“Finally — I felt I was living the American Dream. But I had to leave America to find it.”

4 keys to leaving the dead-end job & endless bill cycles.

Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

I’m 26-years-old. A writer by occupation. I don’t make a lot of money — if I’m being honest — not even enough to scrape by.

I live in a 2 bedroom house with my roommate in the suburbs of Kansas City.

I’m frugal by nature and am very cautious with my budget. I have to be. I make sacrifices daily, but I don’t consider them sacrifices. I consider my spending habits to be inevitable. The obvious habits. After all, my frugality is the only way to get along on an income like mine.

My discretionary spending is practically non-existent in the eyes of ordinary consumers. It’s not a lot of fun. I find excitement in the little things life offers. Such as finding good deals, discovering ‘life hacks’, and new ways I can live more alternatively.

I know if I follow the route of the average American, I could ‘upgrade’ my lifestyle. By switching to a different industry I’m qualified for, I could afford small luxuries.

I could get a new phone and put to rest my iPhone 6 that has been to Hell and back the past five years.

I could probably afford a new(ish) car. I’ll admit, my 1998 Nissan Altima has seen better days.

Most importantly, I could move into my own place. Likely, a studio or a 2-bedroom apartment would fall into my new budget.

Beyond that, other subscriptions wouldn’t be such a burden. Things like Amazon Prime, Netflix (and Hulu), and maybe even a gym membership. More inclusive health insurance would be nice, too.

The most exciting life change would be scouring Zillow on a nightly basis. Like I do now. Except, with the distinct possibility a home might actually fall within my budget.

The American Dream has been canceled.

I haven’t committed to a career change, yet, though. There are a few reasons for that:

1. I like my job.

2. I like my humble lifestyle.

3. I wouldn’t be any more comfortable.

Financially-speaking, I would wind up in the same place I’m at now. Sure, the upgrades would feel pretty cool for a few years. I could imagine driving around in a sexier Nissan Altima (I’ve had my eyes on the 2016 model for a while). With a sleek phone and all the gadgets promising to make life easier.

But, after a while, I’d be back in the same place. Scraping by, with outdated luxuries, and a job I’m not sure I’ll like as much as the one I have now.

Perhaps you feel this way too.

Like you’re working without progress. Like you’re on a racetrack to nowhere. Constantly upgrading, but never really upgrading.

You’re probably suffering from a dilemma called lifestyle creep. It happens to everyone; especially in America.

When we make more money, we start to bend our budget. We feel freer. Our discretionary purchases see an uptick and, because of it, we make no headway in actual freedom.

Lifestyle creep is the reality of the American Dream. Make more, spend more.

It’s a hamster wheel.

You can keep running, keep chasing. But you’ll never get closer to the elusive (perceived) American Dream.

Our ecosystem isn’t set up for that. It’s not set up to achieve contentedness. You’ll be forever on the pursuit if you don’t take time to realize it.

4 keys to leave the dead-end job & endless bill cycles.

The American dream of today is a sham. A dream unrehearsed. A hamster wheel that keeps spinning. Here are 4 keys to getting out of that chase

You have to be conscious.

I digress. I have to come clean. This life I’ve explained to you — of scraping by in America — it’s not my life. It used to be, or it could’ve been.

I graduated from university in 2016 and, soon after, I realized the hamster wheel revolution. Friends who had graduated a few years prior had already hopped onto the wheel.

We compare ourselves to others so frequently, whether we like to admit it or not. I was comparing myself to them and I hadn’t even laid a finger on my diploma yet. I barely started the post-graduate job search before I began to feel sick of the choices I had to make. Sick of the reality. Sick of me.

There had to be another way.

We often miss opportunities — our escape — just because we are not looking. We go through the motions with blinders on.

All this — the life I’ve detailed above — would’ve been mine. It already started unraveling before my eyes. It’s so easy to see how it would’ve played out.

But I promised I wouldn’t fall into the trap.

You have to believe you can make your own reality.

I didn’t accept what fate had in store. I’m usually a big proponent of fate. But not in this case. Not in the case of a sad reality.

Instead of living like I had nothing to lose, I was making blind decisions like I had nothing to gain. Like the reality in front of me was all that there was left.

You must understand that you can change your reality. I did.

Without a lot of foresight, I moved abroad.

There was something I saw, something that made me believe I had an opportunity to start over. Like anything was possible.

There were risks, undoubtedly. But in this vision of a new reality, the risks didn’t outweigh the reward. I was willing to try. I had to. Not only for me but for my future family.

There had to be something better out there.

Just like past immigrants to America, I saw something in life abroad that I couldn’t find at home. To me, the American Dream was dead. But it didn’t mean the sentiment of a new beginning was.

You have to be open-minded.

To forge a new life requires patience. Things won’t always happen as you wish. You have to be open-minded.

In my case, there are so many factors that go into a move abroad. So many choices. The freedom is liberating. You can start over on your terms. You can forge a new life. One you weren’t born into.

But things will be different.

You’ll have to get used to new norms. New ways of life.

One memory of my early days in Europe, I remember being frustrated as hell. I was on the phone with customer support over my Internet bill. They wouldn’t budge where I believe they had made an error.

In the US, I’ve worked my way out of many disputes with service providers. Most of the time, it’s as simple as stating your claim. The customer is always right, after all.

But not in all places around the world. You have to be willing to accept the way things work wherever you go.

Another prime example: At my new European job, I was always the first to arrive at the office. In the first month, I’d arrive ten minutes early. The doors would be locked. No one had arrived yet, not even the manager. So, the next weeks, I showed up at 9 o’clock. Right on time. Still, the doors were locked.

I would go grab a coffee and by the time I returned, the doors would be open. Nobody ever said anything about showing up late.

Over time, I wound up arriving later and later. Even up to half-an-hour late. Nobody in the office even bats an eye. This was, obviously, a convenient cultural difference. But cultural differences also played in inconvenient ways.

Such as times I’d arrive at the market and nobody would be there to take my money. I’d usually find them next door chatting with the neighbor. Or waking from what appeared to be an afternoon siesta in the back room.

My point is, it requires patience to forge a new reality. Things will be different. Start with an open mind.

You have to make sacrifices.

There will be a level of sacrifice to make in whatever reality you end up in. Even your current reality requires sacrifice — it just doesn’t seem like it. Because that’s the norm you’ve become accustomed to.

This goes hand-in-hand with my previous point. Be open, willing, and able to change your ways. After all, you’ve arrived at this place in life because you were unsatisfied before.

You don’t want to live exactly as you did. Change is good. Especially when starting over.

The American Dream is dead

The rat race is over. At least, for me it is. In my new life, there are too many other things to keep me preoccupied. I can’t even give a damn about the Jones’s.

I still don’t make a lot of money, but the lower cost of living has afforded me some oxygen to breathe. I enjoy life more and everything is simpler here.

I know, it sounds cliché. But in this case, the cliché is true.

When you take away distractions and force yourself into a different environment, things change. Life changes.

I’m not saying this life comes without stress, but it’s stress I can control. I feel in control. That’s the point.

Perhaps it’s not the same as the American Dream. But, whatever it is, it seems closer to a dream than my reality in America anyway.

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** This article was originally published at www.adamcheshier.com **

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