The American Dream

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I was born in Puerto Rico and I’m from a small town where hardly anybody leaves. You never hear of a sabaneño doing big things on the island or anywhere else. People accept their lives for what it is and they’re content with that. They live in their island style cement homes, go to work, pay their bills, and go on with their lives. There isn’t anything out of the ordinary there. Nobody steps out of their comfort zone. Nobody dares to think outside of the box.

Thankfully for me, my parents left Puerto Rico and we’ve been living in the U.S. ever since. I’ve gotten a good education and have gotten great opportunities. I’ve been exposed to different kinds of people, places, and cultures. I live in America for goodness sakes. Anything is possible. I can live the American Dream. I can make my dreams come true, be successful, and be encouraged by the optimistic, ambitious Americans who surround me, right? Well, not so much. It turns out that most people I’ve met are still stuck in the mindset that there’s only one way to be successful and live the American Dream.

The formula is you have to go to college and preferably graduate from a Master’s program or more, make sure that whatever you’re doing is in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math are the way to go in America), and find yourself a stable job with benefits. In about 10 years, you should be making the money you want with a nice family and a house under your name. That’s the formula. That’s what works. That’s how you live the American Dream.

How else do you explain young females who once hated school pursuing nursing or individuals who didn’t know what to do going into computer programming? But what if you hate anything under STEM? What happens if you have an idea bigger than climbing up the corporate ladder? How can a creative mind secure success if they don’t fit into the American Dream formula? Well, just how they would do anything… By thinking outside of the norm.

It’s hard for a person with a real passion to live the life that another person has paved for them. It’s too confining. It’s frustrating. A nine to five kind of job is just not for the creative types. We can’t do it, so we make our own way. We make art, we create businesses, we make something out of what we truly love… our passion. That’s when something magical happens. The motivation, ambitions, and drive are all unstoppable to the point where success is inevitable. That’s how you get billion dollar businesses, Pulitzer Prize winning novels, and legendary records.

If the creative minds had given up on their passions and decided to follow the leader, then there would be no Andy Warhol, no Pharrell, or no Langston Hughes. Fortunately, they all chose to pursue their own American Dream and pave their own way in the ground. They all gifted us the art they’re notorious for and proved that you don’t need STEM or a doctorate to be successful. You simply need dedication, ambition, and passion.

However, most people find it hard to have this vision. They can’t see anything beyond the clear path to success. They think anything outside of that is too risky and simply not worth it. They might say that it won’t work and that your plan B will ultimately be all you have, but I don’t think so. I think that when a person is truly invested in their passion, then success is certain. Living life and finding success in the thing you love most, now that is the real American Dream.

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About Tatiana Figueroa Ramirez

Born in Puerto Rico and raised in the mainland United States, I graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and am a 2016 VONA Voices Alumna. I currently perform spoken-word in the greater Washington D.C. area and have previously performed in Philadelphia, Miami, and the Dominican Republic. Most recently, I have been published in Public Pool, Spillwords, and The Acentos Review, and Here Comes Everyone: East & West Issue.

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