America, the land of opportunity. I used to think people just said that back when the USA was first being established, way back when the American dream was to buy a house in the suburbs with a white fence and have a dog and barbecue weekly. When the statue of liberty was being built and you could buy a candy bar for a nickel. But here in Haiti, and in most of the world as it turns out, people still refer to America as the land of opportunity, the place where dreams can come true. And to most of the world, it might as well be on mars.
But I was raised in that country, and I never saw it the same way. Sure, I was flooded with the Disney movies and other media who always told me to be whoever I wanted to be, chase my dreams, and follow my heart. But my culture said something else. Go to college, get a well-paying job, and settle down with someone safe near a big church. It’s a grind, my culture tells me about work, but it pays the bills. To the young version of myself, I felt this dichotomy emerging between the messages media conveyed and the reality set before me. It’s a good thing I really like movies.
Regardless, I was led to believe dreams require sacrifice more than we’re willing to give. However, I was invigorated when I came to Haiti at a young age and was made aware of a different reality. Here children are forced to let their dreams fall to the wayside because they are impossible in the country they live in. To become a lawyer, firefighter, or doctor, might as well be a fairytale for most of the children in Haiti. But all those doors are open for me, and I’ve now decided sacrificing passion for comfort is not an even exchange.
We live in a place and time where we really can be whatever we want to be, do anything we want to do. To be working just to make money is an injustice. We owe it to ourselves to find purpose in our work, to be able to sit with yourself and know what you are doing matters to you.
I have come to feel I have a responsibility to do what I love and be happy doing it. To find something I care about and work as hard as I can to make it better. I’m not talking about philanthropy either, maybe your jam is crunching numbers, maybe it’s writing contracts for rural electric co-ops, or maybe for some reason you love teaching middle schoolers. The important thing is to be passionate about something and chase it with everything we have, even if we fail. Because we are born holding a golden ticket, and too many of us fail to cash it in.
All around the world people dream of coming to America, to the land of opportunity. Let’s realize our country for what it is and give our passions a chance to come alive. Do it for yourself, for your country, and for the people who will never have the chance.