Abandoned by the American Dream, Pt. 1

As children we were told to dream big.

Adults constantly asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up.

No answer was ever deemed too lofty or unobtainable.

You can be whatever you want to be. 

They lied.

Growing up in the United States, we are continually reminded of how lucky we are to have been born in such a country; a country full of opportunity and hope.  Others can only dream of holding such a coveted position.  Oh what they would do to trade places!

We always hear stories of people “pulling themselves up by their boot straps.” But now those bootstraps have evolved from leather to cheap plastic.  Outsourced to a third world country and a product of low cost labor, our handmade American leather cowboy boots have been replaced by cheap, easily reproduced, mass-produced plastic sandals.

They offer no support or durability, and if we try to pull on these straps too hard, they break.

We are relentlessly reminded of the almighty American Dream (please note: always capitalized).  Something, as Americans, we simply must believe in, or else we are deemed unpatriotic.  If American citizens themselves don’t believe in the American Dream, how can we expect the rest of the world to?  How are we to maintain this façade of ultimate power and romantic idealism?

As a young American citizen drafted into the educational system, I listened to my superiors, followed orders, and finished my tour of duty only to find myself a member of an educated American army graduating into a floundering economy populated by unemployment.  I did what I was told, so where was this American Dream I had grown up hearing about?  Was it reserved for hardback books, movies, the lucky and the nonnative?

A restless frustration is stirring in Generation Y. We were told that if we played by the rules and followed the prescribed outline we’d make a comfortable living and garner a sense of fulfillment. But more and more young people are graduating, brimming with motivation and the blush of new accomplishment, only to find themselves thrown back into an intellectually depraved state working mindless part time jobs. Why are we spending thousands upon thousands of dollars, sometimes going into incredible debt, for a higher education that doesn’t prepare us for a career or equip us to make a living? Why are we going from being housed in a top institution one year only to find ourselves under our parents’ roofs the next?

Not only are so many recent graduates floundering to find employment, a significant blow to the ego is being dealt to those with new degrees coming back to their old bedrooms. The sense of independence born and nurtured during years of following the prescribed educational path is then smothered by a step backwards to a world already known, conquered, and for many, put behind them. Many may see it as a transitional phase—or tell themselves this in order to soften the blow—but this time period is growing increasingly longer. Our world of study, lectures, dining halls and frat parties is suddenly swapped for one characterized by boredom, frustration, disappointment and parental pressure. Why is our educational system failing us? Why is it not adequately preparing our young people for a future characterized by fulfillment?