Are You Living Someone Else’s American Dream?

Think back to high school, maybe earlier. Remember your dreams? What did you want to be when you grew up?

The American Dream

How’d it turn out? Did you turn your hobby into your career?

Did you make your dreams come true?


Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

– Steve Jobs


Welcome to Your American Dream

The noise of others’ opinions – indeed. I sarcastically refer to them as the “voices of reason”. Could have been a parent, teacher, counselor, or even an older sibling sitting you down and showing you the road to success and fulfillment in life. For me, it was my 10th grade social studies teacher telling me, “You don’t want be to a teacher.”

No, you can’t do “A”. How can you support a family doing “A”? You want to major in “B”? What kind of job can you get with a degree in “B”? You need to choose a major like “C” so you can make good living. Study hard, keep your GPA up and get noticed in college. Once you land that first job, do whatever it takes to climb the ladder. You’ll have plenty of time later to settle down and start a family. When the time comes, find a good woman and marry her. Buy that big house in the suburbs and start a family.

Ahhhhh yes, “The American Dream.”

On the surface, it doesn’t sound too bad. It’s secure, stable and, dare I say, iconic. Haven’t you always wanted a corner office with your name on the door? The perfectly manicured lawn? The respect and admiration of everyone you meet?

When The American Dream Isn’t Enough

I had those visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. I was on that path – earning promotions, making a name for myself and settling in to the suburban lifestyle. But one day, getting up and going to work wasn’t that exciting anymore. It got harder and harder to drag myself out of bed every morning. Those days of being the first into the office and the last to leave were a distant memory.

Sound familiar?

Is the beer or two you have when you get home now a six pack? When’s the last time you hit the gym? Is your waist expanding at the same rate your attention span is shrinking? How many nights a week do you sit in your lounge chair watching the game on your big screen TV?

The foreign luxury sedan was cool, but it got boring after awhile. The Corvette, now that’s more like it! Maybe the 4X4 with the running boards, tonneau cover and leather everywhere – I can hear your Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor grunts of approval. Haven’t you always wanted a Harley? Nothing like cruising down the open road. No, I got it. Two words – man cave. Every guy needs one.

Do the toys make it easier to show up every morning?

Didn’t think so. A vacation sounds nice. Maybe you’ll take two this year. You’ve got quite a bit of time saved up. A golf vacation with the boys sounds good. Do it in Vegas, kill two birds with one stone. For the family, there’s that Mexican resort your wife has always wanted to visit. Drink in your hand, toes in the sand. Now that’s livin’!

Or is it?

The Truth About The American Dream

Admit it, the toys don’t help. Neither do the vacations. Work is drudgery. A means to an end. Hasn’t felt like a career in years. It’s a J-O-B. Office politics, reorganizations every three years, and corporate BS. What else is new? Do you ask yourself over and over again – where did the passion go?

That’s the question I asked myself a few years ago. I had a loving wife, an adorable son, a nice house, reliable cars to drive, a flat screen TV in my basement and a good paying job. What more could I possibly want?

To be myself.

See, I bought into the “American Dream” just like so many others. I graduated 3rd in my high school class, got a scholarship to college, graduated summa cum laude with a business degree and headed off into the world of work. I bounced around a little then caught on with a good company and the rest is history. Promotions, relocations, new opportunities, and eventually settling down in the place I call home.

Charmed life, right?

Then why was I suffering? Why was I coming home from work every day mentally spent?  Why was I searching the fridge or the pantry for something to eat as soon as I walked through the door every night? Why did my wife comment one day, “You don’t seem to get much joy out of anything anymore.”

One word…passion.

In the beginning, I was passionate about the chase, the climb, the challenge of building a career. What I didn’t see was that I wasn’t passionate about the work itself. And even when I did start to see it, I denied it. I soldiered on because of the stability, the certainty, and the responsibility of taking care of my family.

There was always something else out there. The thing I should have been doing all along. And every day that passed without me doing it was one day closer to the day when time would run out.

Dream a New Dream                    

Sports cars, motorcycles, and fancy vacations are exciting for a little while. But when the novelty wears off, you’re still left with a career that pays the bills but doesn’t set your soul on fire. It hurts deep down inside and the beer, popcorn and YouTube only numbs the pain. It always comes back until you fix the problem at its source.

No – don’t walk into work today and quit. The mortgage still needs to get paid every month.

Right now, make a decision. Decide what you value more – the safety and comfort of the status quo or the promise of what life can be like when your passion and your career are in perfect alignment. Take the first step even if it’s in the wrong direction. The course will correct itself as long as you keep moving.

This is not my first website and it may not be my last. But I’m still going and not stopping – ever.

Question: What would you be doing if you weren’t working in your current field? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Todd K Marsha is a Catholic husband and father living in suburban Kansas City. Through his writing charism he tells the powerful story of his conversion to the faith, his triumphs through God's grace, and his continuing struggle to live a more Christ-like life.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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