“Having It All”

What does “having it all” mean to you? Is it attainable?

Well, now, that’s a loaded question if I’ve ever seen one. Having it all is one of those entirely subjective phrases. It all depends on what you think “it” is. If “it” consists of buying two cakes so that you can, quite literally, have a cake and eat one, then that is quite attainable. If “it” means building a colony on Mars to raise space dragons and build a robot army, then probably not.

Generally, I suppose the phrase “having it all” refers to something akin to the American dream, which sadly, is becoming more the makings of lore than of reality. A few generations ago, it meant working hard to achieve a goal so that your children could have a better life than your own. Generations used to tidy up after themselves and not leave a mess for the ones that follow. And then the Baby Boomers came along to steal all of my Social Security and put my generation deep in debt. “Screw the next generations; I’ve got mine.” I admit that I hold a pretty unfair grudge against the Baby Boomers, but I am of Generation X, the angry generation, so you’ll have to excuse me. I can’t help it.

So, what does that phrase mean anyway? Like I said, it’s very subjective. From my perspective, it would mean having a job that pays me a livable wage so that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to afford to buy a house, have health insurance, not live paycheck to paycheck and sock some money away for a rainy day, and even, gasp, save for retirement.  I’m not sure that would be all, but it would certainly be a lot. It would be tenfold more than I have now.

Is it attainable? I’m really not sure anymore. I suppose it is for some. It is certainly possible if you’re willing to crawl on the backs of the less fortunate to get yours. But is the American dream attainable in the work-hard-to-achieve-your-goal way of my grandparents? I just don’t know. I’ve been working hard since I was fifteen years old and I still have nothing to show for it. I have no savings, no health insurance, no formal education, no retirement and no land. If I were to die right now, I would leave more debt than money and not much of value. That is not the dream my grandparents had for me. I am not better off than they were. At my age, my Finnish immigrant farmer grandparents who barely spoke English when they came and had little formal eduction, owned a house, were saving for retirement and could afford to have two children. I can’t even afford two dogs.

I’ve very, very tired of it. I am tired of just treading water. I want land to set my feet on, to grow roots. I keep hoping the day will come when I can sit back and take a deep breath. I always thought, if I was still alive at this age, I’d be much better off than I am. If I had known then that I’d be where I am today, I might not have had the courage to even get here.

So, phrases like “having it all” and “the American dream” don’t mean much to me. I think they only apply to those who aren’t treading water. In order to dream about a better life, you need the luxury of standing on solid ground. I find that very sad. I want a dream.