the american dream
Photo via Nana B Agyei, flickr

Having just written this for GoBankingRates, I’ve been thinking a lot about how has the American dream changed lately. And to be honest, I don’t even recognize it anymore. Let me explain…

Did you ever hear a song on the radio that absolutely perfectly describes your life at that given moment?

Currently for me that’s MKTO “American Dream,” and these lyrics in particular:

This ain’t the same summer song that you used to know
So baby, let’s live and die before we’re getting old
You know that nothing is the way it used to be
So tell me whatever happened to the American Dream

I often wonder what my future looks like. I never had a 5-year plan or even a 2-year plan (outside of finishing school). Marriage and kids were never really a priority. Our generation doesn’t really aspire to have that white picket fence in the suburbs like our parents did. Settling down sounds more like self-induced torture than stability. My version of the American Dream is much different – get out of America, as far and as often as possible.

At our pre-school graduation (yes, that’s a thing), we were each asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. I said a gymnastics teacher (ironically, I can’t even touch my toes now). My best friend Jamie said a princess. Clearly she had the right idea – dream big.

In high school, I loved AP Bio, dissecting and blood and guts, which got me thinking I wanted to be an EMT. I interned at the fire department, going on ride-alongs and shadowing ambulance runs, but the emotional side of it was just too much. Having to tell someone their grandma fell down the stairs? No thanks. How could you not bring that work home with you? Way too depressing. Plus, if you know me, you know my bedside manner would’ve sucked. Awkward small talk isn’t really my thing.

In college, I thought for sure I would work at an ad agency coming up with punny tag lines and clever commercial briefs. The idea of being creative 24/7 and enjoying Mad Men-esque gossip over the in-office keg sounded great, not like work. My favorite teacher shot that idea down pretty quickly, telling me I was too type A to work on client campaigns. Basically, at an ad agency, if they don’t like your ideas, you just have to suck it up and start over. He was right, I like providing the strategy and having the final say, I could never be a “yes man.”

Back then, I didn’t even know travel writing was a sustainable career, it seemed to fall in the realm of fantasy. When I got into marketing, I thought I would follow the safe route, work some corporate job I hated, on the path to becoming CMO. I tried that for a couple years. It sucked. Like really sucked. Political red tape, brown-nosing bosses. I couldn’t do it.

You can turn your passion into a career, but there will be sacrifices. Have I paid the price, being single in my 30s? Maybe, but at least I’m happy doing what I love – how many people can say that?

And I have a hell of a story to tell. With each new place comes personal growth. Lifelong learning, friends around the globe, and experiences I’ll remember forever. That’s my definition of the American Dream. At least that’s what I’m choosing to believe it to be over “Jack left Diane 30 years ago…”

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