I’m a child of the sixties, with a lower middle class Republican Irish-Catholic upbringing.
Like many of those in my generation, I went to college and I inhaled. I experimented. I was anti-war (Vietnam era), and anti-establishment. My father and I fought over politics every summer when I came home from the university. The American Flag became the symbol of “their” oppression and of their unwillingness to change.
After college I became a yoga teacher and traveled around the country bird watching. I was focused on the experience of the moment, living in various Central American countries and “being here now.”
I finally settled on the Northern coast of California and eventually got married. And then I became a mom.
That was when my American Dream programming kicked in. I didn’t see it coming, but there it was. I had two children. I volunteered at their schools, and went to all the sports events. I believed in home cooking (albeit organic and not from a can like my own upbringing). My politics were still the same, but I knew I wanted the best for my kids. And I wanted to own a home.
But that part of the dream kept eluding me. Divorce left me with two great kids and no money. I still had never owned a home, and try as I might I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was somehow a second class citizen.
So I got my doctorate. What’s the thinking there? Who knows? But I had to do something radical not only to change my life but to feel better about it. I couldn’t get a loan for a down payment for a house, but Sallie Mae was eager to lend to me for my higher education.
I inexplicably still felt like a second-class citizen. Even working on my doctorate didn’t erase the angst that accompanied the need to own a home. I cannot explain this. It is irrational, but was very present in my life.
In my mid-fifties I finally had a co-borrower and could consider buying. The broker told us all we had to put down was $1,000, and that we could refinance in two years. I was hooked. We were frugal, and bought a home for less than we could have.
Even when, at the last minute, the broker took the co-borrower off of the loan, I didn’t skip hardly a beat. I trusted these professionals. How was I to know they would manipulate numbers and inflate my income to justify this loan? How was I to know that the market would tank, my co-borrower’s ability to pay on the mortgage would evaporate, and that I would be thrown down the tunnel called Loan Modification Hell for years? All I could see and feel was a Dream fulfilled.
For the first two years in this house I did live my Dream. I painted and played with the yard. I loved this house and made it my home. I was not a second class citizen. I was a homeowner. I was thrilled.
But that was then and this is now. After years of fighting with the bank during the Great Recession, I have since saved my home – for now. But it was not without a huge non-financial price.
I am forever changed. The American Dream was revealed as a fantasy. Somewhere along the way my country shifted, and I know it is the wealthy few who make the rules. The possibility of a rags-to-riches story, or even that if you work hard you can have the Dream, has been revealed to be a lie.
As a Main Street American I need a new dream. Perhaps it is just that we can all have governance over our own lives. Perhaps it is going back to the idea that we are all equal. It may just be that simple, but getting there, now that I know the power is in the hands of the wealthy to an extent that I could never have imagined, is and will continue to be a stupendous struggle.
I could stop and put my head in the sand and be thankful that my home is currently in the “saved” category. But then what will I tell my children, and my children’s children, if I don’t continue fighting? Will they get the chance to dream of something better? I wonder.
If you want to read more about my trip out of the fantasy and into reality, please check out my first book,”Your Hardship is Not a Permanent Situation,” available at http://tinyurl.com/3ckbvh8.
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