We have this saying in Singapore; about the “Five C’s”. There’s even a Wikipedia Article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Cs_of_Singapore about it. The Five C’s represent material indications of success in society.  They are:

  • Cash
  • Credit Card
  • Condo
  • Car
  • Country Club [membership]

What is the American Dream? How do we define it? Is it a dream you really even want?

Growing up to Christian conservative parents in the American heartland, I understood my parents’ generation had different ideas about the quote-unquote American Dream than my peers:  a college education, a nice car, the mortgage, picket fence, and kids.

My generation came along with a new dream. We wanted to follow our passion. We wanted to go to a good college and study a subject we loved — art, activism, law, and medical. We dreamed of graduating and landing a job in our field. We believed we’d change the world.

Then the financial crisis hit. We didn’t change the world; it changed us. Millennials were left not just with few job opportunities in their field of choice, but few jobs, period. The dream became a nightmare. Student loans racked up and weighed us down as we moved from unpaid internship to unpaid internship, hoping for some break that would even give us a regular paycheck. Forget about getting into a field we loved; we’d settle for pretty much anything with decent health insurance.

We had to throw out and redefine our version of the so-called “American Dream”. But what if that isn’t a bad thing? What if it’s time to chuck this cliché, wake up, and create a new vision for a new millennium?

Let’s look at your notion of the American Dream. Is it yours? Do you actually want to get married, have kids, work in the industry you majored in?  Are you doing those things? If yes, great. If no, do use the fact that your life is different to feel like shit about yourself?

Start to consider that your path might be different from other people’s, and that it IS the best path for you. You’re on schedule.  My dream has always been to live a life of comfort after my austere upbringing (I wanted to fly business class everywhere but would settle for a decent paycheck). One day I seemed to be complaining to the ninetieth person about my life not being on track, they asked me what I really wanted. I thought it for a while and came up with this list:

  1. To be financially independent, not relying on my parents/partner/loans/etc.
  2. To continue writing no matter how I was paying my bills.
  3. To have an exciting life filled with travel and learning new things.

My friend was quick to point out that I actually had all three of these items.  My American Dream was already in full swing – starting from a place of having almost three hundred thousand dollars of student loans.

Under the weight of student debt, many of us gave up the notion that we even had the right to dream. You may think you have tanked yourself financially, for the rest of your life. I thought exactly the same thing. I’m here to tell you that all of that stuff is bullshit. If you’re willing to take a radical approach, you can kill your student loan debt, and move on to achieving your own goals too .

So, what’s your dream? Get very honest. Take a radical approach against what other people are doing; what television and Facebook and Twitter tell you your dream should be. Define it for yourself. Throw out the second-hand definition and come up with one of your own. Then, take one step to make that dream a reality. Just one. Start today.

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