The American Dream is sought after by so many, but it’s just simply not for everyone.
I’m fortunate enough to have The United States as my home country, but there’s certainly some ideals that I just don’t resonate with. One of those things is the mold that society has made for you to live; living the American Dream.
I Tried to Live The American Dream
I felt like I was a freakish weirdo for never having the urge to walk down the aisle in a (hideously expensive) white dress after having spent a luxury car’s worth of money on ONE DAY (I’d like to get married but having a lavish wedding and getting married are two different things).
The idea of having kids makes me cringe (sorry, not sorry, they just aren’t for me).
The life of a 9-5 reminds me of something out of a hellish nightmare, and having a mortgage that I can barely pay each month is hardly a goal I sought after.
So the American Dream…. I’m kinda ‘hating’ on it, but don’t think I didn’t try to live it…
I tried living the American Dream.
I went to school, college, then got a regular 9-5 job.
The next steps were to get married, buy a house and start a family.
But I failed before I made it to those last steps.
I think I wasn’t meant to reach those steps.
Because in all honesty, I didn’t want to get there.
It’s the norm to go that route, so I felt almost guilty for not wanting it.
Let me say for the record, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with living your life down that path if it’s what you want, but it’s certainly not for everyone. Not everyone wants to live that life. There are choices!
Let’s start a few years back.
Summer of 2007. I just graduated from university. I immediately moved back home to Tampa, like most do, to try and find a job.
I couldn’t find one. This was probably one of the worst times to find a job in the USA.
Recession, unemployment…blah blah. I was screwed.
I worked at a restaurant to save money for… I don’t know? Life, I guess, but I wanted to do something fun before the “real” job came into play, whenever that was going to be. So I went on a one month stint around Europe in 2008 (after saving for nine months).
My eyes started to open. Holy shit. The world is awesome, not scary like everyone thinks, it’s beautiful, there are cultures I know absolutely nothing about, and I now want to see ALL THE THINGS AND ALL THE PLACES.
Every since I was a child my two main goals were: To die a happy and well-traveled person. (Weirdo kid, I know, but no joke, this is what I always wanted.)
There was just one problem – I was supposed to be a normal person and get a regular job (where I would get a coveted 10 vacation days per year if I was lucky.)
The real job
So a few months after returning to the USA, I somehow landed that regular job.
A job that had nothing to do with what I studied in school, but it was a job. A poor paying job, but at least I had a “normal” job. (I had two more jobs on the side just to make all my bills and to save a bit)
Holy crap! I started living the American Dream! I was working at a real job. One step closer…
*cheesy fist pump on a mountain stance*
There was one big problem, though… I hated my fucking life.
The job was mundane, uninteresting, and I sat behind a desk 40+ hour per week just to have enough to pay my bills and start again next week.
I had barely any money for anything fun or enjoyable, and since I was working multiple jobs, I had no time for it anyway.
This is it… This is my path in life…?
Working in a job that sucks with no real goals of mine being achieved in sight.
I know I was new to the workforce, but even so, I couldn’t even imagine a position that I would be happy in. Going to the same office every day for eight hours, five days a week.
Spending money on rent, car, insurance, and gas and having barely anything left over?
This was supposed to be my life?
I thought the American dream was about freedom, but I felt trapped.
It’s supposed to be about opportunity, but I had none.
So, I gave up. I decided I didn’t want the American Dream (I never really did, I just felt obligated to).
I wanted to make my own dream.
So I did.
Figuring out to go after what I want
I went back to my journal that I kept in Europe and laughed/cried at the amazing time I had. With a glass of wine in hand, I reminisced on this one month of bliss, carefreeness, and wonder. Tears fell on my chicken-scratched pages that were composed on a moving bus or in my small hotel room in bed.
I knew that this one month in Europe couldn’t be replayed over and over, this couldn’t be life. Nobody can simply be on a perpetual vacation unless they’re rich. That’s it. Period.
RELATED: Here’s how I afford to travel
But I couldn’t help but wonder what I could do so I could have more time like this, and less time doing the things I hated.
Since I was young, I wanted to travel. But I never knew how that could end up being something I could actually do and live. Sure, I could go on holiday here and there, but make it my life? I never thought it was possible.
But I wanted it. So I was going to make it happen.
Making it happen
I researched… A LOT.
Eventually…I got certified to teach English abroad (literally almost every long-term traveler starts out this way), moved to Thailand, found work online, and here I am nearly five years later still traveling, working and living abroad. There’s obviously a lot more to it, but that’s another story (I’ll throw some links down below).
The point is: I totally failed at living the American Dream. I failed miserably. I didn’t push forward. I didn’t continue striving for it. I just gave up.
BECAUSE I DIDN’T WANT IT.
And I couldn’t be happier about my choice.
The ideals of this “dream” just isn’t for everyone. I never wanted a house, at this age, it would tie me and my money down. I have no home except the current place I happen to briefly be in. I like it this way.
I don’t want my own kids. It’s an expensive, lifelong decision, and I’m honestly just too selfish. So I’m choosing NO because it’s my choice.
I didn’t want to live a life where I had to do what was expected of me. The get a 9-5, get married, get a house, and have kids, paradigm didn’t appeal to me. So I didn’t go for it anymore.
I’m so happy I failed at the American Dream. My life has been an incredible whirlwind of amazingness since the day I got on the one-way flight out of the USA.
I travel and live abroad. The only thing I’ve ever wanted AND I make money while I do it.
I still work hard, very hard. Actually, I work harder than when I was sitting at the 9-5 desk job. Don’t get me wrong, my life isn’t a perpetual vacation.
RELATED: Have you see these possibilities for working abroad?
I just don’t have to sit in the same office chair every day, making enough to get by, only to get home and be so exhausted I have no time or money to do anything that I actually want. Now, I’m doing what I truly want to do.
When you work really hard at something that you really want to do, it’s not so bad. You WANT to do it. It makes you happy to see things progressing. Work that makes you happy is the work you should do, even when it means you’re taking the harder route.
Following what you wish is never going to be the easy way, but it will be the most rewarding. You’ll have to choose between the challenging path that gives you happiness or the route that’s much easier but doesn’t fulfill you.
So the takeaway point? Do what makes you happy in life.
REGARDLESS of what it is. Don’t think you HAVE to do something. Do what you really want to do. Travel is my thing, what’s yours?
Contribute to society in the way you want. Don’t feel obligated to fit in the mold if you’re not the right fit. It
might not be easy won’t be easy, it wasn’t for me, but at least you’ll be happy in the end.
The new “American Dream” should be satisfaction with where you are in life and happiness. This is my dream. And I’m very happy and satisfied.
Go live the way you want.
Not one that was preplanned by societal boundaries and norms.
This “failure” has been the most beautiful process of my life and it continues to unfold as each day passes. I’m grateful for this “failure” because it showed me what to really strive for – My ultimate happiness.
I failed BEAUTIFULLY.
RELATED: Opportunities for Americans to live and work abroad.
Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is OK, it’s good, it’s how you become successful as long as you use that failure as a tool.
I’m on the path I WANT to be on.
I’m working harder and harder each day.
But I see my thoughts and dreams coming closer and closer.
I’m incredibly thankful and grateful for this failure in my life.
What have you failed beautifully at in life? What are you learning about or striving for? What makes you happy and what are some steps you’ll take to get there?
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Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad and epically failing at the American Dream since 2011. Her sassy yet informative blog, Where in the World is Nina? is all about how to work abroad to live a more adventurous life. If you want to travel longer you have to work to wander.