Tall house in a big neighborhood, two cars in the driveway, rushing from baseball to soccer to music class, weekends in the backyard, BBQing with neighbors after a day of soccer games, this people, is the American Dream. The attempt to keep up with the Joneses, to have the next big thing, to compare yourself to the person next door and wonder if you have enough, if you're doing enough, if your kids are happy enough and if you look the part and play the part. Make sure you have it together, don't let the world see that you may not. Don't look too stressed, make sure your hair is done, don't get caught in yoga pants if you're not going to yoga. This life, was once my reality as well. Barely getting by in our Southern California home, trying to be a stay at home mom to 3 boys and never feeling like we had enough or were doing enough for our kids. Rushing around each and every day and lying my head down at night, wondering where in the heck each day went. Only to wake up and do it all over again. This people, is that American Dream we are forced to believe. This, was not for me.
After the loss of my first husband in 2011, the idea of time, and things collected, no longer mattered. I struggled with keeping up and at the same time, wanting nothing, just wanting to live each day. I didn't want to miss a single moment with my kids. I didn't want to give up 10 hours a day every weekday to be apart from my now husband. Every day was flying by and I was ending the day completely exhausted. My first husband passed when he was 27. It also was not his choice or his fault. A women made a left hand turn in front of his motorcycle and before I could take a breath, he was gone. I was widowed at 28 with two little boys. That American Dream felt like it crashed the moment the woman turned her car in front of his motorcycle. After losing him, I had many months when I didn't want to live any longer. I just wanted to die right alongside him. Yet each morning, I had two babies that were crawling on me, crying in their beds and needed their mom. The best advice I ever received was another widow who told me, "Your kids already lost their dad, don't let them lose their mom too." This changed things for me. They gave me reason to live. Then Travis came in, and he gave me reason to love. This time, I was going to do it different. The Joneses didn't matter any more, living mattered and living each day was my new goal.
Several years went by and at the moment I considered starting my career as a teacher and as we looked into purchasing a house, when I was rushing my kids around and feeling like life was flying by each and every stressful day, was the moment I jumped at the idea of leaving it all. I had been sucked back into that American Dream and I was spiraling down. Travis and I jokingly talked about moving into our travel trailer and traveling for a year. It didn't stay a joke for long, with a business we could run between traveling, we did it. We sold it all and left. Left the daily grind, left the house on the hillside in a bustling community, left the rush around from the moment we woke to the moment our heads hit the pillow.
Why does this have to be the American Dream? Why do we all have follow suite? Those days of Dad working to provide for the family, coming home to a home cooked meal and kids playing outside is no longer reality for so many. In most homes, especially in Southern California, the only way to get by is to have both parents working which then means your kids are in daycare each day and the weekends are the time you get together, which you end up spending rushing from one place to another. Kids playing outside? As much as we wish the childhood from the 80s was a reality, coming inside when the street lights came on, this is just not how so many neighborhoods function any longer. Is there something called internet fear? If not, I'm creating it. As a mom in the 20th century, the internet has given me mom fear. Fearful of my child being snagged by a stranger, wondering off, crushed by a car, the list goes on and on. My reality of how quickly that can all be gone and how much you would have missed just trying to keep up is real. It's real because I lived it. I lost my husband and felt like I lost it all in a split second. The American Dream was was not for me.
We changed that. We knew the most important thing to us was today and this moment and this time. We may not have a routine, we may not have a 3,000 sq ft house and baseball on the weekends. What we do have is each other. We have experiences and memories we would have never had the opportunity to create. We are grateful for this time and living it while it is still livable.
This also doesn't mean we are irresponsible financially. We have jobs we can work remotely and we go back to photograph weddings in Southern California and all across the U.S. Our work schedule is flexible. We have an endless idea of ways to work and bring in income and we are okay.
We also know one day, we will slow down, pick up a career and settle. Yet, while we are young we are going to keep on keeping. I guess what I'm saying is come June, we are not done. We will keep exploring and continue to grow together as a family. This is our American Dream. It is what you make it.
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