Why did I just write the intro paragraph like that?
Because for some reason, millennials that accomplish this particular order of events similar to the traditional “American Dream” are getting shade thrown on them.
Don’t believe me? Just Google “the american dream and millennials,” and you’ll discover words/phrases such as “redefined,” “reinventing,” and even the startling, “the American Dream is Dead” throughout your search.
Millennials’ reconfiguration of the “American Dream” now includes travel, flexibility, wanderlust, and working for oneself. All the things that somehow didn’t fit into the traditional sense of the “American Dream.”
This isn’t to say that I am against these additions. It just so happened that my life took it’s course in an uncanny resemblance to that of the traditional “American Dream” (sans white picket fence in our front yard). And I have no shame or guilt about it.
But, to be completely honest…it took me a bit.
Now, we’ve all fallen into the jaws of social media where you cannot help but wonder what life would be like if in that moment in time YOU were the one experiencing: that breathtaking seaside cliff in a foreign country, that professional sporting event, participating in that re-donk-u-lous boozy brunch, swaying your hips at that festival in the desert, hiking that glorious trail….
Snap back to reality, and what you’re really doing is taking it all in while you’re just hanging out at home on another Saturday night wondering which Netflix TV show you’d like to take on next. Hello, paint on the wall. I’ve looked at you so many times that I THINK you’ve actually started to change in color.
It used to be that scrolling through my social feeds instantly placed me in a mindset that everything I chose in life somehow felt wrong:
-That it was incorrect to delay travel to boost savings to purchase a home and other life goals.
-That wanting to work for an employer and not myself meant I couldn’t have flexibility.
-That my husband and I were too young to make the life decision to start our family.
-That recognizing instant gratification wasn’t quite for me didn’t fit in with the norm.
-That if I don’t “do these things before I’m 30” I’m considered an outlier in my generation.
-And several other ridiculous thoughts…
But as I’ve learned perspective is everything. Balance is key. When I readjust my mindset, this is how I feel:
-We have a home we purchased equipped with SO many memories already, and we haven’t even lived here for a year yet! We’ve established traditions of alternating hosting holidays with our families. We have peace of mind with a solid financial start which means flexibility and opportunity are always options in the future.
–I work for an employer where flexibility is KEY for it’s employees and culture. In fact, the perk of a child-friendly office places emphasis on family and provides empowerment to the team. I am also receiving fully paid, 3-month maternity leave. One of the last things my boss told me is that if I try to contact the office on leave, then he’ll feel like I’m not doing my job of being a mom. I am entirely grateful to have landed a position for a company with great leadership and colleagues that all value flexibility.
-One thing that my husband and I wanted was to start a family when we were younger. We wanted to have the health and ability to take our kid(s) on long runs, play sports at the park, and keep up with their tireless energy. We also recognize that we are more flexible to make various choices now than later. The more we start to become integrated in our career paths, schools, and community, the more challenging it would be to tackle new life choices.
-I am all for delayed gratification. Myself and my family have a lot of years in life to take on travel, outlandish experiences, and more with flexibility since we’ll have the financial ability to do so. It’s empowering to us to pay in full than to rely on credit. When we decide to take our first international trip to countries we’ve never seen (hello, fully paid for trip with credit card points we’ve been racking up over the years!), Baby Powell will be in tow holding our hands as we soak in new surroundings. Just because we haven’t seen and done it all now, doesn’t mean it’s going to be any less exhilarating in the future.
-I’m sorry if I don’t fit into the list of “things to get done before 30.” When I read these guidelines, it feels too rigid for me. I value being flexible and soaking in my accomplishments that may rest outside the standards of what should be completed before this milestone age. When I take a seat and write down what I’ve accomplished that doesn’t fit the list, I’m actually in awe in the best possible way.
If you haven’t noticed, with this mindset shift there’s a re-occurring pattern: flexibility. Even though my trajectory and order of life events may seem more traditional, I am still experiencing what millennials are valuing when redefining the “American Dream.” Flexibility can mean a variety of things to all different folks.
Sometimes, it takes stepping back and looking at the same thing that gets picked apart by various angles to find a common thread.
Whether you’re a millennial reconstructing the “American Dream,” or following the traditional trajectory—be proud. Each approach includes flexibility in your sense of the word.
I’m OK with being the first to say:
you’re NOT doing it wrong.
What’s your version of the “American Dream?” Let’s discuss in the comments below!