What is the American dream? To me, the American dream means that I can be whatever I want to be when I grow up, whether that be a firefighter, a farmer, or even a WWF wrestler. To me, the American dream means that even if my skin is purple, I can still get a good job and have a family and a two-car garage. To me, the American dream means I can go from picking tomatoes one day to becoming President the next.
I know what the American dream means to me, but where has it gone? My parents lived the American dream by flying the peace flag and standing up for what they believed was right. They might not have loved the American government at the time, but they were still proud to be Americans. Why don’t I feel this way? I think its because, today, I feel constrained by my American heritage. When I travel abroad, I’m often seen as the “stupid American.” They assume that I am a war fanatic, and that I love to gulf down Big Mac’s in my oversized SUV. When I tell my foreign friends that I am a female Mathematician because I want to leave a big mark on this planet, they think that I am crazy. They can’t understand why I’ll never be content with a rich husband and an expensive poodle. When I tell my friends that I don’t want to go to a frat party because I want to read the latest news and try to understand why we are in a financial crisis, they give me the “deer in the headlights” stare. They take me for a loser and a party-pooper. I sometimes ask myself, “Am I stupid…crazy…a loser? Should I be content with what I have and not strive for anything more?” I used to think that I was just not knowledgeable enough to know why things were the way they were, or perhaps that it was just not my place to ask. But then I started to ask myself, was it Jefferson’s place to declare independence from Great Britain, or was it Edison’s place to invent the light bulb? These men were intelligent, but they were not super-humans. In fact, they were Americans, just like me.
When I was five, my mother told me, “Yes, you can be an author.” When I was 10, my father told me, “Yes, you can be a Doctor.” When I was 15, my teacher told me, “Yes, you can be a Mathematician.” And now that I am 20, I tell myself, “Yes, I can be a biomedical Mathematician and a published writer.” I strive for the top because that’s what Americans do, and I know I can get to the top because I believe in the American Dream.
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