Saturday, March 16, 2013

If you think the American Dream is dead, then it is for you.

I tried, I really tried, but, I'm so sick of this. I am so sick of everybody's, "Oh, woe is me, I'm not good enough," loser talk! I'm also sick of our society telling women and minorities that they're victims right out of the womb and them believing it! Where has it gotten us? Hate, jealousy, envy, lack of personal responsibility, misguided self-entitlement, laziness, arrogance; the defeat of the American Spirit. The entire American Female culture has a Napoleon Complex, for God sakes, and they don’t respect themselves enough to wake up and realize that this is the greatest time ever in history to be an American woman. It’s so bad that most of you probably don’t even know what I mean by that! So consumed, are we, about what we don't have, that we have to demonize the people who do, while most people in America are striving to be these very people who you seem to hate; the rich. Oh, the hypocrisy. You spout off ignorant, back-handed things like, "must be nice to have this or that, or do this or that," or “You didn’t build that," or “-you didn't get there on your own," or "-not everybody can be as fortunate as you." These are ignorant statements. You’ll find the answer many people will say to all this is, “Yeah-HUH, I did!” Before they list every reason as to why your attitude is wrong and petty and perpetuates you being a loser. Let me just get this out of the way right now, before I go any further - I didn't step on anyone to get where I am, I didn't take any shortcuts, I didn’t have it easy my whole life, I damn sure didn't inherit anything but debt, -Hell, I'm not even a white guy with a false upper hand, and the kind of work I do now, and the kind of work I've been doing for my entire working life has been hard and honest work. I'm proud of where I am and how I got here, and I'm not apologizing, and I also won’t be made to feel bad for doing well for myself. You have no idea what I've been through; what it took me to get me where I am now, and you have no idea what I do now to sustain and move forward toward MY American dream. Despite your misguided way of thinking, I'm not very fortunate, I'm just a very hard worker, willing to do, apparently, what others won't (-and I'm not talking about committing crimes, you dipshits). You know who is fortunate though? Able-bodied people who don't work at all, but still manage to get a check in the mail for 99 weeks, while screaming that I don't do enough. Look, I get it. Sometimes, unforeseen things happen that come and devastate your life, but, honestly, what’s important is how you react to it that defines you. Most of you will roll over and take it; maybe play the blame game, maybe run back home to mommy, or run to the system to take care of you. Very few of you will roll up your sleeves and start digging yourself out. There’s a way out of every box, folks. Sometimes that way out is a long and excruciatingly painful road, but if you’re not willing to do what it takes, you cannot then complain about where you’re stuck.

The game isn’t rigged. I am living proof that it's not. Everybody in America has equal access to success, but by no means is success guaranteed in America, just like anything else in life, it requires effort and hard work. I am where I am now, which, by other peoples' perception, is pretty well off, because I worked my ass off, made and lived with my own sacrifices, found or created my own opportunities, took and shouldered my own risks, took personal responsibility of my own shortcomings and failures and learned from them-I still work my ass off, working 14 to 16 hour days, 50+ hour weeks, getting less than 5 hours of sleep a night, doing a dangerous blue collar job that most people won't do, living in a place many people don't wanna live, and where many people I've worked with even refuse to live (No Arby's in Guam; understandable). These things have to be the ingredients of my relative success, because, on top of everything else, I'm not that smart. I never get upset or envious from seeing people who have more than me, and cry out, "Oh, why not me?!" Instead, I ask myself, "how do I get there?" So far, what would be considered, my success has been powered by the sweat of my brow, and it will take me further still; I'm here to tell you that yours can too.
In today's economy, I've managed to, not only make it but, thrive. There's no secret to how I do it. I am just willing to work. I’m willing to follow if I can’t lead. I'm willing to go anywhere and do anything, even if it's outside my skill set or expertise or comfort level. I'll even take a couple jobs with less pay, and a nap in between, if that's all ya got. Because, I believe that if you are unemployed, there is no job that is beneath you. -And unlike our president, I’m not arrogant enough to look down at these blue collar jobs or the people who do them; these jobs, these people - we need them and the work that they do; they actually deserve more respect than you think. I will never look down on anyone who is working, doing honest work and contributing to society, no matter what that job is... Except Baristas; that's not a real word. Plus, I don't have the option to shop around or wait around for a job that pays me what I make now; I've got a family to think about. Just to illustrate the lengths I’m willing to go, you know what my plan B is for if my job ever goes away? I'm gonna go back to Afghanistan to use my skill set to support the war effort until I can find another way. How many of you have that written down as your plan B? - And another thing, government assistance, in any of its forms, is just not an option for me; I don't rely on getting it - not unemployment, not welfare, not disability - none of it. It’s not what our tax dollars were meant for; I won't consider it and I don't want it. I hate having to depend on anybody. Any time you take money from someone else that you don’t have to pay back, you are beholden to them. You are no longer in control of the situation. I’m not gonna settle for the scraps of someone else’s paycheck; for the measly check that the government rations out to live on, which I did not earn (which is barely enough to make life a struggle, by the way), -I’m gonna go out and find a way to make my own money and more of it, so I can do what I want, when I want. Think about it, if you don’t want your parents to have a say in how you plan your wedding, don’t ask them to pay for your wedding; save and pay for it yourself. I live my life like there is no such thing as a safety net, and ya know what? Yeah, it forces me to think things through, maybe say no to some things, make better choices in life, and plan for my future, but, more importantly, it makes me work harder.
I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I was pretty much raised by a single mom. I had a dad who wasn't there for most of my impressionable life because he had a gambling problem and walked out on my family (-possibly because my mom is over-bearing, controlling, and neurotic, but whatev), which meant my family was always broke, and my parents, who have worked well past retirement age, having almost nothing to show for it, are up to their eyeballs in debt. I grew up in a moderate sized house, the youngest of four kids, in not the best part of town - South Modesto, California. When the pops gambled away the family savings and bolted, we lost the house and moved to a rental in the Airport District… Foo. I went to public schools. I wasn't even a good student who applied himself. I ended up at some small, relatively no-name college in North Carolina that I often questioned the validity of the education I was receiving there. I ran up $45,000 dollars worth of student loans that I'm still diligently paying on to this day. When school wasn't working out and I had near nothing, like a loser, I went running back to mommy. I'm actually very ashamed that I did that-I did that with a fiancĂ© in tow and no plan at all. It ended up being, indirectly, one of the best things that could have ever happened to me, but not because it helped me regroup and save money and collect myself; it was something else. My oldest sister, who has helped raised me be who I am today, reminded me of what it means to be a grownup, and was actually the catalyst to jumpstarting my life. She pulled me aside one day, and basically told me that I was a piece of shit, and that I'm a loser, I needed to get a job and that I needed to leave, stand up on my own and be my own person, because I'm an adult now, and our mom is too old to be supporting grown-ass kids. She has done all she can to raise me, and because of her kind heart, she'll never turn me away, but it is not her fault that my life isn't working out at the moment and also, that she is getting older and she should be the one depending on us kids right now. This reality check empowered me almost overnight.

When we got married and April got pregnant (-in that order), I was working three jobs, doing anything that came my way from construction work, servicing freight train railway carts, working logistics in a Grocery Outlet warehouse, telemarketing (what a soul-devouring and thankless job that is), working at Target,-even shoveling chicken shit in a silo. I had no health insurance, I was getting barely five hours of sleep a night - I never once blamed anybody but myself for my lot in life, or even thought that where I was, for a second, was gonna be anything more than temporary, nor did I expect anyone to save me. When April found out she was pregnant, I didn’t run, I didn’t abandon my responsibility, I enlisted in the military; something I never wanted to do, something I promised myself I would never do, but I needed a steady paycheck, I needed insurance, I needed money, and at this point, I couldn't care less what I did to support my family; I was 23. I ended up in a career field that I didn’t choose, and I couldn’t fathom how I was gonna get through the next six years doing a job I absolutely had no desire to do. But, at this point, it was a job that I saw was gonna get me on my feet, earn me some money so I could support my family, get me much needed benefits, and I was gonna do it to the best of my ability. Little did I know that I would earn each and every scrap of it. I actually grew and learned to… really like this job a lot. It has sharpened my work ethic, not by teaching me anything new or providing a nurturing environment, but by forcing hard work on me, like an EFFING SLAVE! It taught me the need to adapt and overcome by forcing me to find it within myself, on my own, to finish projects, impossible as they may seem, and to do a good job at it. Let me tell ya, in an environment, -in a culture, where there's no HR to run to, I got a pretty thick skin, I found that the world doesn’t revolve around me, I learned how to stand up to bullies, I learned the importance of finishing what you start, I found that I am capable of working with people I cannot stand and trust them with my reputation and my life, if necessary, and, most importantly, I learned to lighten the hell up. I suggest you try it some time; you may find that the world doesn’t end. In my career field, people will let you know if the work you put your name on sucks, CANDIDLY. But the job satisfaction I got when my name was associated with good work, straight from the tongue of these very same assholes, was unparalleled.

I can honestly say that my time in the Air Force was some of the best times and worst times I’ve ever had in my life so far. Actually, thinking back, the things I've endured and overcome in my career have brought me to my brink on more than one occasion and ultimately, I feel that I'm a stronger person because of it. But not without trials and tribulation; like a coward, at one point, I've even contemplated suicide. And let me tell ya, that is a difficult trial to overcome in which you are completely and utterly alone, because there is no support group for that. There is only yourself, because, when you truly wanna die, you tell no one. What got me through that was thinking about a lot of the important things over and over; my wife, my mom, but two things really stick out in my head for sure: my shithead kids and how I need to make sure they don't grow up to be a bunch of scumbags with my last name, and really, just one simple phrase someone told me once, -probably while I was getting yelled at, and to this day, when I feel there are times that I feel so overwhelmed and nothing is going right and I just want to quit and give up, I dig down deep and repeat it to myself: "YOU -(not anybody else)-YOU are fucking up right now. -I don't know what to tell ya- You HAVE TO succeed - you have to."

My very first assignment, after about a year of boot camp and tech school, was a one year, remote tour in the Republic of South Korea, away from my new bride and newborn son. In the first two years of our marriage, I had only seen my wife, collectively, six months. And the first time I really had the opportunity get to know my oldest son, he was ten months old, walking and talking. While I was in the military, I also went to school and got a Bachelor’s in Business Management. School was paid in full through the Montgomery G.I. Bill; there’s also enough left to pay for my Master’s too. There were many times, I would come home after working 12+ hours, do homework, barely get three hours of sleep, and head back to work just to do it all over again the next day; I did this for my last two years in the Air Force, even as they deployed me and sent me on different assignments while living out of a suit case for months and months on end. The point is I chose to sacrifice and work harder when others around me were choosing to sleep, or drink their free time away, or do other things less productive. Now I continue to move on to bigger and better while others I’ve left behind are still crying out, “oh, why not me?” I've also been to the desert - a lot - where I've had the surreal opportunity of being mortared and shot at; how fortunate I am. I guess I could be misguided in my rant. Maybe when people say that not everybody can be as fortunate as me, they're not really saying that they're not good enough to achieve what little success I have achieved, maybe they're reminding me of those who have died for our country, and didn’t make it home while I did. If that's the case, let me tell you right now, I'm not, by any means, in need of a reminder, I assure you that.

In the midst of this horrible economy, I decided to take a risk and not re-enlist into the Air Force. And I did, I got out only four weeks after my third son was born. People couldn’t understand why I was getting out, leaving the safe haven of the military with job security, with three kids, one being a newborn, and a crappy economy. My father-in-law, neighbors, my dad-whom I haven't spoken to in years-MY OWN MOTHER, a devout Jehovah’s Witness and as pacifistic as you can get –would call me up and pretty much plead with me to stay in! I didn’t hate the Air Force, in fact, up until the last few months of my enlistment, I had no desire to get out. But I felt I had gone as far as I was gonna go in the military without losing who I was at my very core. I gave up a job with job security, to make more money, progress my career, and try to make a bigger impact in a program that I truly believe in. One of the reasons I make more money is because this job can technically go away tomorrow without warning. It almost got cancelled once already since I’ve been here -but guess what? I’m always thinking contingency, contingency, contingency. I had another job lined up-pretty much handed to me (because I’m pretty good at what I do) with a bit more job security. The day before I was supposed to leave to start my new job, Congress directed the Air Force to find a way to fund us. Even with a more secure job waiting for me, I decided to stay in this program, which remains on the brink, because I feel that I could do more good staying where I am, than starting over in a new program. That's another risk I decided to take, that others won't and aren't. Many people, still, are leaving and many have already left. A lot of my brethren have left to take a major pay cut for a little more job security and I don't blame them or feel abandoned. You do what you feel you have to -especially if you've got a family to support. With me turning down that job, I know I probably burned a bridge or two, and I maybe have "condemned" myself to seeing this program to the end, and to be here to close the doors if I have to. But I'm not worried, I have several back up plans and I'm confident I can find work. I'll work outside my career field if I have to, I'll move to where the jobs are - I hear businesses in North Dakota can't hire people fast enough. I'll work the jobs you won't. 'Cause that's what winners do; they find a way.

-Oh, by the way, here’s a little advice for those of you who are sitting around on unemployment waiting for that great job that paid like your last job: you have to get a job - any job - to get THE job. Wha…? Well, that doesn't make any sense. -I know plenty of companies that won't even touch you, even if you're completely qualified, if you've been out of work for longer than six months. What?! That's a travesty! -These companies want to see that you're willing to work - that's the type of people they want. So get something - anything - get a job digging ditches, shoveling chicken shit in a silo, go service train carts, go pour cement - anything, work it like you love it, and then start applying for jobs in your career field. In the interview, when they ask you about what you're doing working at McDonald's with your qualifications and experience, you can tell them that you refuse to not work, that you refuse to live off the system, "but I'm here today, because I know I can do better; hire me and I'll show you."

People, you can make it in America; believe in yourself. Every reason you can come up with for why you can’t is just another excuse for yourself to not try harder. The American Dream isn't dead; people just aren't willing to put in the effort to do what it takes anymore. You may have to work harder than you've ever worked in your life and then work harder still and it's going to take a lot of sacrifice, and a lot of sleepless nights, and a lot soul-sucking, tedious work, but it's possible for you if you're willing to put in the effort. Nothing easy is worth having and nothing is sweeter than the success you alone have created and earned for yourself with your two hands.

In Guam, I’ve heard the stories of many Filipino immigrants who have escaped the corruption of Filipino dictatorship. Many of these people have applied for American citizenship, and waited, in many cases, decades for citizenship to be approved. While waiting for citizenship, they live in poverty and corruption in the Philippines, scrimping and saving, so that when their time does finally come, they’ll be able to leave and not look back. When these Filipinos finally got to America – the RIGHT WAY – they used the money they’ve been saving for decades to buy cheap jungle land they clear out themselves. They learned as much English as they could as fast as they could. They got menial jobs, anything that would hire them, and started building their house, paycheck by paycheck, all the while living in tents for years. They would save to buy a generator, so they can have electricity, they use rain catches as a source of water, they hunted wild boar, deer, and raised chickens – this is in the mid to late 20th century, folks. Once they’ve built a house(s), they would apply for the city to bring utilities on to their land. While struggling, they would still send money and food home to their families in the Philippines, and petition other family members in the Philippines for American citizenship. They saved and sacrificed to put their children into private schools, in hopes of a better future for their children. Many of these Filipinos ended up creating some of the most successful and wealthiest families in Guam. This, to me, is one of the greatest examples of the American dream.

And before you roll your eyes, and start in with your, "I'm not good enough," victim talk , about how much harder your life is, or how much more bleak your situation is, or how others are not having the opportunities that "more fortunate" people have, or how you're being held back because of your race, or you're being held back because you're a woman, or how you are different from me,- as you try to find fault in my story while missing the entire point, let me remind you of the self-made man that is Colin Powell, who grew up in the Bronx in a time when it wasn't as easy to be living as a minority in America; a product of the inner city public school system and a self-admitted "C" student. Colin Powell retired as a Four-Star General-that rank ain't easy to make, kids, not even for white folks- and he held office! Colin Powell was the first black Secretary of State. One in a million chance, you say? Affirmative Action, you scream? Okay, well, what about Oprah? Oprah Winfrey came from nothin', grew up in poverty in the South and the Midwest, overcame the psychological terrors of being raped at the age of nine, but is now one of the most successful and wealthiest people in America, and is pretty much worshipped by women around the world. Oprah is also black... and a woman. What say you now?


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