Personal Narrative Essay: The American Dream
A white picket fence house in the suburbs occupied by a family of four and their golden retriever. I think this is what most people visualize when they hear the American Dream. But for me, I moved to America when I was four years old with my family. As a young child from a 3rd world country, America was new and exciting. In the beginning, the American Dream seemed almost impossible for our family that spoke broken English, however, now my parents own their own business and my brother is a college-educated engineer. I believe that the American Dream has developed and evolved to better fit the current times; rather than a society that is obsessed with new trends and material wealth, the American Dream has started to reflect more fundamental ideals of life. The American Dream is to have a stable life, enjoy time with friends and family, and have a career that you are passionate about. Yes, some aspects of the American Dream are still achievable such as enjoying your time with your family, but many boundaries such as racial inequality and money, keep individuals from achieving their American Dream.
The cost of living for the average person has gone up exponentially while the quality of living has gone down making achieving the American Dream with a stable life hard. A survey done by Parade in 2010 of middle class Americans says, “nearly 83% say that there is not much left to save after they’ve paid their bills”(Wallechinsky). The average American adult has heaps of bills ranging from rent to credit card debt, car insurance, and student loans. Despite earning hundreds to thousands of dollars each month, many adults in America live paycheck to paycheck. Not because they lack knowledge about saving or spending money responsibly, but as the result of our capitalist society that makes most basic necessities expensive. Concerning the well-being of the working class, scholars say, “We believe that the economy runs better when people aren’t forced to choose between paying rent, buying food or getting medicine. Yet too many are compelled to do just that”(Kucik et. al). Currently, millions of Americans are living without access to the bare minimum essentials and are struggling to find a balance to afford them. Due to these living conditions, the American dream is one of stability and finding a job with a respectable salary, but even that seems to be difficult to achieve. The American Dream has also been one of great opportunity and choice, but the reality of America makes the dream harder to achieve.
When it comes to achieving the American Dream certain groups of people are less inclined to accomplish it due to the circumstances they were born into. Within the long history of America it is clear that Black Americans have not had the same opportunities as their white counterparts, “But the most pernicious racial divide today is in social mobility: in the opportunity gap between a child born white, and a child born black”(Reeves). Due to systematic racism, African Americans are more likely to be born into poverty and less likely to escape from it. Despite them working very hard, Black Americans do not enjoy the same privileges that White Americans do, as a result of the color of their skin. According to a study done in 2019, “More than half (56%) of Americans say being black hurts people’s ability to get ahead”(Horowitz et. al). In the land of equality and liberty, many are still held back or being discriminated against for simply looking different from the majority. With about over 164 million Americans agreeing with this notion, the majority of the reason is due to the lack of access to good schooling, fewer higher-paying jobs willing to hire African Americans, and the overall racial discrimination. Minorities within America have disadvantages when it comes to achieving the American Dream because of a racial gap and a lack of social mobility.
The American Dream in theory is great as it gives people the opportunity or freedom to do what they wish but it is not always realistic. For example, an immigrant from a struggling country seeking a better life for themselves and their children believes, “that hard work will pay off and that each successive generation is better” (Lopez et al). Due to their belief in the American dream immigrants are significantly more optimistic about their children succeeding in life. However, the realities of America are not that different from those of their home country, and it has its own set of problems. Speaking of immigrants who haven't fully accepted, “America’s dominant secular and material culture that views credentials as the central goal of life and individual liberty as the central form of meaning”(Arnade). The propaganda surrounding the American Dream evokes a sense of great freedom and choice, even though it is rife with deep-seated problems. Immigrants have a mentality that America will make us happy and provide for the future generations of our families, but if you are not already highly educated or come from a legacy bearing family, it is difficult to achieve generational wealth. Also, even American citizens have struggles achieving the American Dream as many live paycheck to paycheck and can hardly afford to eat dinner and pay rent. While the American Dream seems to be an opulence life, it is hardly achievable for many including American citizens.
Although core ideals of the American dream still exist like opportunity and freedom it still seems to not meet the expectations of individuals as some goals are unreachable due to disadvantages. The Americans Dream to be thought of as people in America have the equal opportunity to enjoy their lives in the pursuit of happiness. However, in the current times of economic shortages and racial discrimination, the American Dream is harder to achieve.