There is a concept in American culture called The American Dream. It’s hard to explain in words….but it means something like “be able to do and experience more than your parents did”.
My wife and I have been incredibly lucky. We have been able to do and experience more than our parents did. In large part we have been able to do this because of our parents. Our parents sacrificed and provided for us in a way that is hard to describe. As I write this, a word pops into my head: opportunity. We have, and have had, great opportunity available to us.
But the idea of the American Dream has changed.
There are a lot of reasons for that. Some of the opportunities that my wife and I were interested in (purchasing a home) aren’t as interesting to young people in 2016. It may be because of the mortgage meltdown a few years ago, or the sagging real estate market, but young people are now more likely to rent apartments than they are to purchase homes. I haven’t heard a young person speak about planning to purchase a home in a long time.
Another opportunity that is changing is employment. My parents expected lifetime employment. They finished their schooling, and sought employment with a company that they expected would take care of them for the rest of their lives. When my wife and I began life in the work world, we didn’t expect lifelong employment, but we did expect full-time employment. Now young people do not necessarily want that. More young people are seeking “contractor” roles, where their jobs are more like “gigs”.
The American Dream, the idea of “doing better than your parents did”, isn’t possible for a lot of people right now. I listened to an interview recently with Bruce Springsteen, who discussed “the difference between the American Dream and the American Reality”, and I understood what he meant.
Because of the expense of a college education, the expense of housing, and a lack of employment opportunity, many young people don’t have the same kinds of opportunities that their parents had.
At the same time, I have to remember that my daughters don’t want my dreams and opportunities. They want their own dreams and opportunities. The things that I dreamed of in 1970 are not the same things that they dream of now.
What I hope to do is to give them the opportunities to make their dreams come alive. If I can do that, then I am living the American Dream.