Exodus from the American Dream

vintage ad American dream illustration

 

Nothing has given me greater joy than sharing stories, insights, and images with you. As you may have noticed  I’ve dropped off in my postings in recent months and want to share what is going on. Here is my story.

Once upon a time, the promise of “skies the limit” was fundamental to the American Dream.

Now, something is fundamentally wrong. Chicken Little was right. The sky is falling.

And it has fallen close to home.

What is This?

Vintage childrens puzzle of a house

Playing out against the 24/7 cacophony of political craziness and deep despair over the state of our country that has become our shared lives, my private life has mirrored some of the chaos. As our country and our democracy seemingly disintegrates before our eyes, in my own life the American Dream is crumbling beneath my feet.

A perfect storm of catastrophes has wreaked destruction on the familiar life I once lived. It is in upheaval.

collage flowers by the pool and pulp fiction paperback cover

A series of crises cascading simultaneously has led to the tragic loss of my home. A husband with undiagnosed cognitive challenges ravaged our finances. There has been little time to breathe.

I have now come full circle in living out the American dream.

Both the old one and the new reality.  A homeowner in a leafy suburb for over 15 years my beautiful home is now tragically in foreclosure- the new end game of what was once the American dream.

The white picket fence that very embodiment of the Ameican Dream that once gracefully surrounded my immaculate, well cared for property now lies forlorn,  some spokes splintered, and in need of a fresh coat of paint.  It is the perfect metaphor for this fall from grace.

vintage Suburban couple and house

Ironically a home in suburbia once the very symbol of the attainable American dream was never really my dream. It was my parent’s post-war dream. I was and remain an urban creature at heart.

Suburbia was my parents promised land. It was where they wanted to live. It was, in fact, a place I wanted exodus from.

My parent’s dreams were decidedly not urban ones. Mine were.  My model was more “That Girl” than June Cleaver. A single gal living out her  dream in the big city, I happily sang along as Eva Gabor crooned on Green Acres “New York is where I’d rather be.”

 

Just as my parents had fled the city in the mid-1950s as it began to decline, I rushed headfirst into mid-1970’s N.Y.C.  just about the time of its alleged demise. Despite President Ford’s snide comment telling the city to “Drop Dead,” it was anything but dying to me.

It nourished me in ways I craved. It was gritty, diverse, adventurous, a cornucopia of ever-changing experiences. There was no other place for a 20 something artist to be. It was heady. And affordable.

Long Island Bound

Vintage postcard Long Island

Yes, Long Island was never my promised land.

But, strangely enough in 2001, it did, in fact, become my home. Once more.

Suburbia 2.0 would be different.

I moved reluctantly, unsure in this strange land seemingly barren of culture and excitement,  bereft of everything that was familiar to my urban soul. Being a non-driver would prove to be a challenge.

I created a lush paradise secluded from the rest of suburbia. Perhaps that was the very point. It became an oasis and a place of calm. As a collector, it allowed me the unlimited space I so sorely craved to house my vast collections under once roof.

To my surprise, I thrived. In my loneliness, I turned to my art as I always have.

A place I was so hesitant about living in, wormed its way into my heart. Deeply. It was my home. My sanctuary from all the tumult in the world. Now that very tumult permeates my home.

But battling on with my last bit o’ midcentury American can-do-optimism,  the ending of this story might well tap into the other great American story of transformation.

Gatsby.

The ability to reinvent yourself once again. Reinvention, in fact, may be the most American story of all

Now I will return to the city by default as much by desire. If I can.  N.Y.C. has changed drastically in these past several years. Can I now return to this mecca of wealth that at times bears little resemblance to the city I lived in for decades?

I will find my way.

End Game

I’ve envisioned the American dream from both sides now.

For these past many years I’ve shared with you the American dream and the possibility of its attainment as presented in the media. With a broad brushstroke, these mid-century advertisements painted the perfect portrait of the American Dream.

Eagerly envisioning a future filled with homes and upward mobility, it heralded a time when the American dream was indeed within reach of most middle-class families and the achievement of the better life was fundamental to the American way.

It was what we all strived for; it was our birthright.

Now the core elements of the American dream are increasingly unaffordable for the majority.

From millennials saddled with staggering school debts and grim employment prospects to Baby Boomers unable to save for retirement, the fundamental elements of the American Dream -a living wage, retirement security, opportunity for one’s children to get ahead in life are now unreachable for all but the wealthiest.

Now as the American dream fades away for so many Americans, as the America of my youth becomes unrecognizable, I join the new middle class that very symbol of America’s post-war promise that is now living the flip side of of the New American Dream.

This is not the post-war promises my parents had hoped for me.

© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

22 comments

  1. Barbara Shenefield

    oh sorry about the changes in life and wish you the best – NYC is also my home and I fantasize about returning somehow. If you do a Patreon or similar I will chip in. Your work is great. Thanks.

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sally, I’m so sorry to hear about your tragic losses and the chaos in your life. Although we’ve never met, I feel I know you very well through your work. I’ve loved your posts for a number of years now, and I look forward to each one. Please know that there are people in your life, some of whom you’ve never met, who care about you and wish you peace and happiness. Warmly, Michael Simms

    Liked by 6 people

  3. Pierre Lagacé

    Vox Populi says it much better than I could Sally.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Thank you Michael, from the bottom of my heart. Your words touched me deeply and will help sustain me through this challenging time. It has been quite frustrating being absent from my blog particularly when there has been so much to write about. Your continued support all these years means the world to me, and knowing my work has touched lives gives me great satisfaction. I’ve missed this wonderful community of readers. But I am still here.

    Like

  5. You will come out on the sunny side, Sally and find your way. I’m sure of that. Courage my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Dianne. I am if nothing else a survivor, and though overwhelming am meeting this enormous challenge head on. Best case scenario I have a new home, a new life and God willing, a new President. Thank you for your words of support.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Ancient unsolved riddles – This isn't happiness

  7. I am so very sad to hear this. I’ve been reading you for many years now and wondered what had happened to keep you away. You should create a Patreon account so that followers of this blog can contribute something for the articles you’ve given us for free. I will be happy to contribute.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Thank you Susie for your compassion and concern. I felt terrible feeling as though I abandoned my blog and my loyal readers and felt I needed to explain where I was. I have every intention of continuing and perhaps this will help me to carve out some time to keep doing so. It has been my utter joy to share my stories and had only in passing thought of monetizing it. The clutter of ads on my page seemed as much of a sacrifice I was willing to make. I am unfamiliar with Patreon and how it works but I will look into it. Thank you for your loyalty and your contributions to this community.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ll be following closely, Sally. I’m sending all good thoughts, and healing thoughts for your husband.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Paula Higgins

    I’m so sorry that this is happening to you, Sally. It’s bad enough having to deal with your husband’s health but adding in the financial pressures is just too much. Sadly, in this economy, we are ALL just one unfortunate circumstance or medical issue away from financial collapse. Know that you WILL get through this and come out on the other side. I think the suggestion about Patreon was a great one and I hope you’ll check it out. Sending prayers, good karma, and so much love to you and your husband. Hang in there, friend. HUGS!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paula, you are so right that we all are just one circumstance away from devastating challenges. Mine is an American story for 2020. Thank you for your encouragement, and I am indeed looking for the light at the end of all this. It can feel pretty bleak and dark at times, but at heart I am an optimist and unsinkable even when I want to stop and just crawl into a ball. I was unfamiliar with Patreon and went to look at it. I’m not 100 percent how it works but it is worth exploring. Love back to you too, my friend

      Like

  11. John Anderson

    I feel it’s safe to say everyone here loves you. Let’s look at your adversity as a temporary condition. It will pass, and you shall prevail. Your writing means a great deal to all of us, or we wouldn’t be here. Thank you for everything you do. Your presence in the world makes it a better place, and I look forward with admiration to your next post. Per ardua ad astra.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. And I love all of you right back! Your presence in my life is so meaningful, which is why it felt imperative to share what was going on with me that has drawn me away from doing what I love. There is nothing more important than to be heard and I am blessed to have this community to hear me. If my writing has informed, educated, provoked and entertained, than I feel very successful indeed.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. These warm and encouraging words are an indication that your writing and your unique approach to visual storytelling has substantial meaning to your readers. They do feel they know you. Heloise, Erma Bombeck and Ann Landers would be impressed, to borrow your mid-century way of illuminating things. Readers believe in you. Do consider the Patreon option. It’s a way for people to say thanks. The kindness is out there.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hugs! I’m sorry you’ve encountered a bump in your life and hope for an outcome that allows you peace and comfort.

    Like

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