Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Pursuit of Happiness and Deforming the American Dream

As long as I can remember, the American Dream has been presented as this nostalgic view of the suburbs in the 50's, American made car in the driveway, with the father mowing a lawn, drinking a beer, while his 2.5 children play in their incredibly green yard. The wife, slender and always done up in makeup, comes out of the house holding a freshly baked pie, the neighbor waves, the dog barks, and everyone has a smile on their face.

When I got older I realized that this wasn't exactly the dream. The dream was not to live in poverty. Not to be in a war torn, oppressive country. The dream was having so little to worry about you actually had something called leisure time. 

This dream came about thanks to the industrial revolution. Much like the Renaissance period, everything was all of a sudden easier and plentiful. There was time to philosophize, create art, and just sit around drinking a bottle of wine with friends. 

Like the pre-Industrial Revolution, Sal and I don't have an overabundance of time or money. We both work overtime and extra jobs and have been since college. We both feel a suffocating and incredible stress at least twice a year.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. We can still basically go out and get a drink whenever we want. We're much better off than most of the world. But the sort of abundance you need to just jump on a plane and hang out in Italy for a couple weeks is only obtainable as our paychecks climb higher and our debt lower. 

I don't think my American dream is the suburbs. My American dream reads more like a checklist, some would call it a bucket list. Things to do before I die.
  • See a top level football match in Europe.
  • Eat steak tartar and drink a bottle of nice French wine in Paris
  • See the Blues win the Stanley Cup and subsequently kiss the cup.  
  • Drink a Guinness from the brewery in Dublin
  • Learn to snowboard
  • Get something published.
  • Tip someone a ton of money on Christmas Eve. - I've always wanted to do this at Denny's. Show up, eat my Grand Slam, and then leave $100. 
  • Tour Napa Valley without a plan. Just show up, drink wine, and find a place to stay each night. 
  • Have one of my beer creations commercially sold, even if just for one run. 
  • Have a hop filled tour of the Pacific Northwest. 
  • See a major Canadian team NHL game: Canadiens or Maple Leafs
I don't think my list is asking too much. Like many of my peers, the goals I want to accomplish are mostly experiences rather than "things." 

Check back in August of 2017. That's the month my student loans and car will be paid off. Sure, we'll have other debt by then, but the amount those two things tie up could send me and Sal to Europe in a nice hotel within 3 months of not having to pay them.