Once upon a time there was a girl named Goldie lisa. Her hair was dark and curly so know one really knows why she was named Goldie lisa, but that’s really not germain to the story. Goldie lisa lived with her high school educated parents and her two sisters. They shared a middle class home in a suburban neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they had mostly everything they needed, if not everything they wanted. Goldie lisa was an independent sort so at the age of 17 she set out to discover The American Dream.
Her first stop was to visit Uncle Sam, the portrait of everything American. Here she discovered that The American Dream was Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness. While this was certainly eloquent, it was a little too esoteric for Goldie lisa. The whole thing sounded a little too “high brow” and lofty. Clearly this was not going to be a good fit so Goldie lisa moved on.
Goldie lisa’s parents tried to explain to her that the only way to The American Dream was to go to college. Since neither of Goldie lisa’s parents had gone to college, they spoke with some authority knowing their own shortfalls for reaching The American Dream. So Goldie lisa set off for college.
Once at college, Goldie lisa applied herself so that she would achieve great things. “But what are those great things I’m supposed to be achieving?” Goldie lisa asked herself. She knew she was supposed to be working toward The American Dream, but it still wasn’t really clear to her what exactly The American Dream was. Surrounded by bright and ambitious students, the media, the government and the words of her parents, Goldie lisa soon began to grasp what The American Dream was. It was to get a college degree, so that you could get a good job, make lots of money, get married, buy your own home, have 2.5 children, a pet and live a life with all your material needs fulfilled. And for two years at college, Goldie lisa pursued this path as if its fit was “just right.”
But toward the end of two years at college, Goldie lisa was feeling restless. The only thing she discovered that was interesting in school was cultural anthropology and clearly she could never live The American Dream with that as a major. She briefly looked into the Peace Corps with no support from anyone. The only options that seemed to be acceptable to those around her was to continue her education or to leave and make money. Under the circumstances, making money rather than spending money on an education that seemed to be leading no where seemed the better option.
For a year Goldie lisa worked as a receptionist living at home with her parents. She made little money and had clearly lost her way toward The American Dream. But, she was happy. She worked during the day but at night she played and played with all her friends. On the weekends she also played and played with all her friends. Other than an old car, she had few material possessions. She had few financial obligations. She had few responsibilities. For the first time in her life, Goldie lisa felt the freedom of having very few of life’s burdens and it felt light and wonderful. And while she started to get a sense that maybe The American Dream wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, she realized she was deeply caught in the propaganda of the times. Knowing that a receptionist job by day and play by night was not going to bring her closer to ”The Dream”, after a year sabbatical, Goldie lisa went back to college.
With education secured, next came a career. And with money in the bank (and in the stock market), homeownership was just around the corner. Then, of course, love, marriage and the baby carriage just down the road. Minus the pet, Goldie lisa finally had it all: The American Dream. So why wasn’t she content? “There must be more to it than this” Goldie lisa thought.
Fast forward to June 2008. That’s when Goldie lisa and her family left for a one year trip around the world. They left behind their home, cars, material possessions, jobs, careers, kids’ school and all the responsibilities that went with all of them. The trip was as much about what they were leaving behind as what they were going to. Other than the marriage and the 2.5 kids (well, really only 2), The American Dream got left behind. What was waiting for them was a world to explore, adventure, new cultures, new ways of looking at things and new people to meet. And one night, maybe 2-3 months into the trip, Goldie lisa climbed into her bed and thought “now this really is just right.”
Sometimes it takes leaving America to discover The American Dream, because The American Dream is what lies inside your heart, not what others have told you it should be. Here is what Goldie lisa discovered:It’s the people you meet and the relationships you form with them that are what life is all about. That less is more and once you rid yourself of your material possessions, you feel lighter, freer and less burdened than ever before. Doing what you love regardless of how much money you make is more important than making a lot of money and being unhappy doing what you’re doing. Life is easier when you are free from the the responsibilities associated with too many choices, too much information, too much technology and too many material possessions. That we each need to redefine The American Dream independent of the cultural pressures we experience and that for me, The American Dream is surrounding yourself with loving friends and family and doing what brings you joy.
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