Thursday, August 25, 2011

I don't really know when I started to realize that the American Dream is, in fact, overrated. Or perhaps overrated is the wrong word? I don't know - you tell me.

I do know that as a little girl, I was filled with hope... Hope that all stemmed from what has become "The American Dream". Work hard and you can get anything you want. Study hard and you can be anything you want to be. Of course, this is only if what you want coincides with what your parents and teachers want you to be.

I know what you're thinking... No, that can't be. But it is.

You see, when I was little I went through many of the same phases that other little girls go through. I wanted to be an astronaut, a baker, a famous chef... I wanted to learn to play the piano, become a novelist, and be the next great singer / actress. And while I was little, these plans and aspirations were, for the most part, met with enthusiasm from my parents and teachers. Everyone said I could do it. Everyone said I would achieve my dreams.

But that's because at the time these dreams fell in line with what their dreams were for me. For some of them, they knew I would eventually change my mind... For others they thought, eh, I was young and still had all the time in the world to get working on them. But then I started to grow up and my dreams began to change. Not all of them; but enough of them to make everyone realize that if they didn't start to tell me the truth - that you can't have everything you want no matter how hard you work or study - that I was going to pick the "wrong" dream.

The earliest example that I can recall on this was when I was a teenager. Of course, there are two laws that govern the lives of all teenagers. The first required that I rebel against everyone of authority (especially my parents), keep secrets and most especially stop "working up to my potential".

The other law that governs all teenagers is that you have to find yourself. Finding out the type of person you really are, what you like or dislike, what your role is and what you want it to be. What cruel timing on Mother Nature's part to force us to go through such an important growth and learning period while we're still awkward from pimples, crushes, and bodies that just don't fit, hormones that are being held hostage by every emotion and - to top it all off as though that just wasn't enough - adults don't understand what you're going through and so they can't help you.

And believe me, even as a teenager I knew that most adults wanted to help me... they just couldn't. And it's not completely their fault. As a teenager - we all like to think we have the world by the shorties - but in reality we don't have a clue even about our own bodies. We don't know how to say what we feel. All we know is that every nerve at every point in our brain is on fire - we laugh hard, we party hard, we get pissed off at the smallest things, we hurt hard and we fall in love hard. Teenager do everything hard - they are the extreme human beings and they don't know any other way to be.

Wait... Where was I again?

That's right... The American Dream.

So, in class today, we had to run through some introductions and tell a little about ourselves. The session was great because I got to hear about so many different stories from so many wonderfully diverse people.

And then it was my turn. And my story was met with disdain and contempt. "You're planning to write a novel and practice therapy? Isn't that expensive and selfish? You're planning to work with children? Are you crazy?"

"Is all this just an afterthought for you? Or was working in psychology always your dream?"

Well, okay class. You caught me. Psychology was not always my dream. But sometimes the best dreams are not the dreams that you planned and worked for all your life. Sometimes the best dreams just find you.

And if that makes me selfish - well then, I guess I did get a part of the American Dream after all.

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