Once upon a time, the “American Dream” was simple. We wanted to start from the bottom and work to the very top, find a career we love that pays us well, find the love of our lives by maybe 30 at the latest, have 2.5 kids and a picket fence like everyone else.
That “dream”, however, has become just that. Starting from the bottom only leaves us fighting to not ever fall back down to the bottom. Finding a career we love doesn’t guarantee good pay or even satisfaction. And now we’re just happy to find a love to make the days easier, with the kids and the picket fence being a distant goal to strive toward.
As the unlucky-in-love main character in NBC’s 2006-2013 sitcom “30 Rock”, Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon embodies what has come to be the new version of our American dream. She works as the head writer for her own sketch series, but loses all power over it when an aloof, arrogant new star is added. It’s far from an ideal situation, and ruins what Liz once thought was an almost-perfect life.
Like Liz, many modern-day Americans live in less than ideal situations. Some people tend to sit around and sulk over this, or simply accept it as what will always be their reality. However, nowadays the ability to push through these situations and make the best of what one is given has become a hallmark of the new American dream and spirit. Liz, for example, learns to love her uncontrollable work environment, realizing it gave her the opportunity she had been longing for to be motherly as well as a sense of purpose beyond making a TV show.
Liz also faces a less-than-ideal love life, beginning the series being stuck in an on-and-off relationship with Dennis Duffy (Dean Winters), who is undeniably the worst. She spends the overwhelming majority of the show’s run dating a series of undesirable guys, all the while suffering from the ticking-clock mentality of a single woman in her mid-to-late 30s. For all her struggles, however, Liz never gives up, and eventually meets Criss (James Marsden). Criss has an absurd name, is a few years younger, and has what is at-best a questionable source of income. None of this is to say that he isn’t a great guy; he just is obviously not what Liz had dreamt of. She doesn’t let this set her back either, though. She marries Criss, in a courthouse rather than the wedding of her dreams, and adopts rather than having children herself. And yet, in spite of what may seem like setbacks, Liz is happy.
That’s what our modern American dream is all about. We aren’t going to have it as easy as we may have hoped. Life isn’t going to go how we wanted it to, and there’s nothing we can do about that. However, through taking agency of our lives and working to make the best of what we do have, we may just find that what we end up with is just as good, if not better, than what we had ever wanted.