White picket fences, children riding on their pastel bicycles with straw baskets and string streaming through the wind, just like ‘My Girl’. A pastel colored house, with traditionally stitched upholstery, wooden armchairs, a fireplace.
Reflections of sunrise along the creek. Rodeo cowboys with dark sheen horses. The scale of the nevada peaks, the magnificent Grand Canyon. Towering trees of the Redwoods, temperate fir and oak trees releasing their earthy scent.
Snow, Christmas in Central Park, couples cuddled up by the fireplace, people skating on the ice lake. Festivals-Pumpkins, halloween, thanksgiving, friends, lots of laughter, a communal table, silliness.
Academia, Harvard, prestigious colleges, wild college parties, American football, cheerleaders, geeks…beer pong. Silicon Valley, instant college-drop out millionaires.
The White House, the President, Air Force one. The strength of a nation, their power displayed in invincible fashion. Leaders of the nation so powerful it rings throughout history past and present, each proclaiming a better prospect for the American dream.
I might have gotten it mixed up with the American life. It seems to overlap, though.
. . .
My sole reason of traveling North America, was to explore the very romanticized ‘American Dream’, and to understand what it means to the people living there, compared to what we from 13 hours away perceive it to be, based on TV shows and hollywood. I truly wanted to see what makes American so American, what makes San Fran such a capital for creative minds, innovation, and culture. As a young geek I enjoyed watching Junkyard Wars – it was a competition where two teams were given 10 hours to find resources from within a junkyard and build kickass stuff like pumpkin catapults, hovercrafts and racing derby cars! They would go head to head in a spectacle with freshly welded steel and motors! That really impressed me by the know-how of the Americans in being creative, technically adept and making a bloody craft out of pure scrap metal and old washing machine motors.
Back to the question: IS the American dream?
First, I think it cannot be answered for everyone, for the sole reason each demographic has their own causes for living, and that is why there are democrats and republicans as they wish to make the country suit their preferred style of living. Also, times have always been changing at a phenomenal pace causing great paradigm shifts in everyday living, modern mobile technology and connectivity for instance has made a huge impact. There is not a single day where many find it difficult to live without checking their Facebook accounts for updates of friends etc. I sense that a lot of the stereotypycial American dream impressions I get were presented in the 80’s, suburban living with the a nice house, car, a good family atmosphere, access to amenities and nature, basically representing – a comfortable life. Now fast forward to the 21st century where cities move at breakneck speed, for many people, a simple life with simple pleasures isn’t easy to achieve due to the nature of it.
No doubt we all seek to achieve greater happiness, with minimal suffering, a mantra of life for many. The road to achieve it however varies greatly – a group called the hippies, or the middle income demographic prefer to be fed happiness in small doses regularly, over an extended period of time and appreciating each passing moment, squeezing out the best of it. Comfort and security is a lesser concern for them, but they are happy for a longer time. They earn less, but spend less, relying on nature, friendships, and simple living for enjoyment of life.
There are the corporates, the businessmen and the savers, they work their hearts and guts out, often sacrificing happiness, rest, and sanity in a bid to have a greater value of enjoyment and satisfaction at the end of it all. In the process they receive much internal stress to their bodies, with hard work, little rest, but in the end – high risk high gain. Usually a greater monetary reward, phenomenally greater than what the hippies can imagine. That is a very rough generalization of living, but this is way I perceive it to be.
After spending time in California, I think the greatest difference the city, and country has over the rest of the world is its freedom of choices for most, and the freedom to do things no matter the colour of your skin, or the language you speak. No doubt every city in the world has an over-the-top influx of immigrants, the difference is how each country accepts and integrates them. Spending time in California, I have observed that there is little segregation between ethnic groups, if you are American, you are all the same. They make it seem so comfortably common, but this is definitely not the case elsewhere in the world, where a foreigner often sticks out like a sore thumb, and either becomes a screaming target for touts to try to strip dry their wallets, OR, a target for inferiority and discrimination. People on the street never failed to welcome me, chat me up, someone even offered me a place when having a chat at the cafe! In the social aspect, I think the equal opportunities irregardless of race or background is the main thing that defines the American dream.
“People often over romanticize the American dream, thinking that coming here, life just seems rosier, like a holiday”, a friend mentioned. The truth is that work, in most places, is hardwork. It sure is, America IS expensive. That is the reality of things, it is something we should not overlook. But to come through it, with a positive attitude that, hey, its still alright, I’m pretty happy here with life still. That’s a great indicator of good living.
In the end, it all comes down to the environment that people create to determine a particular vibe, and experience. Being in the stands of the baseball game watching the crowd yell as the San Fran Giants almost scrape through for that win, but end up losing, coupled with the classic ‘stepping up’ sounds leading to the huge cheer at the end was pretty defining. So was staying in the retro 60s styled wooden shack at Monterey, where Maura lives and works by at the aquarium, and lives a life close to the ocean, being completely chilled out. I too remembered being brought to tour the university of Berekley, where there sat parking lots for nobel prize laureates who are their lecturers, and absorbing in the energy that academics have in doing research and trying to make a difference in the world.
From all these experiences, I’ve soaked up the good vibes of young people living the life they choose for themselves completely, and not something pressured by family, or society. They absolutely LOVE their work, their friendships and their social life. With such great passion for the things they believe in, zest for life, and given the freedom to make choices to go places, given such a vast array of spectacular nature, in their own way, this is what encompasses living The American Dream.
. . .
I remember standing on the top of the Golden Gate Bridge, its red massive steel cables above me, its supports weaving in and out of the dreamy fog. I looked across the distance at San Francisco city. Below, the clouds cast a shadow of the bridge on the blue waters, and I saw surfers close to the breakwaters, weaving in and out mushy swells. And then I saw dolphins, in a pack, with all joy and energy, being so free and happy. Blue skies, sunshine, and a cool breeze, in that moment I stood still watching all of it go by, I loved America. And no wonder millions of others love it too.