In 1931, historian James Adams first publicly defined the American Dream. Adams’ often-repeated quote is, “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”
I think that’s a truly wonderful philosophy, honestly.
But I think we, the immigrant kids, really need to sit down and think about what that means to us. Today is a day and age of opportunity and mass immigration. I understand that these ideas of happiness may not be seen as holistically as they were initially intended to be. Every individual defines their own idea of happiness. I can imagine that for some people happiness may equate to a better home environment. It may mean better mental and physical health. It may mean loving and fulfilling relationships. And an opportunity to grow as an individual, both professionally and personally. I know that I look at happiness that way. For many others, it may include expanding their economic equity. Being at the forefront of business management in the financial district. Being involved in policymaking and the ability to drive socio-economic change, yada-yada.
The list continues.
It is hard to imagine a place that offers you the opportunity to practice these things. It’s hard to find your place in the country today. With real-life restrictions such as visa status, overpopulation, mass immigration, and racial discrimination. I think some of the retaliation is justified. It’s a little eerie to watch the flawed expectations people keep while moving to a country with said opportunities. For many, they don’t feel heard in their home countries. Their living situations are direr. There is a lack of social freedom and self-care. And they taste opportunity and compassion when they move here. I don’t deny any of that. But in the process, people build a distorted lens with which they view this country and their own home town.
But is money and opportunity all we’re looking for? What about the freedom to love anybody we want? The freedom to choose to spend our lives with people who come from different walks of life? Freedom to be Queer and still be here. To find support in battles towards mental health, and destigmatization of it. Freedom to choose a better education system? Or to find passion in work and work in your passions? I know it’s all big talk, but is it though? These concerns are real right? And I refuse to apologize for demanding open-mindedness and acceptance. Because that’s what it’s all about. And that doesn’t have to be the Indian dream or the American dream, or even the Brazilian Dream for all I care. All of us need a voice, and everyone deserves acceptance. As long as that’s out in the open, it doesn’t matter how many extra dollars you make. You’ll be happy for a little bit, but at the end of the day life is about the little things isn’t it?
I have family in Satkhol, a town near Nainital which is pretty low key. Their cheese is locally produced and bread freshly baked. They also harvest rainwater their own. None of that knorr cheese and bisleri bottle nonsense. And they’re urban city upper management folks who decided to ditch the city life and move away. Does that scare you? Well, maybe you need to rethink your lifestyle a little bit. Every day I spend with them, I’m the happiest. Even without the materialistic. We manage to grill fantastic chicken, drink fine wine. We read books, cuddle up, watch movies or listen to songs and laugh like there’s no tomorrow. The ice-cold clean Himalayan air rushing down my lungs is one of the most rejuvenating feelings I’ve had in life. It feels like someone’s turned a bucket of cold water over my head and I can think again. Reprioritize.
So, I’d like to ask you, Dear Reader:
Do you REALLY need all that money and stature to do well? Is it worth pushing your selves for 60 hours a week till you burn out so that you can invest in a house a couple of years down the line and put photos on Instagram? How long do you think your neighbors would stay jealous? A week? A month? A year at max I bet!
Is it worth it though to sell yourself like a slave so that you can buy a life that other people think is worth living?
What I’m trying to say is, DON’T GET DISTRACTED BY ALL THE SHINY THINGS.
All that glitters is not gold.
As we move into this phase of young adulthood, we’re not in that space anymore where we constantly need external validation. We don’t need to woo the hottest girl in the batch to make our peers jealous. Similarly, we don’t need to buy the richest house or the most expensive car to prove anything to mom and dad or uncles and aunties. Our lives are our own, and we should be the leads in our own stories. Don’t let somebody else’s priorities define your ideals. You’d only lose yourself in the process.
So dear immigrant kids, before you make your next big career move and run over to the US or anywhere else, I’d strongly urge you to think about what you’re running towards and what you’re running away from. That’ll help you clear your mind and make a choice you’d genuinely enjoy living with. There’s always light at the end of any tunnel. Trust me, I know that.
Don’t sell yourself short.
Demand creativity and understanding.
But most important of all:
Take Control, And run after what was yours, to begin with.