American Nightmare

“Probably due to losing my house, I have this deep ache to do something with land. It’s funny that you mention a commune. I don’t like I have the gumption to actually live that idealistically, but I miss my garden. I miss quiet mornings with tea, watching my grass seeds grow and my basil wave at me. I love my job, and I love my city. Something about the archetype of homesteading is just in my bones, though, not even to say that I “own” something. Perhaps even the opposite. Even when I owned my property, modest though it was, it felt like it was something that I had to work with. There was compromise on time and effort. Those are where my thoughts are: greenery and a patient relationship with my environment.”

That was a recent text that I sent to one of my friends, whom will we call Dali. Dali had the misfortune of being told that her roommates will be moving out from under her and will not being paying that month’s rent… they also got her a sweater with cats on it. Needless to say, she is a little twisted up about the whole ordeal, and I sympathize with the flavor of her woes.

Things are fucked. Though I am one of the youngest in my group of friends, I had at one time achieved the American Dream. I owned a house. I had a spouse. I had land. I even had a dog named Kimchi, who received his name from his noxious brand of flatulence.

Then I didn’t.

Home ownership was a proud moment, because I felt like I had staked my claim on the earth. I believed that the illusion of stability was more than some transient ideal that was just as easily dissolve as sugar in black coffee. The American Dream had become my nightmare. It is, as far as I can tell, the packaging to contain the materials of our mundane lives and dress them up in as many layers of gaudy foil and red tape as possible. From the outside it is very impressive. It’s shiny and nicely cuboid, fitting snugly next to another’s shiny cube of goods.

That seems to be the sentiment of my generation. We are movers and shakers. Though some of us are self made millionaires, money just doesn’t have that allure for me and many others my age. We want experience. We want story. Yes, more money would certainly make my life easier, but the effort and moral sacrifices that acquiring large amounts of wealth often entails just isn’t worth it in my mind.

I’m moving to a new apartment this Saturday, and I think it a little funny how my priorities have worked out. Before I had purchased any essentials, I bought a tapestry and a few other decorations. Environment and mood are so important to me, not things. The things are just a means to an end; that end being a physical expression of who I am. In a way, my home is my brain, and I want that space to be something I can engage with as easily as I could relax in.

Things aren’t that straight forward though. Ghosts like me get wrapped up in taxes, contracts, and social functions so intimately that we forget that our space matters. The American Nightmare has taught us to measure our lives quantitatively, not qualitatively. No, I’m not looking for Marie Condo to pat me on the back, but I’m hard pressed to find more joy then in the smell of bread or the sound of rain. Opening up a window to listen to distant dog barks and the hollow ticks of a wind chime seem so much more valuable than the latest apple watch.

It seems the more things I acquire, the more I realize their inherent banality.

It’s sappy. Whatever, and I totally know that I am losing the thread on this post. I guess this is just one of those “more of a question instead of an answer” posts. Recently, I’m just feeling displaced. I may not be one for needing much, but I want to build something, to watch things grow, to put my fingers on stone and wood. There is a bit of magic in those things that can’t be so easily synthesized, and right now, I feel farther than ever from that mysterium.

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