Rain, rain UK stylie
When it rains in Americaland, like it is doing today for a change (it’s been sweltering this past week!), people do say to me ‘it must be just like being back in England’. Yes, I can confirm that stereotype is true! I felt that today!
The American Dream
This weekend I was sitting at the community pool here in Columbia MD, just watching. I was watching all the folks who live here (in one of the top zipcodes in the USA), saying hi to them because they know me from my work, the community and school, and I began wondering what they would be doing with their lives if I returned from the UK again in three years to this very same place. Would they be doing the exact same thing? Would the wives be doing the school run, then hitting the gym, then having lunch, then running some errands, then grabbing a Starbucks and a quick pedicure before returning to do the school pick up and then ferry the kids to their evening sports events? I say this because this happens a lot in my part of the world, and I see it every day. Will it be any different in three years’ time?
And I began to wonder if this was the actual American Dream, or at least one of them, that I was witnessing in front of my very eyes. If this, with the pools and the schools, and the big houses and the cars and the handbags, was their American Dream fulfilled. I don’t the answer, but I suspect for many it is.
And all of a sudden I felt a little weary and a little anxious and very claustrophobic. If this is it, I’m not sure it’s my dream at all. I’m guessing for many this is their dream: they have achieved and made it.
And I then realised this is the perfect time for me to be returning to the UK, because, as much as I have loved my life here, and all the fun and wonder that it has given me, I could not live in this Truman Show-like American Dream World for much longer. This is not my dream; I feel like I’m in a load of other people’s dreams. Nice as it is, I feel an urge to break free.
If this life is those folks’ dream fulfilled, then good for them (not meant in a British sarcastic way!). I’m not knocking their choices or their journeys or their hard work, but for me all the apparent safety and comfort of this particular American Dream leaves me wishing and wanting a different adventure, and so at that very moment, staring at the pool and the blue skies, with the sun on my face, I realised that it is time for me to leave America and return to the UK, and to chase my own hopes and dreams. My expat time is up.
America has given me fantastic opportunities and I’ve met amazing people, but it can’t go on forever, and so I like to think I’ll be leaving on a high. I’m curious as to what all those folks will be doing in three years’ time and I wonder if they harbour other aspirations and dreams, or if they’re content with this. I shall certainly pop back to see 🙂
I asked a few blog readers what they thought defined the American Dream and what it meant to them.
V: Aspiration – starting from nothing, studying or working hard and becoming successful in whatever field you choose (success being to me a nice home, family, good career or position in society and the lifestyle to match.)
A: It’s different for everyone, but I think it has centered for far too long on materialism and wealth in society. We have created a charade, a myth, a facade and everyone thinks that’s the dream. There is a cookie-cutter brand of happy moms, who are actually on the gin at home; smiley kids with perfect teeth, who are actually secret meth heads and lost their virginity rings a while ago; and dads who work longer than they have to just so they don’t have to go home. It’s not a dream: it’s a self-perpetuating nightmare and one day we’ll wake up and realise it’s a load of BS. And, of course, for many the dream we are sold is unattainable. Does this mean they’ve failed at their one chance at life? That’s a sad thought.
T: The dream is a self-fulfilling prophecy that you are responsible for. Whether it be workplace success, travel, homelife or setting your long term goals, the American dream can be whatever you want it to be, as long as you work hard for it. Are we the land of the free though? I’m not always sure about that one.
This is what the American Dream is defined as if you tap it into Google:
The ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.
“He could achieve the American dream only by hard work”
One of my favorite reads about this topic is this blog. I’d be interested in your thoughts on the American Dream – feel free to add your comments on the blog!