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I Tried to Live The American Dream and Failed

I Tried to Live The American Dream and Failed

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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!

american dream failure

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*

The reality

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.

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.

american dream failure

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.


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.

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.


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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  1. Nina Ragusa says:

    Thanks for commenting, Joanna! It’s always good to recognize what’s good for you and do it!

  2. Gabriel Guevarra says:

    Hi Nina, I loved your story and thanks for sharing. Because I love to travel and love history, I joined the US Army and was able to travel a whole lot. The plus side of working as an active duty military was being assigned to different places both here in the US and Abroad. It was an exciting times, stressful yes, but seldom boring.

  3. Nina Ragusa says:

    That’s awesome, Gabriel! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Joanna Szreder says:

    Ah I love posts like that because they assure me that I’m pretty normal (or there are others out there that are as abnormal as I am). I did the marriage thing. It turned out that it wasn’t for me. It’s better not to do it if you feel down inside that it’s not for you. It’s better not to get married than break someone’s and yours heart. Fortunately, I don’t have kids. I don’t think they are for me either.
    Thanks for this post. I really loved it.

  5. Amanda Brown says:

    I relate so much! I also graduated from college at the worst time and couldn’t find a job, became a hippie living in a van, then backpacked across Mexico, then taught kindergarten in Saudi Arabia. Spent all my money driving around the states trying to find a place to ‘settle down’ and ended up in New Orleans teaching. Now I’m in Brooklyn but I am ready to travel again! I want to spend my life creating things and being with the people I love, being good to myself and the environment and seeing the world!

  6. Nina Ragusa says:

    That sounds amazing Amanda! What an adventure! I’m happy you were able to do something positive during a time that finding a “real job” was impossible!

  7. Matthew J. Scanio says:

    Nina… Wow! That was my reaction the entire time reading your blog. I instantly shared it to my wall. You resonated and hit on so many things I believe in that are outside of the societal boundaries. I just recently up and moved from MA to FL because I (emphasis on I) wanted to move to a warmer climate. I figured I only have one life to live, why do I spend 8 months out of the year depressed, cold, miserable when I could have 75° every day. So I [selfishly] left my friends and family, but I didn’t want to live the “American Dream” which was stay local, get married by 30, have 2 kids, and work 8-5. Nope. Not me! Right now, I don’t have a desire to get married and if I do I wouldn’t want to spend $50k on it. No desire right now, to have any kids. I just want to figure me out and enjoy being single and traveling as much as my 9-5 allows me. I negotiated 3 weeks of vacation when I moved to FL, so you’ll appreciate that 😉 instead of the typical 10 days. I would love to meet up someday somewhere and just talk about life!

  8. Nina Ragusa says:

    Thanks so much Matthew!! What a badass you are! Haha. Im from Fl! Where did you move to? You have to go after what you want. It’s ok to be a bit selfish. It’s your life after all, right? I wish you the best and def hope to see ya somewhere around the world 🙂

  9. Nina Ragusa says:

    Wow! Thanks for commenting Tina!! I’m happy you at least had that taste. I hope you get to go after what you want soon!

  10. Tina says:

    I got teary-eyed while reading your blog Nina. You know why?coz im guilty of trying to live the norms and pressures of the society. I’ve been job hopping at various jobs that really suck, just to pay my never-ending bills and paying my house mortgage, even doing a “normal job” just to make my parents proud. But in the end, I’m still not happy with what I’m doing and still feel lost. I tried once to step outside my comfort zone,;I worked in Thailand for 2 years, and it was one of the happiest days of my life ,where I was able to experience freedom and independence. There I realized that traveling is one thing that really gives me peace and contentment. I just do hope that I could get back in pursue what I really love and what makes me happy..Looking forward to your other inspiring posts…Cheers!

  11. Amy says:

    I loved the ups and downs of your journey and thank you for sharing Nina 🙂 . I’m still figuring out a way to do what I love!

  12. Tina says:

    yes Nina..I’m working on it 😉
    continue inspiring lost souls like me hehehe
    Thanks so much!

  13. Jeff says:

    Wow nina, interesting post and so “progressive”, however unlike the others here, i dont mean it in a good way.
    Sometimes our “americn unbridled freedom” causes some very strange misconceptions… hense why that version of it is destroying our nation and western Christian civilization.
    Now dont get me wrong. I LOVE to travel and believe that its a very good thing, so ill try to be brief here.
    If everyone just did what they “wanted” to do without feeling any responsibility to the culture and civilization and systems that allowed them to be alive and prosper in the first place, you would have been most likely born as a muslim slave girl.
    The “we are the world” and the hippie “if it feels good do it” mantras are exactly whats allowed the west to fall into the hands of sociopathic marxists who cover the world w terror and blood.
    I know this will upset your emotions, cause thats what hard facts do to emotionalists who only want to find emotional support for their FEELINGS, but the fact is this.
    In a way you ARE living the american dream, LIBERTY. Thats the AUTHENTIC americsn dream of our founders, not the debt slavery of the marxist(mostly jewish) international banking cartel(dont panic that i mentioned a particar group, you can get the same facts from jews themselves like brother nat at , and gilad atzmon at his site or google 1961 speech of benjamin friedman, and there are many MANY others.
    Yes i know it goes against your egalitarian schooling, BUT I THOUGHT YOU FREE TO THINK AMD ACT FOR YOURSELF ?
    well, nows your chance…
    We all owe something to perpetuate what allowed us our freedom so that the next generation of AMERICANS has theirs.
    Please note that the founders didnt push your view of selfish but instead pledged their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” to the cause of liberty for who ?? PRIMARILY FOR THEIR POSTERITY, as they knew that many of themselves would(AND DID) lose their wealth AND their lives in that struggle that they ultimately won.
    So when you preach, DO ALL FOR YOURSELF, you are preaching for the literal destruction of western Christian and american civilization, that which allowed you to grow up safe and free(mostly).
    Basically you have a perspective problem. A little drudgery in an office or a marriage or with children isnt a bad thing. ITS LIFE and the preservation of our liberty and if some drudgery is what it takes, then so be it, it is a small price that we should be willing to pay, not only for our literal OWN children, but for the children of our neighbors(fellow americans)etc since we cannot guarantee anything and everything to the whole world, in fact because of cultural marxism, we havent even been able to guarantee liberty to our american posterity(think bush, obama, hillary).
    Also, as a final note, you do mention that your life isnt without hard work, and i assume its not without some lonely nights, scary walks, uncomfortable moments etc. WE ALL HAVE THOSE.
    So we all need some encouragement from time to time, but that does NOT mean that it should be without condemnnation of error.
    No different for a life coach than a football coach i guess you could say, for lack of better parallel !! Lol(i hate pro sports by the way).
    In other words, you could take an american “job” and live a more traditional american family life(although without the huge mortgages and new car etc) annd be perfectly fine AND HAPPY, if you just changed you perspective.
    However, the social pressures here at home for a GROWN ADULT will of course continue to be exerted on you to conform to some degree and to prosper and achieve…after all, it is THIS which made america and the west great !! And gave you your understanding of liberty in the 1st instance.
    Your questions and/or comments are welcome and i also sent you an email that i havent heard back on.
    Best of luck and stay safe !! Jeff

  14. Nina Ragusa says:

    Thanks for the comment, Jeff! Sorry but not sure where we’ve met before to the extent that you know what would make me happy? Who said there was no responsibility to civilization and the systems of it? I’m destructing civilization with this blog post!? Wow. Mind blowing stuff. Well, thanks for commenting and sharing your opinion! I have no email from you FYI.

  15. Jeff says:

    Hmmmm, well I sent a short one when I signed up for the blog. Perhaps it didn’t go through, but it was short. Just asking your ethnic background and general history.
    To respond further, lol, sometimes I forget that I’m talking to a girl when I write !! And that’s not meant at all as a slight, but boys n girls “hear” things differently.
    Girls hear via the right side of their brain(emotional side) and boys through their left side side (logic side).
    To oversimplify I like to joke, “to expect a girl to come to an objectively accurate conclusion after the facts go through the emotional side of her brain first…is like me saying that I can hard boil an egg… AFTER I FUCKIN’ SCRAMBLE IT FIRST !!” Lol
    so no, your blog is not destroying western civilization, but the GENERAL VIEWS that you are espousing are cultural marxism, which IS destroying western/Christian civilization.
    If you have the courage to accept fact-based conclusions based on the preponderance of the evidence…some girls are capable of this through conscious willpower, then this collapse it.easy to see and to trace the roots of.
    However, in a sense you are contributing to this collapse by spreading views that are literally anti western-civilization.
    I also didn’t say what SPECIFICALLY would make you happy.
    However, i can speculate GENERALLY that if working on some Laotians farm in Asia can make you all warm and fuzzy (and supposedly happy), then working a farm or Vineyard in michigan or southern California or central Texas or maine…SHOULD be able to bring you satisfaction(based on YOUR perspective), unless of course you need to be in the 3rd world so you can feel like you’re helping to “save the whole world equally” as america(and western civilization) collapses.
    However, if that were to be the case, a job in southern California should even fit the bill as its being overrun with illegal 3rd world mexicans as I write.
    So I can further speculate that if you like helping others, even though you may not want kids at present, that if you were to choose to have some and to settle w a good typical white american guy with morals and a work ethic into a traditional family, that you would also find great satisfaction in working on your own farm and rearing your own beautiful white children on that farm in michigan.
    (If you were to choose a nonwhite breeding partner then the whole discussion would change here but thats another topic altogether and this is long enough !!)
    And further, that traditional family wouldn’t stop you from travelling, although it would obviously limit it compared to backpacking the world single…although you might(would be) surprised at the fulfillment it would give you.
    I was in several south and central american nations and Canada as the kid of married working parents of the middle class… as well as to Italy.
    And again, there is nothing wrong with you travelling the world as a single young girl as long as you are aware of the bigger picture that EVERYONE can’t just do whatever they want and wander the world backpacking.
    SOME PEOPLE need to be the plumbers, ditch diggers, and all the other thankless jobs. It is pure idiocy to believe that all these people “love” what they do or that there is enough people that would LOVE these jobs.
    So if everyone took your view instead of having higher–BUT YET ATTAINABLE– aspirations of greatness than “everybody just do what makes you happy for the present minute and don’t take a job you don’t love”, civilization as WE know it(western) would end, and the 3rd world is all wed have left… which perhaps would suit the emotions of many ultra liberal women, who knows !! Lol im a guy and so I don’t think like them !! So I can’t project my fact-based logical conclusions onto them !! (-;
    So what I’m saying is to travel away but don’t lose sight of what made YOU and your travels even possible, and it was tens of thousands(and more throughout greater history) of young white men standing their ground and SACRIFICING their very lives for YOUR liberty under the leadership of our great founders INSTEAD OF DOING WHAT ALL OF THEM WOULD HAVE PREFERRED TO BE DOING as far as “making them HAPPY” for that given minute.
    AND to be clear, I do not support(mostly) any of the wars america has engaged in since 1860(including the present ones)…and I would have been a supporter of the confederacy if alive then.
    I suggest you check out the Web broadcasters I mentioned earlier and if you can stand BRUTAL SARCASM of the racial sort(but VERY REAL CURRENT NEWS), follow the, but if you’re a hardcore liberal this site’s sarcastic merciless truth pounding may trigger you over the top…so consider yourself forewarned.
    I know better than to expect TRUE liberals to be tolerant of somebody else’s views and opinions on news, ie facts !! Lol.
    But if you think that you can REALLY THINK FOR YOURSELF AND BE TOLERANT, then follow Andrew Anglin at that site for a few weeks and give me your thoughts.
    And again, stay safe and enjoy !! I look forward to your comments as well as your more travel orientated reports !!

  16. Nina Ragusa says:

    This isn’t about everyone stopping “life” and just traveling. Traveling isn’t for everyone. Of course we still need plumbers and farmers and whatever but the point is- everyone needs to do something that makes them happy. Our society is mostly- work, eat, sleep, die. I’m making a point that everyone should enjoy themselves and do something that they enjoy, whatever it may be. Not everyone wants to travel, not everyone want to knit, not everyone wants to start their own business. But if any of these things makes you happy, then you should go for it. Most people don’t want to Travel like me, but they would like to travel. That doesn’t mean they are going to quit their 9-5 (there are a lot of 9-5 that can be enjoyable. My mom loves her job). But traveling twice a year as opposed to pretty much never would make them happy. They are doing something they want and love. That’s really the main point. Just bc I travel doesn’t mean I’m not contributing to society either. Im not some bum, obviously I work so I can travel. Not sure why we need to dig so deep into this but really all I wanted to get across was- I don’t want to live the exact way others tell me to or the “normal” way, I’m doing something that makes me happy, and if you want to do something that’s a little “not normal” but makes you happy then go for it. That’s really it. Your manly left side of the brain took this pretty far, but if that made you happy, then I’m all for it. Lol

  17. Deb says:

    Wow! Sounds like he has a bit of a problem! But everyone is entitled to their own opinion. And he’s entitled to his, no matter how _______ (fill in your own opinion here) it is. Thanks for your writings! They’re just what a lot of us need for inspiration! Go for it!

  18. Ryan says:

    Hi Nina,

    Thanks for sharing that awesome post.

    I’m kind of in a tough spot and would actually love to hear your thoughts.
    Like you, I have a free soul. I hate being tied down to things and love to just get up and travel and do what I want. I was lucky to find a partner do that with as well. We met in New York years ago and about 2 years ago we both moved to sunny southern California. I’m very fortunate to have a partner in this life that took the risk and moved away from her family so I can pursue my dream of becoming a big name in the music business world. And I am working hard every day towards making that dream a reality.

    The thing is, she is ready to get married and for the fear of losing a great partner and the social pressure that I receive as a 30 year old male, I proposed. So we are now engaged. I do love her but I am not really ready to walk down the aisle, nor spend $30k on a one day party. I really dont see myself being married to one woman for the rest of my life YET! I am very selfish. And no way am i even close to wanting kids but obviously all this is going to come very quickly if I continue this route. It’s “life” right? I hate being tied down but at the same time I dont want to lose my partner in crime. I am definitely different than other people in my age group. They all want to settle and have kids. Me? I want to do what I want, when I want. Not sure where to go from here. A lost soul seeking help.

  19. Nina Ragusa says:

    Hey Ryan!
    Thanks for commenting. Ek, that’s a tough spot, dude. So was any of this spoken about yet? Were there any hints about your feelings that you dropped along the way or will this be a major surprise? I totally get you and actually have the same views but luckily, my partner and I discussed this on like meeting #4 or something crazy haha. We’re 31 so it’s like, uhm, we’re not just messing around so let’s talk about this serious shit and see if this is something we want to dive into, it’s NOW or never.
    At the end of the day, I think you already know your answer. You need to speak up. There’s no sense in holding anything in. If you two are in such a nice relationship I’m sure you are both rather rational and can come to some compromise.
    All I know is that I’d speak up now as it can only get worse and harder as time passes. If you let it go it will build up and become something nasty between you to or you’ll resent her or something else ugly in what sounds like a nice relationship…
    At the end of the day, if you’re not happy with yourself, she won’t be either. Make sure you take care of yourself because there’s no way to make others happy if you’re not.
    I’m no love counselor but hope that helped? That’s just my opinion on everything anyway…

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