When Lester Burnham looks back on the year before he died, do you know what he sees? He observes that he was already dead. This is from my favorite movie, America. It's called "American Beauty". And being so named, I think this is poignant for our relationship--as a person and a country. You've heard, I'm sure, that Art imitates Life. Well, here's a picture that explores several more aspects of our culture. Today let's keep focus on Lester.
Lester wasn't actually dead. Not literally. He wasn't in a coma in the hospital. He was actively getting up every day, going to his job, and interacting with his family. But he did it all with as little energy as possible.
Does that sound familiar at all?
In fact, he reserved all of his energy--and as much head space as possible--for only one thing: A Fantasy.
See Lester wasn't passionate about living anymore. He didn't love his job--heck, he could barely stand it. He felt a palpable distance between himself and his daughter. His marriage didn't feel romantic so he has stopped looking there for romance. He didn't see any hope in working on improving the life he had, so he chose instead to live a waking dream. 10 years ago this was me.
Totally different fantasy. But everyday was the same. I didn't see hope in my situation. I thought I had achieved the dream: College Educated, married to the love of my life (I loved her as a good friend for 7 years before I proposed), and we were both employed.
Wasn't this the American Dream?
I thought it was. I had achieved everything as the expectations had been laid out by the people around me; the culture. But why was I so unhappy? Because I was just like Lester. I had it all and then I just settled in for the ride! ...But, Man, what a boring ride. I was so bored at work that I couldn't stay awake. I started going to bed early so I wouldn't be so tired at work. But that wasn't the problem. Even when I slept more, I was still tired at work. It's because I wasn't engaged. I wasn't pursuing anything. I didn't have to. Because I had it all. Didn't I? Sure, everything except passion. The paycheck was steady, but the work was unfulfilling.
I could barely tell the difference between being awake and asleep.
So to make life more interesting, I started to dream about the next American Dream: Retirement.
Could that dream save me, America?
Waiting 30 years to be happy?