Justin Tadlock

The Cookie-Cutter American

This past Sunday, I was on the phone with my dad having a normal day-to-day conversation. So, I decided to mention that I spent part of my weekend working on the new website, Books In Bed, I’m designing.

“You shouldn’t waste your time on stuff like that,” he said. (Although, he later claimed that he used the phrase, “Waste all your time.”)

I was taken aback by his utter lack of sensitivity toward one of my favorite pastimes. It would be like him saying, “Don’t waste your time writing.” My passion for web design is as strong as my passion for writing.

Basically, he was telling me, which he tried to explain through the rest of our conversation, is that I need to start focusing on my career ahead. Not web design. As if that could actually be a career.

I know what he’s trying to do. He’s trying to make me understand that I will one day have to provide for myself (actually, that’s pretty soon), provide for a family, and have a good retirement plan set up.

But, what I don’t think he realizes is that he is trying to turn me into a Cookie-Cutter American. Answers.com defines cookie-cutter as “Appearing to be mass-produced; identical in appearance.”

So that’s it. I’m expected to fit into this traditional mold of what it means to be American. Work the 9 to 5. Marry a great woman (which wouldn’t be so bad one day I suppose). Raise two or three kids. Own a two-car garage and a white-picket fence down a street perfectly aligned with three-bedroomed homes ending in a cul-de-sac. Nurture a dog named Fluffy. Cheer at football games. Applaud at school plays.

My generation isn’t set up to be a part of this conventional America from a 1950s sitcom that our parents play out in their heads. Our conventional America will be different than theirs.

I was always told as a youngster that I could be anything I wanted to be, do anything that I wanted to do. However, that’s not the reality when you grow up. People stop telling you those things. They tell you that you must take this job because it has dental. You must take this job because it has a better retirement plan.

No one tells you that you can be a rock star any more. You’re not good enough to play in the NFL. You can’t be a renowned author. And, you most certainly can’t blog for a living; you must remember, it doesn’t offer a life insurance policy.

I’ve been exposed to this degrading of dreams for a few years now. I’m out of high school, about to finish college, and I must embark upon the cruel reality of the job market. I’m no longer allowed to have dreams, at least not openly because it’s simply not supposed to happen. Only the lucky few get to live out their dreams. And time has passed me over. I’m 22 now. I’m too old to become the next pop star.

To hell with that, I say. Why can’t I live out the dreams I was told were possible as a kid? Why can’t I win the Nobel Prize? Why can’t I take home the Oscar for Best Director or Best Screenplay? Why can’t I put in 80-hour weeks to become the next millionaire blogger? That last one may be tough since I hardly have readership as it is. Nevertheless, why can’t I accomplish all these things in my lifetime?

The harsh pill to swallow is that my dad is, in part, right. And I agree with him. After I receive my diploma next May, I will have to join in with the millions of Americans in the work force. Maybe I’ll do something I’ll fall passionately in love with. Maybe I’ll become content with the life of the Cookie-Cutter American.

I know I’ll never be content though. I dream too much. My head wanders, and it takes me to places that I can’t remove myself from.