American Dream

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American Dream

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I graduated from high school and got my degree from a big state college. I found a job working with amazing people, married the man of my dreams, bought a house, had three kids, and got three dogs and a cat. We bought a station wagon and then a mini van, took beach vacations, and celebrated all the holidays with all the trimmings. You know, the American Dream. 

But for as much as I’ve followed the traditional way, I truly admire those who choose to take the less conventional path. I love their stories of struggle and triumph. I am amazed at the things they accomplish. I’m fascinated with the unconventional solutions they devise. I admire the happy and fulfilled lives they lead with or without the house and the van and the fancy degrees and the beach vacations.

I think about what a sad world it would be if Van Gogh had stuck with being an art dealer and decided not to paint, if Jane Austen had become a wife and mother and decided not to write, if Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr. had decided to do what their superiors said and kept their mouths shut. Where would we be if Einstein had believed the teacher who said he was mentally retarded or if Edison listened to the teacher who labeled him an idiot?  

I think about Richard Branson, a high school drop out, and Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, neither who finished college. Then there’s Walt Disney who was fired from a newspaper for his lack of imagination. I’m so glad and so very grateful that there are people who just don’t care what anyone else thinks and are courageous enough to follow their hearts.

But when it comes to my kids, I’m a hypocrite. I just want them to go to school, make straight A’s, do their volunteer hours, play a sport, graduate with honors, get a college degree, and the fancy corporate job, so they can buy a house and a lot of stuff and accumulate debt so they are chained to the corporate job for the rest of your life. You know, the “American Dream.” I just want them to be “safe” and “toe the line” and do “what’s expected.”

When the other parents share how their child is making honor roll yet again or lettering in yet another sport, or the difficulties they are facing in choosing which college to attend, I want to be able to share right along with them about all the wonderful things my kids are doing. 

So, when everyone else went back to school this year my two youngest decided not to join them. This was not a decision that was made lightly. It was decision made after a couple of intense years of endless discussion and careful weighing of pros and cons. It was a decision made with a lot of research and planning and finding just the right home school program for them. 

I know there is more then one path to success and happiness. As a matter of fact, I know there are as many paths as there are people currently breathing on the planet. I know that from the beginning of humankind until mandatory education laws were put into effect in the early 1900s, that people, all people, choose and followed a personalized path in education.

I’ve spent a good part of the past several years trying to convince my kids that success is whatever they decide it is and for each person this will be different. As I watch each of them make choices that are non-conventional, I worry.  I worry that they will fail. I worry that they are limiting their options. I worry about what other people think (seriously, it’s time for me to get over this).

I know in my heart that my kids are smart and savvy and will figure it out. I want my children to do the thing I’ve struggled to do my entire life, and that is to relentlessly follow the beat of their own drum. 

My daughter is diligently studying for the SATs so she can pursue dual enrollment (take college classes for high school credit and get college credit for them too). Also, after a much needed year off from dance, she has happily thrown herself back into it with renewed passion and vigor. My son is an artist, an autodidact, and budding entrepreneur. While knocking out his academics, he is delving deep into pursuing his dreams and continues to amaze me with the depth of his insight and personal commitment.

So, when all this is said and done, I encourage and support and love them. I marvel at the bravery they possess at such young ages to walk away from the conventional path and follow their hearts. Because of course, following your heart, doing what truly makes you happy is really the only path to true and everlasting happiness.

The photo of my kids is circa 2006.
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As always, thanks for stopping by and reading.

 

9 Comments

  1. every word. so true.
    you do have amazing kids… all with different dreams and goals and desires. kudos to you for letting them dance, create and serve with gusto!!

  2. Gosh the idea of the comfy corporate job has never had any appeal to me and I believe most people with a strong artistic or entrepreneurial side feel the same way. But I am sure it’s hard when it comes to your children – we can’t help but seeing them as fragile and just want the best for them. I admire how you are actively letting go, enough so that they can learn to fly on their own. They will be so much better off for it!

  3. AMEN! and AMEN! Your kids will become gems shining out from within the sea of conformity. By encouraging them and supporting them and letting them choose their own paths to fulfillment, you are giving them a gift few children have the opportunity to receive! You are practicing what I call passionate parenting.. Your passion is for your kids along with what is best and right for each of them regardless of the “normal” box. 😉 They will thank you when they come to realize how monumental it is to step away from the typical, expected path into pursuing life with gumption. You GO GIRL!

  4. I envy the fact that I do not have the opportunity to home school my own. The opportunities to explore and excel on their own schedule and at their own pace without the constant competition among those in the community is a blessing in disguise. I’m proud that they realized that these four years are not the years to peak, but to get through them and use the years after to do that. You are not alone as I have heard from another parent who is going through something very similar. It makes me wonder if the school system is not putting too much pressure on our young adults. I am making plans to attend her dance performance. I will keep an eye out for you. You only need to worry about what one person thinks and that is the man above. God Bless.

  5. It’s taken a lot for me to let go of the steering wheel and trust them to make good decisions for themselves. I still retain veto power and the couple of times I’ve had to exercise it they respected it. The amazing thing is (and I don’t know why it amazes me) that left to their own devices they make really good decisions for themselves and are taking the choices they are making very seriously.

    I loved school from kindergarten straight through to the graduate school classes I’ve taken and my husband and I have both been happily employed primarily by corporations and large companies, so it’s sometimes difficult for me. That being said I know that school is radically different from long, long ago when I was a student, and I know the job market is radically shifting. It’s a new age…time to lean into it.

  6. As always, wonderful insights. I worry about the future our kids will soon be stepping into. It’s such a different world, with seemingly no security, and none of the traditional paths seem to work the way they used to. Go to college and get a good job? Not so easy anymore. But I, too, cling to the desire that my kids follow the traditional path, because that was always the way to do things. Change is really hard!

  7. Denise, reading this post was akin to driving with one foot on the gas and one on the brake — urrr, urrr, urrrh! — and moving forward, inch by reluctant inch. Cheers for being willing to relinquish the wheel! Your kids WILL succeed — not because they’re driven to success, but because they’re lovingly encouraged to be themselves.

  8. As usual you put your thoughts down so beautifully.I can’t wait for my children to read what you wrote, because that is my reason for schooling them at home. I love individuality! Your children have God given talents, and parents who recognize and appreciate those qualities. When done, Denise!

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