life we must get all of these things. I am doing absolutely none of these and I am so far away from them, they will never happen.

If I had to pinpoint the moment that my life changed it was when I was twenty years old and finally moved out of my parents house, dropped out of college and moved to Yellowstone National Park to work at a lodge. My life has been what some can say difficult ever since: trying to make money, pay off my truck and go back to college. I never could move back with my parents, I was forever on my own. But, it taught me so much and was what those wise people call “life experience.” I don’t have a college degree but I got to live in some cool places and have cool stories. When I write a novel one day I think my life experiences will help more than a degree.

Some people tell me how I am crazy and not focused and jump around too much, but then they tell me how they actually envy me. I am not saying this to flatter myself, I am using it as a point that people that judge at first how I don’t walk the straight line seem to envy my freedom. I just tell them they can be free too and not be bogged down everyday in unhappiness and piles of homework. All hard work pays off in the end, i.e. college, but only if that is what will really make you happy. And you must ask yourself, if it makes you unhappy now why are you doing it? Don’t you want to enjoy life now, why wait for the ‘one day’?