Redefining the American Dream as a Black Digital Nomad
My parents and all of my aunts followed what I call the traditional path to success or known to most as The American Dream, which is defined as, “the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.”
Graduate from high school > Graduate from a 4-year university > Get a job > Buy a house before 30.
It was no question when I entered high school that I was going to college. I didn’t even have a choice or was presented with other options. Because of what I saw by example, I HAD to go to college. I distinctly remember a conversation with an aunt when I was 15. She firmly said, “And it’s not IF you go to college, it’s WHEN you go to college.”
Of course, I was going to college. I was a sheltered throughout childhood by overbearing parents and grandparents, college was my escape to living an adult life. I purposely chose a school that was two hours away from home so my family wouldn’t be so quick to check in (see: pop the f*ck up) on me.
And so I went and did what I was told. I entered and graduated with a 4-year degree in five years with a shit ton of student loan debt.
Don’t judge me! I changed my major my Junior year. 🙂
Six months after I graduated, I landed my first full-time job as a graphic and web designer at an independent newspaper company in one of the most racist towns in South Carolina. I was fired eight months later.
Then, I was hired as a web developer for two higher education institutions and used the last six years to build up my reputation in my professional career and business. I loved my job and the business I was building on the side. I lived my life as an ambitious, professional Black Millenial. I started traveling a lot more and enjoying the fruits of my labor.
I even had a few consultations with realtors so I could buy a house before 30, again, following someone else’s path because I was told, “Owning a home is one of the best investments you can make.”
And then I got hella bored with the routine. The normal. Bored with my version of the “American Dream”.
I started to hate getting up and going into my office every day. Sure, having your own office at a job is cool when you’re 25 and I was grateful for the extra privacy, but I just knew there had to be more out there. As my business grew on the side, my desire to build my professional career slowly faded away. I dropped out of my Master’s degree program and decided to put all of my energy towards my business so I can quit my job and work for myself full-time.
Three years later and after building my business, I quit my job and became a full-time business owner.
As I reflect on my final years in high school, I wish I had someone else telling me there was another way. I don’t regret the path I took because it brought me where I am today, however, I regret being brainwashed into believing there was only one pathway to success.
Here’s what I believe about The American Dream, and my belief may not agree with yours, but hear (or read lol) me out:
The American Dream only exists because it helps keep the economy afloat.
Think about it:
You’re sold on the idea that success is on the other end of a 4-year degree, so you can take out student loans and pay it off for the next 10-30 years.
You’re sold to believe that you’re not an adult if you don’t own a home or that it’s the best investment you can make, so you can take out a mortgage loan and pay it off for the next 15-30 years.
These are just two examples of how we’re fed into the societal norms of success and what it looks like, just so we can be in debt for AT LEAST 10 years.
I made a vow to myself two years ago that I wasn’t even going to think about buying a house until I paid off ALL six-figures of my student loan debt. And I will only become a homeowner if I can pay for it in cash. As a 30-year-old woman, this may seem like I’m not “adulting” enough because I don’t own a home, but it’s what I believe is the best (and smartest) decision to make.
Now, I’m not saying entrepreneurship is a debt-free lane because I’ve certainly sacrificed a lot financially into building a business, but it’s a lot more rewarding and a faster return on investment than student loans. And if entrepreneurship isn’t your thing, there are other ways to break into a career.
What being a digital nomad allows is for me to create this new idea of what success looks like.
So, are you with me or nah? Whether you agree or disagree, feel free to comment below.