Giving up the American Dream

There are times in life when you are forced into change and other times when you choose to change. Neither situation is particularly easy. Change is hard! It’s painful, uncomfortable, uncertain and may feel incredibly scary. In fact, many people spend exorbitant amounts of energy doing whatever they can to avoid change! They might work at an unfulfilling job that leaves them feeling exhausted and frustrated, but they continue to stay and not look for something new. Their home may be way too big or too expensive, but they refuse to consider downsizing and continue to purchase unnecessary material items putting them into great financial debt. Or perhaps they really want to lose weight and get fit, but they don’t want to make any changes to their diet or lifestyle.

Without change, it is impossible to grow into your full potential as a human being, and for me and my family, that just won’t do.

Moving to Norman, Oklahoma in 2008 for a job forced our family into a great deal of change. 8 months pregnant with our second child and a toddler in tow, I did not know a single person in this town. The first few years presented me with a great deal of change that I spent a lot of energy fighting. But once I accepted my circumstances, it freed up my energy to invest in myself and my surroundings in a more positive light, allowing me to grow in ways I never expected.

Over the last few years, we have been very content here, watching our boys grow and enjoying a simple life in suburbia. My husband and I both work very hard at jobs we enjoy and we have settled into our own personal rhythm of life. I’ve met wonderful friends with deep roots to the community who have absorbed my family into theirs.

Life is good.

But becoming overly content in one place can lead to complacency, mindless routines and very little personal growth. The more we think about the world in which we are raising our boys, the more we realize that we have to make a change. In a generation of entitlement and instant gratification, authenticity and vulnerability are lost unless we intentionally teach our boys what it looks like. We want them to experience life in as many ways as possible, to meet new people, discover new cultures and learn how to navigate adversity.

How can we ask our children to be open to change and growth if we never give them a chance to experience it?

We are constantly bombarded with propaganda about what it takes to have the American Dream - a house, a couple of kids, two cars and a nice vacation each year. We even added to that list some nice home furnishing, upgrades to our house, a pool, and even a membership to a country club. We have everything that the American Dream told us we needed. But is it really the key to living a happy and healthy life? 

From an early age, we believe that we have to follow a certain path to this ideal. I don’t mean to belittle this idea, as I was fortunate enough to be in a position to pursue and achieve it, while there are millions of people who are not. We worked very hard to achieve financial security for our family! But as my husband and I think about what it is that truly makes us happy, we realize that our happiness is not found in any of the items we own. Sure, we hear people say that material items don’t make them happy all the time, but do people ever really do anything to change? The noise of pop culture and capitalism always seems to drown out that message, turning that unsettled feeling into a fleeting moment. My husband and I finally recognized that in order to truly teach our kids the right message, we must challenge ourselves to break away from the so-called comforts of the American Dream that we bought into as well.

So, we have made the conscious decision to leave our careers, our home, our friends and our life by moving to Dublin, Ireland to pursue new endeavors that will test us and bring us closer to living our authentic selves.

Within the next few weeks, we will sell or donate almost all of our material possessions. Each member of our family will have 2 suitcases and 1 large box to fit whatever we will be bringing with us to start this new life. While not an easy task for anyone, we hope to demonstrate to our 7 and 10 year old that material items do not define happiness in our family. What better way to teach them than living by example?

Have you ever made a life-changing decision that turned cultural expectations upside down? Tell me about your adventure in the comments below!