The New American Dream

Any American can name the American Dream. White picket fence, a well-maintained, comfortable house in the suburbs, 2.5 kids—a true 1950s vision.

But that vision is decades old, now, and in the years that have passed, the dream has changed. Now it’s colored by the desperation of a new generation that grew up into a reality where the picket fence is no longer a dream to aspire to; it’s a delusion, an impossibility.

In truth, the American Dream has long been an impossibility for many people. The working class has never had access to the middle class suburbs, though a select few have managed to push their way up in to the middle class. Such people have been the exception, however, and not the rule.

When I started college, just a few years ago, I figured that I would graduate and get a job somewhere in the city—any city, really. I’d have a small, modest apartment. I wasn’t expecting anything flashy. A used car, maybe just the one I’d already had for a few years.

It didn’t work out that way. After college, I briefly returned to the job I’d worked during summer and winter vacations, while living at home. I found myself in a position that many people my age share, and our ambitions and hopes have changed.

Not a high powered job—how about any job? McDonald’s? Starbucks? All of the jobs that people are supposed to get out of once they’ve gotten an education are the ones that people with bachelor’s degrees are competing for.

Forget about aspiring to own a house. We’re living at home, and hoping that maybe we’ll be able to afford a studio apartment one day. We wouldn’t even mind living with bugs. It’s the best we can hope for.

And when it comes to starting our own families, that’s a nice idea, but unrealistic. We don’t have the resources. Many of us may never have the resources required to start a family.

It’s a bleak dream. The bare minimum, at best. I’d like to put a hopeful slant to the millenial dream, but I can’t, really. Hemingway termed the generation coming out of the World War I the lost generation, and in some ways, I think we’re a new lost generation. Most of us did not serve in war, but we are but wanderers in life, listlessly moving forward, toward nothing.

Inspiration Monday

“Riveted,” Robyn Sarah

It is possible that things will not get better
than they are now, or have been known to be.
It is possible that we are past the middle now.
It is possible that we have crossed the great water
without knowing it, and stand now on the other side.
Yes: I think that we have crossed it. Now
we are being given tickets, and they are not
tickets to the show we had been thinking of,
but to a different show, clearly inferior.

Check again: it is our own name on the envelope.
The tickets are to that other show.

It is possible that we will walk out of the darkened hall
without waiting for the last act: people do.
Some people do. But it is probable
that we will stay seated in our narrow seats
all through the tedious dénouement
to the unsurprising end — riveted, as it were;
spellbound by our own imperfect lives
because they are lives,
and because they are ours.