Dear American Dream,
This letter serves as a notice of my resignation.
I have strived to seek your promise and all the joy that it was supposed to bring and I have to say that it has drastically fallen short. So, I quit.
From the time I was young around the dinner table, I can clearly remember being taught that in order to be successful, I would have to do a few things. As long as I got good grades, graduated High School and saught good employment at some local establishment, I’d be well on my way to success.
Well, I got bad grades (strike one). I then applied to trade school while in High School and my grades excelled. I then was able to become an electrician and worked hard as an apprentice (with the occasional ass reamings from my superiors) and worked my way up to my third year in the program. Due to lay offs, I then had to seek other work in the modular building world.
This turned out to be good because I was able to learn a wide variety of skills and increase my capabilities. As time went on, I became an over the road service professional and improved my diplomacy and on the spot problem solving. My inner Macgyver came into being.
While doing all this work from the time I was 18, I was continuing to persue the American Dream. I had seen the way my own father worked and spent his money and I followed suit. Little did I realize I was competing in a game that I shouldn’t have.
I was buying the nice cars and the boats and other things that would make him see that I was not a failure (as he previously declared i would be after moving out with my girlfriend at 18, he wasn’t happy). I may have had some daddy issues. Note to parents out there: Be careful what you say to your kids, they take things differently that you may think.
My first big step into the big American Dream was when I bought my first house at age 21. It was a small 1000 sq. ft home with no basement, but it was better than an apartment and a good start. I would finally be free of paying rent to a landlord. Instead I’d be paying a bank, but hey, I’m a home owner (insert proud thumbs up).
Following the pattern of behavior instilled from my youth, I continued to buy nice things. I spent money on my new (to me) home. I was offered all sorts of incentives from credit cards to refinancing. I eventually opened up a home equity line of credit.
This was a useful tool. I could buy whatever I wanted without having to beg from a loan officer. Too bad the first thing I bought was a motorcycle. That thing scared me to death. I ended up selling it at a loss, as I did with everything I bought. That loss of value was the cost of enjoyment I suppose.
I continued to maintain the house and the stuff. Then one day decided to quit my job and start my own business. I was really going after the American Dream. I got the house, the car, the boat, the dog, the girlfriend and now I had my own business.
Funny thing about all those things, each one comes with it’s own required maintenance list. Now how much can one man actually do? Turns out, if incentivized to not lose everything you work for, a hell of a lot…
Little did I see or realize at the time, I was slowly losing my joy and happiness as I incrementally was trading off my time for these things. To the onlookers, I had it all going for me. I had a life of envy, especially to dad (hehe, I win old man).
As time moves along, so do we. I had different girlfriends and I helped one get a bigger house in a nicer area of the county. I then moved in there and rented out my little place. So I had to do more work on a house that wasn’t mine but hey, “we’re in ‘love’”-n-all. I also had a rental to maintain (lovely).
As that relationship “fizzled”, I then moved on yet again onto my current situation. This entire time, I kept my boat, my business and the dog (until my “good boy” could no longer be along my side for journey). These three things were my points of stability I suppose.
After the fizzle, I met someone great and things skyrocketed. She wanted so little and was well worth a bit more effort to give her more happiness. We found an abandoned home in a very nice neighborhood. I set about using my skills to bring the old gem back to life. I worked for three months straight day and night and still ran a business.
Now the house is warm and a great home. This came at great expense to me and our relationship. It was the ultimate stress test. We suffered irreparable damage as a couple.
As you do, we continued to maintain the outward appearance package. We then married. Now we have the home, the business, another dog, the boat, the nice cars and all the things that you’d picture of middle class success.
Under the surface, I am tiring, suffering from exhaustion and feel myself getting weak. I can feel this subharmonic vibration that has been steadily getting worse for years and it has finally fractured some key components. As a machine, I have suffered a catastrophic failure.
I now resent my work as a handyman. I no longer wish to do it. I grow frustrated at people’s inability to do anyhing. I am the guy everyone calls. I don’t like to say “no” because they need help. What’s more, I know that I have to answer the calls because I have bills to pay. The American Dream has trapped me.
Everyday, I have to maintain a home, a business and wife. If I’m lucky, I get a few minutes to go and be in my boat (which due to massive time constrictions has been parked in my yard for a few years).
The boat stays with me, it is the one thing I hold tightly. It represents when I had more control over my time and was able to afford something for me. A great friend of mine once told me, “hey, it’s your life you can be a little selfish with it”.
When I spend time tinkering in the boat, it allows me to dream. I miss being able to have it in the water so much. It was like a mini-vacation just going down to sit in it during the work week was all I needed.
During times of Covid, my specialty has allowed me to continue working. I have been applying my skill in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia, and New York. Universities have had to install temporary buildings to house students in the off chance of an infection. So I had to go do my thing.
One day while working on a super hot roof in Boston, I recieved a text from my wife complaining about something of mine. This thing gave me joy. She often did complain if I spent time in my boat, so this was really no different.
Until it was different. That vibration along with excessive stress had finally destroyed something. I broke down. All I’ve been doing, all the work and suffering in over 100 degree environment… and she was complaining. That was it.
All I could say to myself was, “I quit!”. Not my job, but my “life”. I didn’t respond to her for two days. In the hotel that night, I had a breakdown; a sudden realization that all I have been working for was for someone else. My labors on my house were for a bank and a wife (both of which didn’t seem to care if I was thriving).
It was time for a major life renovation, but first, everything must go!
As time went on, the concepts around my actions and life choices all pointed toward the American Dream and why there was a push for everyone to achieve it.
Sadly, if you really boil it all down to the grit left in the bottom of the pot, the American Dream puts you in service to a bank or some form of tax. You pay hundreds of thousands to a bank in interest over your life. You finance vehicles from a bank that depreciate, but you work hard so you don’t get them repossessed. These vehicles take maintenance and time; more money, more labor.
A home is the worst offender. They’re extremely expensive to get into. Then when you’re in, you get the opportunity to make it “your home”. So away with more money at the home improvement store. Just so you can make it nice, after all the bank needs it’s payment and you don’t want to pay for something you don’t like the color of.
Even if you have it paid for, there is a maintenance cost and if the outward appearance is off, then the township can complain. So they need it nice too. You are beholden to someone.
Not to mention the time and upkeep. As a handyman, I tend to everything the house needs. I still don’t know how people afford to pay for someone else to fix things.
So it’s time for me to break away from it all. The divorce has started (another expense attached). The house has been being spiffied up for the past two months. All those “I’ll get to it when I have time” repairs are being addressed. Extra tools are being sold and misc. junk is being tossed.
I’m expending over $5,000 (in materials alone) just to get it ready to sell. On top of that, I’m not taking service calls. I have no time. I am doing all the work needed to pass an inspection. There will certainly be more things the buyers will find inadequate, but who cares. I’ll just issue a credit and leave it for them to handle.
When this is all said and done, I will leave with a boat, a couple trailers with business and personal items and the (new) dog. I will gladly leave the area and this life of consumption.
My business is being restructured so I can do more project management and less taxing manual labor. I will replace “maintenance of things time” with more “maintenance of me”.
I have looked through enough pictures of my early adult days to understand what happened. I unfairly traded my time for money. I used that money for things that took even more money. On the plus side, I did set my sites on all the wrong goals and still achieved them, so I have no doubts that I can pull off what I truly want. I’m only 41, I still have time.
My new goal is doable, but only if I am free of my current load. I know that some morning relatively soon, I’ll be sitting on a back porch of a small place as the morning greets a new day and the sounds of the world come into being. In one hand I hope to have a steaming cup of earl grey and in the other I’ll be petting the dog. Enjoying the peace that is there, we’ll both be looking out over the water as the morning fog subtly surrounds the boat.
“Maybe after breakfast we’ll take her out for a little. Would you like that boy? Yeah me too.”
With all that said, I appreciate the opportunity that I had to chase the American Dream but after careful review and reflection, I no longer feel this to be an appropriate use of my time or energy. You can keep it.
My heart is no longer in the work. I officially resign.