Dare to Dream: Redefining the American Dream

This spring, I began toying with the idea that I might be able to run fast again.  Maybe even race if I felt called to.  I had promised myself that if I ever did race again, I’d be mentally in a good place, ready to race with the true definition of competition (to seek together) and remembering that in the long run (pun intended), running in in itself is no big deal. I felt I was almost there, also having gained greater body wisdom and appreciation through 3 years of grad school and seeing a therapist who often used body-centered methods.  Physically, I still wasn’t sure if my body would ever truly recover from years of pushing it too hard and not adequately nourishing it.  But, I decided I wanted to try anyway, having a Rolfer and biomechanics specialist on my team, working together, to potentially get me running strong again, or at least consistently. If it didn’t work out, then okay.  I was/am happy with myself, coming into my place as a healer, wilderness therapist, explorer, etc. (just a few of the descriptions/labels I’ve chosen for myself at this time).

But then, I fell wrong on my already chronically tender Achilles.  Somehow I managed to run the Run Through Time half marathon in Salida, a course I always wanted to see, without pain during the race.  And then I did’t run for several weeks as the swelling never decreased and the pain stayed consistent.  Then I strained my right calf muscle in May, before getting run over by a moose and acquiring enough muscle damage to take me completely out of running for another 4 weeks.  It is now mid-July and I’ve just started to run again.


Still, I am in a place where I have no idea what my running will look like in a few months.  Mainly, I just want to run because it makes me feel good, and then I don’t have to cycle and walk my dog.  My other dream is to open my own counseling practice in the fall, which I have a bit more control over the outcome.  But really, the key for me here is that I have the ability to dream.  That I can dare to dream, big and small, to pursue those dreams, to maybe reach them, and maybe not.  

Lately, this has gotten me thinking about the “American Dream”, what it meant when the concept was first created, what it means now, and how we would like to define it for future generations.  Dictionary.com states:

1. the ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved.
“a workaholic lawyer who seems to be living the American dream”
Good start, I thought, until I saw the example, which was more like my typical perspective of the American Dream growing up.
The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers. In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.[1]
(Just acknowledging that this blog post could be much longer if I addressed poverty, privilege, power, etc.)
Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Gone are the days when Americans aspired to own a house with a white picket fence. Some 82 percent of Americans now say their “American Dream” is simply financial security for themselves and their family.
The last quote is more typical of what I grew up to believe, that the American Dream included owning a home, getting married, and having kids.  At 31, I have none of these things, nor am feeling moved to attain any at the moment.  When asked, the Boy responded that it meant doing better than your parents, then working hard so your kids would have better.   As most of you know, financially that is not an easy goal to attain in this day and age, and a source of much stress for just about everyone.  But what if we re-define “better”?
For me, better means that I am not restrained by the confines of a 9-5 job.  That I can play in the mountains and trails weekly, that I have control over my schedule.  That I can dream, work had, maybe fail, and dream again.  That have the right to pursue happiness in a way that makes me happy, similar to the line in the Declaration if Independence.
What I am realizing now that current society has the ability to define their version of the American Dream (though I urge each individual to make their own unique definition).
So what do we want our version to say?
We have plenty to be inspired about too (glass half full readers!).  Most recently, I’ve been fueled by the success of the U.S Women’s Soccer team, winning the FIFA World Cup with chants of “USA, EQUAL PAY!” both at the end of their final match and during their ticker tape parade.  This dream truly started with the 1999 World Cup Women’s Soccer Team, but now we can actually taste the dream coming into fruition. On a more personal level, the Boy inspired me as he pursued his dream to run Badwater 135, a ultramarathon that runs through the heart of Death Valley in the heat of summer to the top of Whitney Portal road…this after being told several years ago that he would never run again.  I could go on and on with stories like this, but they all really come down to one thing: these people had the courage, the daring, to dream.
If we continue with the society’s old ways of defining the American Dream, a long with what it means to be successful, I fear for the health and happiness of young people.  It seems like a perfect concoction for chronic stress and depression.  I could go on, but I’ll limit my words and recommend the book “What Made Maddy Run” for a more detailed example.
This is a call, a dream of mine, to re-define the American Dream.  As described above, my version includes the ability to dare to dream, to succeed and fail, in a way that I chose.  To decide and follow what makes me truly happy.  What is your American Dream, how would you like to define it for our younger generation?
I know this is a stretch, but I’d love to hear your answers in the comment section of this post.
Dream On,
Ray & Pacer
We’ve made it to living in the mountains.  Who knows where else our dreams will take us?

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