This I Believe about the American Dream

Zach - Edmonds, Washington
Entered on February 10, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30

From every corner of the earth, men and women came to this land in pursuit of the American Dream. They sought after this vision of freedom from any form of oppression, so that they may guide their lives in the best way that they saw fit. After years of conflict and political strife, these freedoms were made widely available to all. Then, with nowhere better to channel their ambitions, Americans began to chase the American Dream in shopping malls.

Decades of constant spending have passed, and middle-class America has essentially hit a wall in what it can buy. We’re not buying new toys; we’re replacing our old ones with newer, better ones. Instead of buying our first television, we’re buying high-definition televisions. Gas-guzzling SUVs are being replaced by eco-friendly hybrids. We’ve forsaken the pursuit of new experiences, and have settled for the chance to relive the old ones in new ways. In a sense, the American Dream has stagnated.

I, as well as many others, believe that a new shift in the American Dream is in order. Even in times as bleak as these, we have all of life’s necessities. While not everyone has the security and stability of a job and a home, most do and are enjoying the prosperity that our great nation has to offer. Yet, we are lacking in a crucial element that we cannot buy in a store: time.

I believe that the American Dream is to have the time to pursue what satisfies the soul, rather than what satisfies the wallet. While a full-time job is a fact of life, there is no requirement that every aspect of our life revolve around it. I believe that every American should have ample time available to step away from work and spend time on the relationships and experiences that they truly care about.

That which I am passionate about is travel. Last summer, I embarked on a six-week backpacking trip around Peru. I saw amazing things, met amazing people, and immersed myself in a foreign culture that widened my consciousness as a world citizen. This experience and others like it have shaped who I am as a person much more than any job I’ve ever held. As my return flight landed in my hometown, I was stricken with the horror that my time to set out on these adventures is fleeting. The days are quickly approaching when I will be tied to a career that will not likely encourage me to pursue these passions.

My future will involve many sacrifices. This idea of time away from the desk is the archenemy of our staunchly capitalist society where the dollar is king and productivity is a virtue. In light of that, I must force my career to accommodate my values, making monetary forfeitures if the need should arise. But when my days come to an end, I will not regret a life frivoled away in pursuit of things I bought but never had time to enjoy.