Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? A home, a car and a stable job? In this time of economic despair, with record home foreclosures, plummeting car sales and rising unemployment, The Takeaway is asking, What's your New American Dream? Listener Leah Clark responded...
I am a young American, and I am fed up.
I am 26 years old and living in Michigan — one of four states with the highest unemployment. With $35,000 in student loans and making less than a bartender I know, you could say that owning a home is merely a dream for me. But I'm not alone.
Two thirds of university students graduate with $21,000 in debt
. Once they start working, a greater shock awaits: The average grad is making less than they were in 2001: 1.7 percent less to be exact
. This, coupled with the rising cost of living, leaves my hands tied.
The good news is, I'm not asking for much. I want to live in a home 1,000 sq. ft. or smaller, or if I live in a city, 800 sq. ft. or less. I realize this is not the current trend. Since 1960, the size of the American home has doubled
. Why is this, since the size of the typical American family has stayed the same?
The stilted economy, rising cost of living and concern over the environment have led me to conclude that owning a small house and not filling it to the brim with consumer goods could be my ultimate contribution to America — and a better world.
But the benefits of a small house and small mortgage don't stop there. Owning a home with an affordable payment — and one that is efficient to heat and cool — would allow me to pursue my dreams of world travel or a graduate degree. Pursuing these experiences makes me feel alive and reminds me that I am sharing this world with people, cultures, and wildlife that take my breath away — and deserve my respect.
For too long the American Dream has been "bigger and better and cluttered with stuff." In times like these, I believe it's necessary to redefine what we as Americans really need, and live according to what our consciences tell us.
I'm up for the challenge. Are you?Leah Clark is an Associate Art Director for a publishing company in Metro Detroit by day, and writer of black-marketbooks.blogspot.com and short stories by night.What's your New American Dream? Join the conversation.