Black Friday/Cyber Monday the American dream

When I was in high school we heard alot in English class about books written on the American dream.  We heard alot in social studies about what the American dream was for immigrants and people after WWII.  I didn’t really think much about it.  I figured my family has been here forever, someone back in the day already got the family dream of getting here. 

At some point in college maybe I started to think maybe the American dream for my family was for the kids to do better than the parents & grandparents.  I thought that maybe that was why a kid with the background I had was on her way to college.  I thought maybe that’s why my family stuck together and supported me to finish, even thought it took awhile. 

Somewhere along the line I began to think this is kind of weird.  I know people my age who go to the same places to eat as their parents, who buy expensive clothes, nice cars and get houses.  This was before the whole credit mess.  This was when I was in college and people were using credit cards and student loans, but before the fallout.  But then at some point in time I would also be going out to eat and buying clothes and not giving it any thought.  I would think in the back of my mind, that my grandparents and parents both started in apartments and didn’t ever own a home.  They bought used cars for most of my life, never went to eat all the time at nice places until I was way older and just kind of lived a different lifestyle.  So was this the American dream for my generation?  Were we going to be living as well or better than our parents in our mid-twenties? It seemed great but didn’t all add up.  I minored in finance and my husband was a finance major.  So money was always on my mind. 

I then thought ahead, say I am eating at the nice places each weekend and have the great furniture and nice car and great vacations that took my parents and their parents time to build up to, but if I am doing it at 25, what will I be striving for at 45?  How can I top a $90 sweater?  Will it be a $300 sweater at 45, when do you draw the line?  My grandparents were hard workers, they were frugal, they would pass out if they thought I spent $35 dollars on a shirt, let alone $60. 

At the ripe old age of 22 I was living abroad.  I was living in Bermuda, where the lifestyle was something I didn’t know existed growing up in a small town in America.  I got used to the spa and sushi and great clothes, shoes, jewelery.  We went on vacations and treated our friends when they came to visit.  We were making really good money, and life was sweet.  But there was something missing.  I was still lonely and each day life felt like a dream.  It was like this is a fairytale land.  Life in the real world is not like this.  Life back home is not like this.  Eventually we left.  I never wrote the great American novel in all my years abroad.  That was something I wanted to do.  I have been obsessed with the Great Gatsby since high school and I wanted to write more than anything.

Back home kids came, and a house and a dog and me leaving my career to be a mama.  Then came the debt.  It was there all along, the same drive to buy like I saw in college, the desire to have it all, not matter what my age was. we needed a new tv, well don’t save for it, like my grandparents would or get a hand me down like my parents, let’s just go get a credit card and get a cool flat screen.  And slowly the debt added up because I didn’t have the second income we had before.  Now I am at a cross roads, I want to be more of a minimalist, I realize I don’t need things right away, I can save, use something else or not get it at all.  This is my new American dream.  My dream is to be happy and not to confuse happiness with things. I went too crazy this weekend with shopping and I feel guilt.  We don’t need it all, we can’t have it all.  All we need is each other and friends and family.  The world is amazing and there is so much to do in less excess.  I want to live the moments and not be planning and spending and worrying.  I don’t want to spend and be paying years later.  I want my kids to grow up and think about saving and then buying which is what I used to do and what I should do.  I want to be more like my grandparents and people from their time, who knew hard work and knew smart spending.  I want my American dream to be the legacy of not having debt for my kids.  I want my kids to realize there is more to life than stuff and to enjoynature and connections and to just be.  An American dream based on the joy of freedom to live and love and see and explore, not on the need for more, bigger, larger, more expensive.


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