I had always been a big believer in the idea of the American Dream.  I was an American Dreamer, which today seems more like an admission,  a confession, than a declaration.  I was raised to strive for it, to seek it and to expect to achieve it.  I clutched my travel mug each day and embraced the drudgery of a morning commute to the city, to a desk job in the sky for a paycheck that I thought would eventually lead me to the promised land of my cultural DNA.  I wasn’t particularly happy.  I wasn’t fulfilled.  I wasn’t doing the work I wanted to do, making a difference the way I thought I could, but I was fulfilling the sum of the equation of the dream, of the “good life.”  Work hard, play by the rules, sacrifice a little, suffer a little and the dream would become a reality.

When the bottom dropped out of the economy, another mercurial, mythical beast, the American Dream, it seemed was suddenly even more elusive.  I lost my job.  And like millions of other American Dreamers, I then began living the American reality, sponsored by the money I had paid into unemployment insurance during all of those days of dreaming of a house, a white picket fence, a happy life with no surprises.

I’m not complaining.  Being able to survive on the money I earned when earning the money I thought would equal the dream, was like a dream itself...where you fall, but you never hit bottom, you never die.  There’s something American Dreamer-ish about unemployment insurance, when you think of hard, pay your dues and be taken care of should you ever need it.

But was the national ethos of the American Dream gone?  Nah.  The recession only exposed the reality, that dreams are intangible things, ethereal things that can’t be possessed or counted on.  Our American Dreams, it turns out, were on life-support all along.  If you have a job it’s a nice dream to keep you going.  If enough people have a job it’s a nice long distance goal to keep a nation clutching their cup of bitter commuter coffee.  No matter if the work you do satisfies you, the Dream is there in the distance.

And when the work ran out it forced us to WAKE UP from all of our dreaming and to stop being cranky already, to wipe the sleep out of our eyes, to honestly stare ourselves in the mirror and to finally step outside and get to know our neighbors.  And that’s what we did.  We embraced the blessing of recessing and drove around Jersey and asked our neighbors about the dream, the reality and their own hopes and goals, the personal pursuit that is the point in its pure form.  The result is a four part series that begins on the road. 

Enjoy Driving Jersey: The American Dream: On The Road and consider  what your own personal pursuit is and where it’s leading you.  You might be surprised that it no longer includes a white picket fence.

Music for Driving Jersey: The American Dream: On The Road was performed by Cody McCorry and Helena Espvall.