The Deconstruction of the American Dream
Posted by eric s marshall
Over the past six weeks I’ve been living on a farm, and learning quite a bit about what it takes to grow and provide food. But besides that, I’ve been learning and thinking about how we live, consume, and aspire to even more. I used to live the “American Dream.” I had a “great career” as a financial planner, I was married, owned two homes, and drove a Lexus. All by the age of 25.
And I was miserable.
My Great American Dream was dismantled quickly over the course of two years. I got rid of the fancy Lexus and bought a “gas sipping” Prius. My wife and I separated and I lost the two houses in the divorce. I still was unhappy, and the complete deconstruction of the dream is being realized as I quit my job and become willfully homeless.
I’ve been finding it somewhat troublesome that the majority of people are only ever presented the conventional life path that I was on. And most people amass excessive amounts of debt to be able to finance such a lifestyle. One to two hundred thousand dollars for college, and that’s just for undergrad. Add in two to three hundred thousand for a home, twenty to thirty thousand for a car, and maybe then some credit card debt just to top it all off. That’s probably somewhere around half a million dollars. So to be able to afford all of that, one is handcuffed to a job that they most likely hate, just to make their minimum payments. There has to be a better way.
I can’t imagine that our current way of life is sustainable. Our cities and suburbs are expanding, which puts more pressure on ever shrinking farms to produce even more food. Or it can always be shipped in from some other part of the country, or the world. This in turn increases our dependence on foreign oil, which is in a constant state of decline, and may or may not have led us into war(s). When people buy food at a grocery store, they typically don’t think about what it takes to get that food there. Maybe they think about the oil it took to ship it, but I doubt they ever think about the oil it takes to create the plastic packaging. And just because a product is organic, that doesn’t mean that it’s ethical.
After considering these points I’ve found a way to apply some of the things I’ve learned at D Acres. The first, very simple idea, is that I can be happy living simply, without much. I don’t need to live a traditional lifestyle. I’ve already figured out that it doesn’t suit me. I don’t need to buy things to be happy, I can be happy just by surrounding myself with people I care about and engaging in experiences that stimulate me. And if I do need to buy something, I can try to buy it used. This cuts down on the amount of goods and materials attributable to my purchases. As far as food, I will buy what I can locally from farmers markets. Eventually I’d like to grow at least some of my own food. I stopped eating meat, and will not eat eggs or dairy unless I can verify how the animals are kept and treated. I try to curtail my energy consumption by combining errands and using less electronics around the house.
I am not going to make the correct decision every time, but at least now I am conscious of the decisions that I’m making.
And you can be too.