Dear American Dream

old glory waving reflective a twilight sky

By

Dear American Dream,

We’re sorry it’s taken us this long to sit down like adults and say the things that should have been said a long time ago. But hey, it’s the New Year, let’s start off fresh. Sigh…it’s strange to see you again after all these years. It’s been a long time. You’ve said things, we’ve said things.

When we cut you out in 2001, we thought you were irreparable. Your senility was too much for us, we thought we could do it better without you. We didn’t think you could change and gave up on you. What we didn’t know then, was that we are collectively you. You’ve changed for the better, and you provide things that we can’t on our own. We can be better together, but we gotta get some things straight.

We didn’t know how to feel when we first saw each other once again eight months ago, nearly 13 years later. Do we say something first? Do you say something first?

You busted our balls back in the old days, making us work harder than we knew we were capable of.

two silver foxes embrace one another along the Pacific Ocean
The author, Jenn White, and her husband Greg.

You gave us mortgages, big paychecks, and you cost us all our time and energy. We hated you for that, but you did make us stronger. We know that it was more for you than it was for us, but we took a whole lot from you too. We wouldn’t have been able to fully appreciate the lessons you taught us unless we stepped out on our own. Years later, we succeeded because of who you made us. We never really thanked you face to face for that. So, thank you.

We’re sorry our breakup was very public and messy and for that we want you to know that it wasn’t our intention to hurt you. But understand, we got to a point where we couldn’t even talk to each other anymore. We tried to tell you how we were feeling, but you were closed off and focused only on your needs. We grew apart. Seeing each other in the hallways became awkward and soon we just had nothing in common anymore. You wanted more time at the office and we wanted more time with the family. It was sad to see something that we both spent years on dissolve right in front of us. It was clear we were drifting apart at the Christmas party in 1995.

We have to admit, it wasn’t always easy to see you out there on the town living it up with what we helped build, but we managed to make something for ourselves without you. You seemed to be fine and moved on with new people in your life while we went on to raise kids. We traded fancy dinners for RV parks and playtime. You made millions while we settled for enough. You stayed out late and we stayed up to read books to the kids. We want to be honest with how we’ve made each other feel, we owe our relationship that much. With the amount of history we have, we really need to try and get along.

twenty-something Jenn and Greg dressed up for a Christmas party
Remember when you wouldn't let us bring the kids and Michael showed up with his?

This isn’t about who did what to whom. The both of us went on to do our own things and it made us better because we did. We learned to be independent without you, you learned a little more about letting go – work from home, flexible hours, half time jobs, contracts… hell, you’ve learned to legalize, you’ve come a long way towards equality, your leader has some…how you call it…diversity! Let’s not relax, there’s still a lot we need to work on together.

We really do want us to learn to be friends with one another the way we used to be. So many years we have been going against each other trying to prove our points, when we really needed to be listening to what the other has to say. This can be the start to a new resolution, one that is built on trust and honesty instead of the things that tore us apart in the first place. You know that we’re not gonna stand for that any longer and it’s clear that you have changed yourself. We’ve heard through old friends that you’ve had to change in order to keep up with the times and we’re proud of you for letting go. You’ve embraced the technology to give the working people some freedom back. It looks so different since your old days, it was like you didn’t know how to give us freedom or space back then. We have it made these days with all this availability to work from anywhere and the technology to back it up. It’s good to see you getting back to that pioneering spirit of yours and being a part of what made this country great.

Now, we meet all these years later. Both of us different people than we used to be. This year we have completed the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do, let go of our kids. We became empty-nesters this year and it’s been more complicated than we ever thought possible, surely you’ve read our condensed story on Wand’rly. Raising kids became our identity replacing you as our love. When the kids left, we became confused and more unidentifiable than ever before. With no idea who we were and what we wanted with this freedom, you gave us the chance to revisit you, old friend.

Last year, you accepted our invitation to pick up right where we left off back in 2001. We were stunned how easy you made it going from no credit and no discernible career right back into both like we never keyed your car and sliced your tires. With the approach of the New Year, we both have to put down our guns and come to some resolutions on how we’re gonna work together. Your game has changed and so have we.

It’s just the two of us with experience now, but you should know that you have three adult children that never knew you. Everything has changed for us. Thirteen years ago we walked away from being your American Dream bad-asses in a world you helped us create. Both of us working in a job when technically Greg was the only one on the payroll, you used us both because we had some sort of ‘it’ factor people loved. You rewarded us with a dream job scenario since we had what it took… our legendary relationships, ability to navigate PR, straight up sales skills, always closing deals like crazy, problem solving, genius marketing, friendly attitudes, and the charming presence of us working as a team. We dominated your powerful business dinners at our house instead of fancy restaurants (your executives ate this up and loved playing on the floor with our kids); business traveled together on your dime for the whole family; you relocated us to Washington where our kids ruled the halls at the Microsoft Campus; you had Silicon Valley hosting our family with VIP treatment while working together. You had no choice but to give us that six figure salary, bonuses, benefits, and all that stock because we were making you a lot of money. We gave you back mortgages, taxes, mass consumerism, short vacations, and all that you desire – pretty much a break even deal for us.

Your high up, fancy corporate people responded to us as a team more often than your typical solo guy in a lame suit and tie, making you fall deeper in love with us. We were closer than ever before. So, you had no choice but to allow us to leverage this and make it work for our family the way we wanted.

It was a game we could have kept playing, but you know family was everything to us and we didn’t want to work at both lives. Only one. Kids won.

This time, we’re resolved to be the dysfunctional player in our American Dream. Lucky for us, the playing fields have leveled in the tech world since we were last here and it’s like we have some weird home field advantage having already lived this life before. Too young for retirement and burned out on the work we’ve been doing for the last decade, we saw a fast track with your offer to combine the work and income we once ruled with the possibilities of the lifestyle we are used to. To be completely honest, if we’re going to move forward we need to be honest from the start – we’re looking to turn your work into a much more profitable business in less time than the work we’ve been doing the last thirteen years. With all the changes you’ve made, we’ll likely still be complimenting each others work. Bottom line, we’re going to take back our career with the freedom technology has created and work on our relationship with you, without losing the cool factor of our BareNakedFamily.

This is different now, we’re different now. No longer in our twenties, we’re now the cool, older, classy couple walking into the bar and never taking our sunglasses off. We pull out a cue stick, swig a drink of whiskey, look over at a table full of players and ask ‘you boys wanna play a game?’. They try and show off what they know, we remain cool… distinguished and never break form. On our turn, we pull the shots they’ve never seen before. One right after another, nailing them in every pocket till there’s nothing left but some young looking dudes with their mouths hanging open. We win the game, slam down our empty whiskey, grab the money, and politely head out the door. The young men fall over themselves trying to catch up with us as we head out mysteriously. “Who are you man??? Where did you learn to play like that?!?” they ask. Turning around with a smile we say “Kid, you either get your balls busted or bust the balls yourself. An old friend, the American Dream, taught us that a long time ago.” Then we walk out on our own and get in our red ’78 Trans Am. We still have our flair.

Since you’ve accepted us back, we’re not surprised how easy being back in your world is. But know we are moving through it cautiously, careful not to get caught in all the excess that you sometimes go overboard with. As you know, we walked into a financial institution after staying off the credit radar for years paying only cash for cars and the stuff we bought, and walked out with a loan for a new car like it was nothing. We thought with our lack of credit history this would be harder to do, but apparently you’ve made it easy to walk in and virtually rob a bank. We were not naive to your ways, but decided we’d make them work for us for a change. Sure, we could have bought a car with cash to replace the trusty 1995 Volkswagen van that was about to crap out, but reaching the end of parenthood we decided to reward ourselves with our first new car in twenty three years. A nice, newer Volkswagen Jetta diesel wagon that gets insane gas mileage and fits our lifestyle of randomly hitting the road and traveling thousands of miles on a whim.

Leaving our comfortable lifestyle with you years ago meant years of driving older stuff while our focus was on family. It had to be. But, the kids were about to ditch us and you know how much we love cars more than a typical couple. Remember, we’re the ones who first met in the hot rod repair shop Greg used to manage and eventually spent our first night together in that same shop (not the same night, thank you very much). So yeah, we decided to use your game going into some calculated debt for something we finally don’t have to wrench on ourselves, giving us a taste of the luxury we had been missing out on.

That car has been one of the greatest purchases we have ever made, thanks for your help on making it happen. Every time we’re in it, we are beyond happy to have it, even if it means having our first payment in twenty three years. We sleep in it, pull our trailer with it, and drive it all over the country.

Cars have been tools for us and not so much luxury items, though this one is packed with features, we prefer to have stuff that we can put to use. This is the first time we get to look so classy doing it. Your good ol’ American buying power helped us exit parenthood and the messy cars we drove while raising kids and allowed us to come into our own sexy beings with double sunroofs, a bitching stereo, and heated seats. Yeah, we’ll pay a little extra for that. The greatest thing about this car, is that not once have we had to crawl up under it ourselves to fix a thing. And that’s a little slice of grownup life we like. With your help and income we once made, we’re taking our lessons learned from a simple life and making resolutions to getting back to a debt free life. You made it easy for us to buy and you are going to make it easy for us to pay off.

Thanks for the offer on a mortgage too, but we aren’t looking for that kind of relationship yet. We think it’s better if we stay in our little month to month non-commitment lease in our cabin and use that money to pay off the little trailer we bought to pull behind our car. We think it’s important that we have our own space and take it slow. We want you to be a part of our life and you have the opportunity to be in it, but just not in that way. When we are ready to move in together, you’ll know. For now, you’re going to have to settle for being a paycheck lover.

Your paycheck is very special to us, never underestimate that. With those paychecks you will be helping build something for us that we are glad you can be a part of. Did we tell you that your help on securing this trailer acted as our temporary getaway from the intensity of parenthood and escaping the crazies back home, known as our kids? Turns out adult children make lousy roommates. The end of parenthood is like navigating a river meeting an ocean. Holy crap, We’re not sure which is harder – separating from our kids or the months leading up to it. Thank you for giving us this tool. We now have a trailer that will act as our home and office when we need it to. Freedom.

a Volkswagen car pulling a T@DA trailer
Living small and simple on the road, at will.

We’re flattered that you remembered the kids and made it possible for us to rack a good amount of college debt to get them into school. We are so proud of them. You know they went, got 4.0 gpa’s, and made the dean’s list, proof they didn’t turn out to be home-school freaks with lack of socialization skills some of your friends said they would be. That was money worth spending!!! The kids understand why we had to split up, making us want to have a better relationship for the their sake. You have always been a part of their lives and we expect you to help pay off their college debt with your return into our lives. This is a way for you to show them you really do care about them and start building your own relationship with them. They’ve never asked you for anything all these years and with us working together, you will provide enough for this family to pay that back. We know it’s been a long time since you’ve seen them, but they are wonderful kids. They are making their way in your world creating their own ideas of schooling, careers, and housing. But, don’t expect them to be like you. We hope you can give them the time and space to figure out who they are and what they want just like you did for us.

They are all out in the world and taking a break from school, but they’re talking about going back because they saw the value in it and what it can do for them. Please understand that they are different.

three teenagers in graduation caps and gowns
The White kids, homeschool high school graduates.

They haven’t been raised to be the kind of people you are used to, they have been raised to be free thinkers. We think they will remind you of your younger self. They certainly get a lot of who they are from you in those days. We have encouraged them to take some time off and have fun where they are now and know they will get far more out of school when they are older and ready to learn. We have different views on this we know, but you are going to have to trust us. They have always been allowed to learn when they want and put it away when they aren’t interested as part of our Freelance Education lifestyle, allowing them to remain in control of their education. It’s important that if you are going to have any kind of life with them, that you learn to speak their language. We have been honest with them about you, so we think they will understand you better than you think. Thank you for all the grants, awards, and financial aid you make available, because of that it will make it easier for them to resume college when they are ready. They have not only used some of this money, but plan on continuing their education through your generosity. Remember, they are their own individuals and you aren’t here to change them, but learn from them and start over with a new generation.

Jenn and Greg dressed up like wild west outlaws against a backdrop resembling the mountains of Utah
Guns blazing.

A long time ago you used to shower us with what we fondly remember as ‘disposable’ income. We have raised your American Dream family on our own and we were exceptional at doing so. Over the last twenty three years, we have put the needs of raising a family before ours and are at a place to be thinking again for the two of us. You will not only be part of how we do that, but you will do it the way we want to play. We have spent half our life doing what you wanted and worked hard to break free from you when you couldn’t be who we fell in love with in the first place. We aren’t the only ones with the opportunity to pick up where we left off, you can too. This time we can do it together and be an inspiration to many on how both worlds can effectively and happily work, learn, and play together.

That remains our motto as a family and we are pulling a wild card letting you back into a home you helped build. We have built some communication and know where our boundaries are now. If we can continue to respect those, then we can build the friendship that we think we’ve both missed. It’s good to see you again old friend. We’re cool.

Please don’t fuck it up.

Sincerely,

Greg and Jenn end of article