American dream in difficult times

Ishmael - New York, New York
Entered on April 6, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30

This I believe, that in difficult time here in the United States; the American dream lives on.

There were no friends to share laughs with, there were no enemies to hate, there were no faces of neighbors to acquaint with, the blank slate of the city was the story. My mind held itself in the palms of my imagination, I separated my thoughts from my intuitions until I found a perfect union with nothing.

I lived between endings and new beginnings that were neither going anywhere nor returning from somewhere.

Could I trade freedom to attain the tractions of a dream? Questions overwhelmed my reason. There were not tears to weep.

On the streets of New York, I was invisible. I was part of the masses, a non-statistic. I was present, but absent to everyone else.

I arrived in NYC with $30 dollars in my pocket to pursue the American dream. I thought I was going to get rich in New York before the end of my first week, but the city had very different ideas about what my experience would be like.

The next three years of my life led to deep moments of searching, digging, doubting, believing, ending and beginning.

In my observations about this new world, I learnt that I had more questions than I had initially contemplated. In trying to survive, I starved in a city of wealth. In a city of rivers, my throat was parched with thirst. In New York, a place where feelings are always expressed,

I became numb.

Life was a daily illusion. It was only a matter of time before I would unlearn and begin to understand. I still haven’t understood. Each time I found myself, my voice escaped. Each time I found a beginning, it was an ending. Whatever I saw didn’t exist. The things I thought I heard had not even been said.

I listened to conversations with myself in thoughts that paced my mind. I tried to respond to my doubts before they raised new questions. As always, I was “a little too slow.” I couldn’t hold my mind in one piece. There were tensions too intense to hold me in one piece. Sanity eluded me often, insanity completely refused me; an offer from either would have been a welcome respite. I was neither lost nor found.

At times, I didn’t know myself anymore. Very often, I realized I probably didn’t know myself “all this while.” My mind was disassociated from me. I sometimes had to collect my thoughts and convince myself that the thoughts were mine. I was a stranger in a new world. Life, my close ally, acted as though we had never been friends from before.

It was the sheer tension between my past and the moments it held in the palm of present memory that brought me between endings and beginnings. Could I trade freedom to attain the tractions of a dream? Could I even close my eyes to sleep and capture the essence of that dream? Could I get a minute to breathe?

Questions overwhelmed my reason. There were no miracles to marvel at. The simplest things didn’t make sense anyway. Where had smiles gone? What had cheerfulness abandoned us for? I didn’t try to cry. There were not tears to weep. On the streets of New York, I was invisible. I became part of the masses. A non-statistic. I was present, but absent to everyone else.

There were no tears to weep. I learnt to exist. There were no friends to share laughs with, there were no enemies to hate, there were no faces of neighbors to acquaint with, the blank slate of the city was the story. I held my mind in my hands, I separated my thoughts from my intuitions until I found a perfect union with nothing. That was when I thought I would write. First, I had to breathe.

Things didn’t make sense. I couldn’t jump the fence. I was constantly in defense. I was poor, hungry, in need of a good dance or soccer game. I was crashing anywhere and everywhere. On the verge of homelessness, sleeping in empty rooms, rubbing my palms for heat. There were no gloves, no doves or shovels. I had been caught by life unprepared but time could no longer be deferred.

I watched from behind as the screen of life played by in scenes. The accent I couldn’t trade, the naivete I couldn’t hide, the games I didn’t know how to play, the women I will unknowingly offend, the race conversation I enthusiastically started, thinking a melting pot w’d have fire to burn its content with potency all added to the complex nature of the experience. I came all the way to New York to play a game that was now hitting me hard. I got it all wrong.

The process kept me on my knees, in my confusion I listened with my ears to the bosom of life and heard the rhythms of the day. I dug into the reserves of my heart, found every resource, and went into excess. In ever, I waited for never. Infinite, I found limits. I had nothing to exhibit but an empty hollow of non-matter.

I was searching, I wasn’t finding. I was digging, I wasn’t reaching, I was learning, I wasn’t understanding. I was knocking, there were no doors, I was yielding but I run out of belief, I was crying but there were no tears, I was performing but there was no audience.

Although forgotten by life, passions found me. I embraced ideas that weren’t entirely my own. I became part of stories on their way to be told. I heard verses waiting to be written. They became entire performances that couldn’t be mimicked.

That’s why I am here. Four and half years after entering this city, I have managed to raise over $45000 each year to see my self through college. My second book is being published. My poetry performances include an amateur night at the Apollo, at the Plaza hotel where I raised $900 000 with Gov. Patterson.

From Africa, I came to the US to realize realities of the American dream.