The Responsibility of the American Dream

The Responsibility of the American Dream

The Responsibility of the American Dream

Today, Frank and I made the biggest purchase of our lives – we closed on our first home. There has been so much anticipation over this one day that the whole closing seemed anticlimactic, but the moment we stepped into our house, I felt a sweep of change come over me. As sudden as a Caribbean thunderstorm, my whole perspective has shifted.

From as far back as our first settlers, the quest to own a business and a little piece of land has been the American Dream.  Today finalized both. Today I feel the weight and pride of my grandparents. I was so flooded with emotion, I called my grandmother just to thank her for laying this foundation. Immigrating here with hope that you will build a better life for your family…I hope I made her proud. I felt a longing and wish that I could somehow contact my grandparents who passed to thank them, but I believe they’re smiling down from the other side.

For so long, Langston Hughes’ poem, “Harlem,” would linger in my heart – “What happens to a dream deferred?” was deafening.  I spent my whole life working to make my family proud; I pushed so hard to climb Olympus, but the struggle of never having enough money would push me further down – I felt like Atlas holding the world. I couldn’t go to my dream college because I couldn’t afford it, I was admitted into an ivy league graduate school, but couldn’t afford it; I wanted, wanted, wanted and worked, worked, worked, but could never afford it. As I tried to achieve the American Dream, it seemed like an iridescent illusion, a raisin in the sun.

My generation has a responsibility to the American Dream, even more than our parents did. Our parents were immigrants, whose parents brought them here for hopes of a better life. But between the oppression of acclimating to a new culture, the drug revolution, and the Vietnam War, our parents faced challenges that truly decimated their likelihood of fulfilling the hopes of their parents. Our parents transferred that hope to us. I never took that responsibility lightly.

My maternal grandmother was a child of war, whose home was literally destroyed by the bombs of World War II in Italy. My paternal grandmother had to leave Vienna because her parents were slaughtered for being Jewish. My grandfathers spent hours in factories, working, not far from indentured servitude, to bring food to the table. My parents, despite watching their friends die from Vietnam and the heroin addictions that came after, persevered in their marriage to ensure my brother and I could have that American Dream. I cannot take my responsibility lightly.

I was the first of the grandchildren to go to college, the first to get a master’s degree, the first to become a teacher, the first to be married, the first to own my own business, and now the first to own my little spot of the world.  This is freedom. This is the American Dream.

I know how much blood, sweat, and tears have been shed to bring me here. My little spot of the world has come at a price far greater than the numbers I have signed off on today – an incalculable price of my heritage, my family. I will not take this responsibility lightly.

 

*Photo credit to The Huffington Post

 

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