Making it in America

June 9, 2014


It’s been difficult for me to write blogs these days. Although I know that people would benefit from hearing my perspective, as a traveler looking to become less nomadic in the US, I find it hard to gain inspiration from my surroundings, and the flashes of insight I receive are just those. Flashes. Hard to remember. Difficult to document.

Since I’ve returned, I’ve found it hard to cope with the fact I’m not what society wants me to be. Advertising, standards on TV shows, success stories, and even just walking down the street are examples of everything I’m not. So, without sounding too depressed, here are the ways society is screaming at me, telling me I’m a failure and I’ll never amount to anything:

– I don’t own a car. By choice, not by financial limitations. To some women, this implies I’m unstable and undateable.
– I don’t have six-pack abs. Apparently, I’m not a man.
– I don’t have a girlfriend, nor am I married. There must be something wrong with me, something about me that disgusts women.
– I don’t live in a mansion overlooking rocky shores. I’m limited to sharing housing around San Francisco. This makes me a failure as an independent adult.
– I don’t have a job that I’m passionate about, nor does it pay enough for me to live well, just live. This makes me less attractive to women, and less valuable in a society.

I say all this not because I necessarily believe any of it to be true, but to echo some of the preconceptions I face when trying to settle in the US. I have means beyond many of those I meet here in the Bay, but when it comes down to it, every form of advertising, every successful person I notice, and everything drilled into my head from a young age is telling me I failed: I traveled when I should have put money into a mortgage; I worked freelance instead of staying in a soul-sucking job hoping for an eventual promotion.

This is mainly what it comes down to: I don’t know how most people survive in this country, especially in this area. I work forty hours a week for a half-decent rate and I’m only just paying my bills, living in a temporary housing situation, and eating well. And I’m single. How can someone earning less even consider buying a house, raising a family, being the breadwinner?

The most important impression I left off the list above was this: I work in the customer service industry. Even though things are slowly changing, Americans at large do not value, least of all give the slightest hint of respect to those whose job it is to serve them. Part of me feels incredibly immature for wanting to quit this job and find an alternative. After all, the whole point of settling in the Bay was to try and stay in one place with one job for months, not just weeks. I realize the negative aspects of my current position are the ones with which I have issues, because I can’t cope with how society views me.

I’m still able to work, get a little spending money, and live in Calfornia. But I want more, and I want to be able to do it in a position that doesn’t make me feel like crap at the end of each and every shift, having faced the entitlement of rich and poor Americans and spewing sales pitches like a robot.

Let’s say I flew into a random American city after a few years abroad. Maybe I have some savings, maybe I don’t. I need enough money for an apartment. That means thousands of dollars. I need a cell phone. Another couple hundred, and a commitment to stay. I need a job without which I couldn’t stay. Maybe I now need to move elsewhere, or commute two hours a day. And that’s assuming I even enjoy the work. Coming back stateside is analogous to starting a career after graduating high school or university: before anything can be set in stone, applications and resumes have to be sent out, housing must be secured. One might stay with his parents for a short stretch. Either way, unless you’re a millionaire, debt is inevitable.

That’s what I take issue with the most: to have any kind of comfortable life (though we may disagree on the definition) in this country, you have to spend more than you earn. No one can eat well, exercise, have money for leisure – including travel – own a car, and live by himself on middle class wages. And that’s incredibly depressing, that someone working hard would be forced to rent a room, walk or use public transport, save money to eat out, and be restricted from most forms of entertainment. I’m shorting myself on apartments and transportation and funneling most of my earnings into leisure, food, and exercise, and it’s taking its toll. I want more, but I’ll never be able to get more if I stay where I am. No one could on his own.

One Response to Making it in America

  1. J on July 1, 2014 at 7:31 am

    Boone, NC is a great city to live and work in the USA. It is beautiful small mountain city, but with a university that brings diversity and different attitudes than most small towns in America. I think you could find making it here a nice diversion with great people and beautiful views! Maybe it’s just me, but I have recently moved to the area and I find it is true about the American South….they are more polite and respectful. Perhaps your service jobs here would be better. 🙂

    All the best!

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