What exactly is the American Dream and is it possible to ever really live such a life?
I am an immigrant to this country. I came here at such a young age with my family. Not many people are as fortunate to move to the U.S from XYZ country for a better future. My parents have always sacrificed so much for us. When my parents married in D.R Congo—at the time known as Zaire, they spent their first year of marriage apart, living in two different continents. My mother stayed in Congo, while my father moved to France to try and prepare a stable future for them. This was a common thing for men to do back in those days. My dad has always been a hard worker and an overachiever. I get those characteristics from him. For most men, it would take many years until their spouse would be able to join them once they obtained a stable job. It only took my dad one year. In that year, he was able to find a nice job although many people told him that the best job he’d be able to get as an immigrant would be cleaning toilets and such as.
He wouldn’t settle for that. So exactly a year later, my mother joined him in Paris where he later went to receive his Engineering degree and began to work as an electrician engineer. Fast forward many years later, they had kids and somehow ended up moving to the U.S. for ministry.
This is where I come in. My dad taught me the value of hard work. Not just me, but all of us—my siblings. Until this day, he continues to work hard and will soon start a Ph.D. program. Is he living the American Dream? You may say yes or no. It depends on how you want to define it. But he’s living a good life—only because he sacrificed so much so that his children would live the American Dream instead.
The other day, my sister mentioned that someone said to her, “Your sister (referring to me) is living the American Dream. She travels with her perfect little family; they have a nice house, nice jobs and everything. She is so lucky.”
What exactly do you mean by lucky? Do you think that luck brought me this far?
I don’t like that word very much.
I won’t say that I’m not living a nice life, because I am. And I am grateful for everything I have. But I believe that the American Dream is what you make it to be. Almost anyone could be living the American Dream, but there is a price to pay and sacrifices that will have to be made along the way before getting to that destination. The problem with people is that they are not willing to go through what I went through to get to where I am. Years of studying. Failing. Passing. Borderline. Student Loans. Starvation. Being broke. The list goes on…
Today, I’m a college professor and my husband in an engineer. We both have a Master’s degree. We have two sons. We own a house. We are members and are involved in a wonderful church. We travel as much as we can and enjoy discovering new places together. We are God-fearing. We are safe where we live.
For some, they may call this the American Dream, but for us, it is simply the result of our hard work. It is simply life. And it doesn’t end here. We still have many things on the list to accomplish. We were both immigrants with parents who worked their butts off to build a future for their children. But there are so many people just like us—with similar backgrounds, who instead sit on their behind and do not take advantage of the opportunities right in front of them.
Envying is a waste of time, especially if it does not motivate you to go after your own dreams. Everything I have, it is because I worked hard for it. If you want to call that the American Dream, then so be it, but I simply call it life. I never wanted to settle for anything less. I knew what I wanted and I went after it. I just get so irritated and sick of hearing “Oh, you’re so lucky. Oh, you have the good life. Oh, you got it good.” As if everything was handed to me.
I share this quote with my students every semester, and it is my ultimate favorite one:
I want to end this entry by simply encouraging you all to go after what you yearn for. I could have simply been like many other immigrants who come to this country and settle with working at warehouses because they think “it is enough”. Now don’t get me wrong; I know that for some people, it is enough because they do not have any other choice. But I’m referring to those of my generation—those who have a choice but choose to work at warehouses vs. getting an education, establishing a career, or building businesses. I’m speaking to those who have a choice but have forgotten that once, a very long time ago, they also had a dream to live the American Dream. But today, that dream has been killed because of many reasons.
It is never too late.
Anyone can live the “American Dream”.
It just depends on how you choose to define it.