It used to be that the version of the American Dream that I was sold, was something that I believed wholeheartedly.
And why wouldn’t I? Follow the directions to get the results. It was exactly what I had been taught and had been reinforced so much that I grew up just understanding it as “the way it was”. Graduate High School, Go on to get a College Degree, and everything would work out. Career, House, Family, Everything I wanted would happen if I just followed that path.This has become what I now call ” The Big LIE” – Because I did my part, so did so many others my age, but that isn’t exactly how it went for me, or literally anyone I knew from my generation.
In fact, we were the ones who discovered that Kids were more resilient than had previously been credited to them. We were the ones that the term Latchkey identified. We were the 1st Generation who while we relied on our Parents and other authority figures for some protective and survival needs ( shelter, food, clothes, etc). Out social dynamic structure was much more Lord of the Flies. We formed our own tribes. We learned that we had to rely on each other, and ultimately on ourselves.
We also learned that the idea of the 2 income household had taken full grip on our parents, and If we were lucky enough to have both Parents in our life, what we did not have – was a new model to operate within.
No one took the time to explain that the old American Dream was no longer going to happen.
And so, I did what we all did. I started following the formula I had been spooned for my entire childhood.
In High School, shortly after I got my Drivers License, I got my 1st “real” job. At a Dairy Queen.
1 week later, I hated everything about it. I hated the work, I hated the people, and more than anything else,
I hated the smell. I can still recall the unique smell of old fryer oil, Burger grease, and spoiled Ice cream residue. But I was sure that it would all be worth it when payday came in another week. Then the day finally came
I held in my hand an envelope full of potential. After all, if mowing lawns and other teenager type summer jobs always paid me enough to keep doing it, then I knew this was going to be awesome. After all I was spending most of my free time, putting aside time with my teenage love/lust interest, my friends, and even the time I would normally have to do whatever I wanted with my life, doing this job that I hated. Opening that envelope for the 1st time took me from one extreme to the next very rapidly. I was so excited to see the 1st piece of my fortune that my hands were not quite cooperating. It was difficult to get the envelope open without tearing its contents.
Moments later I looked at the paycheck in spirit crushing disbelief.
I remember going over the math again and again, trying to figure out how it could possibly be right.
Was this all my time was worth?
I knew in my heart that I could not live the life I wanted if I determined that an hour of my life was worth so little. In my eyes, it was as if they said ” if you let us shorten your life by 1 hour, we will give you x dollars” and the x was not very big. Even worse, they are willing to only take so many hours in this exchange. Eventually your hours are not even wanted, and they are not taking them from the end but rather from the best ones. So some of your best hours, are only worth a handful of dollars.