For me and a lot of my friends growing up in the ‘90s, the formula for achieving the American dream meant turning a passion into a career (after college, of course), finding love, buying a home, and starting a family — preferably in that order. And you better stay in that career and that home and that family until you die. 

I used to roll my eyes at this, but it was so indoctrinated in me that I had no choice but to aspire to it. And I did achieve it for the most part, but I don’t think I believe in this generalized formula anymore.  

My spouse and I bought our first home when we were in our early 20s and still in college. We thought we were ahead of the game. Then our son came along and BAM!, American dream reached. Then reality set in: New Orleans is too damn expensive. We were house poor and quickly going poor poor.  

On the outside, we had our American dream, but was this worth never taking a vacation and going bankrupt? After a lot of sleepless nights we decided to sell our home against the advice of some family members. “You got a home,” they said. “You can’t let go of that. You make it work.” 

We couldn’t perpetuate this superficial American dream anymore — not to our son. 

After we sold our home, we moved into a small apartment in Harahan. The goal was to stay for a couple of years and then buy again, but with a little more leverage. After a year, we moved in to my mom’s house. She had the room and didn’t charge rent. We could save even faster. 

In high school, I would have projectile vomited if someone had suggested that I would end up living at home again as an adult. But as an adult with a kid, I had a chance to teach my son that life isn’t about unfair compromises, it’s about finding a balance between what you have, what you don’t have, and what you want. What’s worth giving up to get what you want? 

We really had no idea how long we would be living in that apartment or in my mom’s house, but we also knew we didn’t want to have to give up all of the things we dreamt of doing as a family, just to save face. 

After 10 months, we had quite a bit of money saved up and then I got a promotion at work. We figured it was time to buy again, but we were determined not to fall into the same trap. We found a home in Jefferson that was well below what the bank approved us for — something we specifically wanted. It needed work, but nothing we couldn’t handle. 

Then two years later, the magazine I worked for suddenly closed shop and I was instantly unemployed. “Guess we’re going to have to sell again,” I thought. But we didn’t have to. We ended up using almost all of the money we had saved, but we could make it work this time, at least for a while. 

I eventually found my way to Nola Family, and I honestly love it. Full disclosure, though: I sometimes do worry that’ll all disappear again, but at least now I know what’s worth giving up for what I want for my family.  

Living the American Dream,  

Tim Meyer


 Tim Meyer is the Managing Editor of Nola Family and Nola Boomers. 

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