August 24, 2011

The cliche American Dream

The bags are packed, the car is loaded, and another small town girl is lured in by big city lights. 

My story isn't unique nor is it uncommon, tomorrow morning I'm embarking on the proverbial "American dream" that millions of people have attempted for years. Do I have a job? No. Do I have a place to live? Technically yes, but it's not permanent. I'm going solely on a gut feeling, a lot of faith, and a bank account that will let me get by for a few months without a paycheck (if need be). 

This is the kind of thing people my age do all the time. The scenario is immortalized in countless films and has been written in lyrics of artists like Journey, Kenny Chesney and others. In fact, the next three days on the road with my dad would make a great movie montage that would fit into nearly any coming of age film out there. My soundtrack? Tom Petty's "American Girl."

Cliche? Maybe a little bit, but I'm doing the whole "American dream" thing, I might as well play up the stereotype.

Of all the faraway places I've gone, I've always had a return ticket -- so I've always known in the back of my mind when I'll be home again. This time my ticket is open-ended and my return is indefinite, maybe that's why I'm feeling oddly nervous about it. 

The movies always make studying for big exams and applying for jobs seem quick and semi-enjoyable, at least when they're put to good music. They showcase the determination of the main character while using brilliant editing techniques to erase the sheer number of hours spent prepping, priming, studying, and scouring job boards. Check out this clip from Legally Blonde, the   saddest looking moment is when she sighs about missing a frat party. I have a lot of friends who studied for the LSAT, and they had a lot more awful looking frazzled moments than that.

Movies make us all believe that hard work pays off, and with a few daring moves you could find yourself living "happily ever after" before you know it. Real life doesn't quite work that way, but you know that already. Problems and worries aren't resolved in a two hour plot line. And big risks don't always render big rewards.  (I can't help but hear this Matchbox 20 song in my head as I write...)

Here I am, stubborn, bullheaded and running away from the greatest economic boom my North Dakota hometown has ever seen to jump into the most toxic job market the US has experienced in decades. It's illogical and somewhat insane. I'll admit that I might be making a very stupid decision doing this. I'm either crazy or self-assured, but like most things in life reality lies somewhere in between. 

Unlike the movies, life doesn't have the benefit of foreshadowing, editing, or a soundtrack to move things along. Though it would be convenient to edit out scenes from some of the 1,200 miles I'll be covering, I'm trying to look at it as the one and only chance my dad and I have to take a cross-country roadtrip together.

Open road and empty space, heading west to the coast. A father, a daughter, and a dream.

Ohhh snap! I think I just wrote the subtitle to next month's Lifetime feature film. Here's to hoping it has a happy ending. 

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