As a generation, we were cheated. Growing up, we were all fed notions of the American Dream: go to school and get good grades so you get into a great college and then be whatever you want! Except, they forgot to mention the lack of jobs, the economic situation, the unending student debt and the fact that our parents will be lucky to ever retire. We are screwed.
Sure, you can be whatever you want to be, so long as that means a coffee shop barista with dual majors or an MBA with a hundred grand in student loans.
Let’s face the facts: The American Dream is dead. We need a new one.
We live in an age of unprecedented technological advancement, instantaneous social connectivity and limitless potential. It’s super cliché, but the future really is ours; we just have to dream big and chase it. No one will create the picturesque future you dreamed up as a little kid except for you.
It is time to create a new dream, time to yell back at the world: “Your American Dream is not enough for me!” It’s time for another generation to reach for the stars, and pursuing our dreams requires two things: passion and inspiration.
When I find myself uninspired or just lost, I pick up my copy of “The Alchemist.” This year alone, I’ve read that book three times, front to back. It’s the story of a young boy with a dream who pursues his soul’s personal legend — the purpose of his life as he saw in his dream. Of course, along the way, he received the guidance of a wise alchemist. The alchemist portion really intrigued me; I had always been fascinated with things like the Philosopher’s Stone and the Elixir of Life and changing lead into gold.
So, I guess my intrigue stemmed from wanting to know how someone who could change lead into gold could help someone else realize his personal legend.
In the book, the young boy goes from being a shepherd, to a beggar, to a crystal merchant, all in pursuit of his destiny. Similar to now, someone in our generation might work several different jobs, none of which have anything to do with an earned college degree. The difference between the boy and us is that the boy had his dream and everything he did was in pursuit of his dream -- he never lost sight of it.
Can the same be said about us? Are the degrees we earn and the jobs we take really in pursuit of our own dreams? The cynic in me says no.
I guess that is why they call us “The Lost Generation.” We are generation of over-educated and under-employed kids, who have no identities of their own. Still, I don’t think we are lost or purposeless so much as we are passionless and uninspired. We barely dream anymore, and if we do, we sure as hell don’t pursue those dreams. So, I guess the great big question is: Why?
I think the answer is fear; fear of never achieving our dreams, of failing, of not conforming to society’s demands of us and most importantly, fear of change. We are so afraid of change that we often fail to take chances. We would much rather dream than try to realize our callings and fail.
We sit back at our miserable nine-to-fives, checking Instagram and Facebook every five minutes, seething at those who are living more fulfilling lives then us, having existential crises, constantly developing a stronger wanderlust and doing nothing about it.
If we are so passionate about wanting good lives, why don’t we pursue those lives? Why are we so passionate about life, but refuse to live it to the fullest?
Generally, what sets the people whom we envy apart from us is their passion. If they want something badly enough and are so enamored with an ideal or dream, they will fight through any challenge or adversity, ignore any fear and pursue it. They know that whatever it is they are passionate about, they are alive to do; it is the reason they exist: their personal “legend.” They turn dreams into reality, lead into gold. They are real-life alchemists and they have discovered the Elixir of Life.
In life, you must have passion. Passion is the key to truly living. Find something about which you are passionate -- a dream, an ideal, anything -- and chase it. If your passion is writing, then write — even if no reads it! If you want to climb, then climb — even if you fall! If your passion is music, play it, compose it and dance to it — even if you do it alone!
If you are passionate about something and you don’t know how to do it, learn! This is what we are supposed to do in life; train, practice, learn and prepare for that one moment when the crystal palace of our dreams is shattered in place of a reality we created.
That is what true passion is — an unrelenting battle against fear and life itself to turn a simple dream into a reality.
But, it is not enough to be passionate about something; you have to be inspired. You need to look at the dreamers and idealists of the world — all the quixotic fools pursuing their passions — and let their passion inspire you. Look to the people who say, "That is impossible” or, “You can’t do that” and they reply, “Watch me.”
In this world of totalitarian conformity, we have to look at those people who live outside their comfort zones, who measure success by how close they are to achieving their dreams and who have no fear of change or failure. Humanity is an amazing thing and our capacity for greatness is limitless. Let the greatness of others inspire us to pursue our own excellence and achieve our own dreams.
Gen-Y is poised for something great. Sure we are cynical, pessimistic and permanent students, but we still have our dreams. We just need to pursue them.
With all of our technology and education, with every luxury we have, with all the great lessons history offers us, and all the opportunity previous generations have afforded us, it is time we do something. It is time to reach for the stars again. It is time to dream — and big.
It is time to start really living. Get out there, get inspired, become passionate about something, find a purpose or create one! Find something for which you would gladly live or die. Screw the faux American Dream; make your own dream and chase it with every fiber of your being.
When this journey is all said and done, you will look back on your life and either say, “I wish” or “what if” — or, you will look back, smile and say, “I turned lead into gold.”
Photo via We Heart It