It’s been drilled into our minds since before we could write cursive, overused to the point of near disgust as a topic for countless English and history essays, and is so cliché I almost feel guilty for writing about it. Yeah, you guessed it, the American Dream.
The topic arose during a conversation that a friend and myself had earlier in the week, perhaps Monday. I’m not quite sure what led one of us to mention it or who exactly brought it up first. Like any good conversation, the topics were plentiful and random, so I will attribute my forgetfulness to that. So it goes.
That conversation made a small campsite in the back of my mind and stayed there throughout the week, outliving the minuscule daily anxieties and social interactions. I thought about it a lot and came to the conclusion that the so-called American Dream has changed dramatically over the years, and is now more controlled by the individual than the nation.
I felt that to begin to put the puzzle pieces of my own definition of the American Dream together, I first had to look at what our country might generally define it as. Where better to look for such a definition than the Internet. Going for the most literal definition possible, Dictionary.com defines the American Dream as “a life of personal happiness and material comfort as traditionally sought by individuals in the U.S.”
Of course, this basically translates to the archaic idea that as an American, one should go to college, get a good job, get married, purchase a house (with a white picket fence of course), have a family, etc. I felt as though that definition sufficed as a base for building my own interpretation of the phrase around.
I started to look at our society’s current ideals to begin my defining process. Today, in 2014, our country is the most liberal it has ever been. We still have a long ways to go to achieve total equality, but that topic might best be saved for another column.
Looking back 60 years ago, the progress we have made as a nation is astounding. In the 1940s and 50s, you were looked down upon if you didn’t follow the status quo; you were basically expected to want the same things from life that your parents were told to reach fßor.
But now in the 21st century, people are bolder than ever. There still is an underlying societal pressure to go to college and get a “good job” and what have you, as there probably always will be, but people are making up their own rules and regulations to follow and break as they please.
The shift to individualism in our culture’s general attitude has made the crossover to the American Dream as well. The young adult population is no longer asking the question, “What does my country want me to achieve?” We’re replacing it with, “What do I want to achieve?”
It’s so refreshing and actually quite exhilarating to write about this national shift in attitude. My opinion on the clichéd American Dream is that it’s quickly becoming a thing of the past. It’s making room for something much more personal, the Individual Dream. Any way you want it served, made, or delivered.
Keep on dreamin’ West Chester. Till next time, so it goes.
Rachel Alfiero is a second-year student majoring in communication studies. She can be reached at RA806657@wcupa.edu.