The American Dream

Much in line with my last post, I have been feeling quite dissatisfied lately.  I wonder what life is supposed to be, and why I am so unhappy simply being content, living The American Dream.  Is there nothing more?  We’re we born to simply work our days away, constantly counting down until that next weekend finally arrives?

The American Dream is belief in the freedom that allows all citizens and residents of the United States to pursue their goals in life through hard work. Today, it often refers to one’s material prosperity, which is dependent upon one’s abilities and work ethic, and not on a rigid class structure.

Although the phrase’s meaning has evolved over the course of American history, for some people, it is the opportunity to achieve greater material prosperity than was possible in their countries of origin. For others it is the opportunity for their children to grow up and receive an education and its consequent career opportunities. It is the opportunity to make individual choices without the restrictions of class, caste, religion, race, or ethnic group.

To me, this is not a dream.  Perhaps if you come from another country where you have been previously oppressed, the life I live would seem like paradise.  Perhaps, I am just a spoiled brat who can’t accept that the life he has is actually quite good.  No matter how you want to label me, I think the American Dream sucks, and I think it is an illusion.

So what is the modern american dream?  I would summarize it as saying:

To live in America, in a nice housing development, with two kids, a dog, a cat, and a heaping mound of debt.  To work at a job you barely enjoy, to make money, so that you can spend it on shit you don’t need.  Hope that you can afford to put your kids through college so they can live the same life you did.  Retire, and actually start to enjoy your life, once you’re almost 70 fucking years old.  Then die in a retirement home because your selfish kids didn’t want to deal with you.

I am just a ray of sunshine aren’t I?  But seriously, boiled down, this is the modern American Dream.  This is what the lucky members of our society are living.  Not to discount the fact that in reality, I know I have it pretty damn good.  It’s just that, living life should be what you want it to be, it should be enjoyable.  That’s the point, right?

This is where I am.  Should be enjoyable.  Without sounding too emo and suicidal about the whole thing, I can make an analogy.  If you are reading a book, and you don’t like it, do you continue reading it?  If you are playing a game, and it’s not fun, do you continue playing it?  If you are with a girl, and you are unhappy, do you stay with her?  The answer to all of the above questions is clearly, no.  So then, how come if you are living a life you hate, it is unacceptable to simply quit life?  Suicide is obviously a bad idea, it is the most selfish act one can commit.  I am not suggesting anyone do it, nor would I ever do it.  I am simply posing the question – Why is it so unacceptable?

How can I find Joy in my life?

15 thoughts on “The American Dream

  1. To quote Me and Bobby McGee: “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose…”

    Suicide is a perfectly viable option for those who have complete freedom, which means no family, friends or people who depend upon you.

  2. I wouldn’t quit a game that sucked if it was my entire existence. It’s a flawed analogy because life is always what you make of it. And if you can’t be happy with your life then its not the fault of life… It’s probably just a chemical problem.

    I will reiterate that I think existential discussions are pretty much a waste of time. There is meaning to this life, whether its god or World of Warcraft.

  3. I disagree with you Bryan.

    Life isn’t always what you make it, meaning that, life cannot be what you necessarily want it to be, due to the systems and societal constraints we live inside.

    Making the best of something isn’t the answer to everything.

    If you are so sure there is meaning, then by all means, let me know what you believe it is.

    So far as I can tell, outside of reproduction, there is no meaning. Our lives have no reason to last as long as they do, especially when you aren’t enjoying it.

    Human emotion and intelligence is the reason we seek meaning, and purpose. Problem is, there really is no purpose, we just always chase the dream of there actually being one.

  4. Life is what you make of it. This isn’t an on-the-rails video game where you have no options. We have our intellect and with that intellect we define the rules of the game and how we play it.

    I offered the example of God or World of Warcraft. Well obviously the meaning I’ve found is neither of those, but they very easily could be someone else’s meaning. My specific meaning is self improvement; I want to grow and mature into what I consider a better person. I want this world to be better off for having had me in it. So in the aggregate, I and people like me will have achieved something.

    If you’re looking for a universal meaning you’re not gonna find it. ‘Meaning’ is a human construct while humans are a natural construct and the same rules don’t apply to either.

  5. You could get all zen about it and say try to find Joy in the little things that you would otherwise not notice. Listen for the still small voice, as it were.
    I agree that suicide is selfish, but not necessarily a bad idea– I’ve known people who’ve done it that have caused a lot of pain, and people who’ve done it and ended a great deal. It all boils down to what you leave in your wake, I think.
    I do think that those who say that “life is what you make of it” often start out with more building materials than the rest of us. It kind of reminds me of the political cartoon: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/06/concise_color.png
    I think a lot of people finish books they hate, games they’re not enjoying, stay with partners that they can’t stand or truly don’t make them happy (look at abusive relationships) because the known and the safe is easier than the potential for joy. And a lot of people cast off their quiet, suburbanite lives and join communes or start feeding African babies or eating fire; because the chance at the unknown is greater for them than the safety of complacency. it’s all about weighing your options, dude.

  6. As stated in the original post, I am not by any means contemplating suicide.

    I’m just unhappy with my mundane life. I don’t seek meaning or purpose. I just want to be much less bored and have a more fulfilling life in general.

  7. To have a fulfilling life you have to define what fulfillment would mean to you. And sometimes that’s a pretty difficult thing to answer. Sometimes you hear about these hugely successful business men that quit their jobs when they’re 40 and join the priesthood. Maybe, like them, what you think you want is not what you actually want. Either way, its important to try to do something fruitful.

  8. I’m starting to think that overall, happy people are happy regardless of their situation, and depressed people are depressed regardless of their situation.

    Happy people have this mystical ability to accept whatever life throws at them. Non-acceptance, always wanting something else, thus never having what you want, is depressing.

    Knowing that “you have it pretty good (compared to some other people)” is small comfort. After all, you’re not some starving African kid with AIDS, so you should stop bitching right?

    Notice that these recent depressing emo posts of yours have netted way more comments and activity than anything before. It’s not like any of this is groundbreaking insightfullness. So what is it that makes these done-to-death “life sucks” posts so interesting?

  9. I agree MooGoo. Sucks to be one of those who is almost always depressed and finds the bad in every situation.

    I did notice that these depressing posts have netted more comments, and while I generally try to keep my personal life out of the public eye, I might be onto something here.

  10. Hey…quick intro…I knew Cass from way back and have her on my friends list on myspace and stumbled upon this…aaanyway…

    I’ve asked myself similar questions in the past. I used to worry about not over achieving or seeing every gd site in the world or whatever. Now, I just go with the flow. I too believe that you can be juuust about any damn thing you want to be. It’s all a matter of how much work you want to put into it. Now that Obama has been elected, that really puts the hammer on excuses.

    I find that the less spoiled you are as a kid and more hard times you go through early in life, the more likely you are to appreciate the simple things. I’m assuming that’s why I’m content. We have a nice house, make a decent living, but not rich by no means. Neither me nor my fiancee need big fancy things. We just hope to travel and spend our lives with our kids. I find my happiness in volunteering when I can and spending time with them. Life is what you make it. You can spend it being a miserable biotch or you can just be happy you get to experience what life has to offer. Trust me. Being happy is the better route.

  11. Oh cripes…let me add…

    I’m not saying you were spoiled or had an easy life or anything. Hell, I don’t know you. I’m just saying, that’s my general experience. Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way. I have a cousin who grew up with me, kinda like a sister who has 2 felonies and struggles to get by. Some people just decide to take different paths I guess.

  12. I am the American Dream.

    I believe in the American Dream.

    Having struggled through abject poverty, I can appreciate the immigrant battle more than most. I have faced family problems, school problems, mental problems all to succeed at an extremely high level because my country doesn’t discriminate on basis of disability or personal wealth. I think it requires a certain class struggle to fully appreciate the American dream.

    I start a career on Monday, the full realization of a college education. I came from nothing to pay my own way through college and hopefully continue on to law school. I hold the American Dream, an idea of personal betterment not just economic wealth close to my heart.

  13. I’ll get off my soapbox to let you know my dream failed for the moment as i had to leave my job after a week. and get this they did not even pay me. my dream has again re-centered on Law school as the job field is pretty much nil. Quitters never win and winners never quit.

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