The Un-American Dream

Thoughts on finding your true self by shunning what society expects of you.


My wife and I are both finding ourselves in positions that I am sure a lot of young professionals find themselves in once they have a few years of working experience under their belts. We are programmed like robots from childhood. Go to college. Go to graduate school if you can. Start a career.

“Be happy” is shockingly absent from the list of American Dream check marks.

Like good little brainwashed Americans, this is the path we both chose. Certainly, there have been advantages to taking this road. The best thing that happened as a result of following this prescribed formula is that we found each other. There are also financial advantages although these advantages have proven to not be as fulfilling as promised.

So now we find ourselves spending our lives going to jobs that don’t fulfill us and we spend a lot of time questioning whether we can continue on in our respective careers. Our jobs make us feel a lot of different things. Happy is not one of them.

Folks from my parents’ generation are surely rolling their eyes. “Suck it up,” they’d say. “I worked a crappy job my entire life to support my family. Being happy has nothing to do with it.” They do have a point. Kind of. We can’t just totally forsake our responsibilities on a whim and go searching for happiness. Unfortunately, that isn’t how this works. We have houses and cars and health insurance policies and retirement plans and many, many other things. We rely on the pay from our life-sucking jobs to provide us with all this stuff to which he have become so accustomed. These are some the obstacles that stand in our way of a more authentic existence.

Identifying the problem is one thing. But how do we break out of this vicious cycle? I think the answer is finding what it is that you are truly passionate about and taking whatever that is as far as you can take it. We all wanted to be something when we were kids and, for most of us, it isn’t what we are doing now. Admittedly, this isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. But it is a worthy goal.

And what if we didn’t see these obstacles as obstacles at all? Stuff is only stuff, right? Like the noted philosopher Tyler Durden from Fight Club said, we are “working jobs we hate so we can buy [stuff] we don’t need.” Sure it would sting at first to suddenly have our material possessions stripped away. But for how long? I’d dare to say we’d get over it relatively quickly as long as our necessities were met.

As for now, we will continue to explore our passions while we are off the clock and work toward the day we can trade in our careers for something we truly love. I am not sure where we will be led or how long it will take but I am confident we are on the right path.

As a challenge, do at least one thing this week that brings you closer to who you really are than who society says you have to be. After all, “this is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.”

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A lucky man. Also a lawyer. Classic oxymoron.

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