Air smells different in America

Dominic Rivera

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There is nothing wrong with down-scaling expectations while working on making a dream come true

Dominic Rivera

New Jersey, USA – It’s funny going back in time when I first landed in America. It was a little more than 10 years ago.

The minute I stepped off the plane, I noticed the change in the air. It smelled fresh, so different. It was exactly the reason why I left home.

I needed a fresh start. I needed new air. The cool soft breeze that August afternoon when I landed at JFK Airport in New York provided exactly what I was looking for.

So what’s with the air? How do I describe the smell? If you have relatives or friends who regularly send you balikbayan boxes from America, then you should know the kind of smell that I’m talking about. It’s fresh, believe me.

The air smells so clean that your lungs welcome it openly. It spells new beginnings. It smells of greener pastures. I was so proud to have made the right decision.

I immediately put myself to work, not wasting any time in my pursuit of the American dream. I had grand dreams so I could not afford to waste any time.

Not too long after I arrived, however, terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, and everything took on a different course. The country went to war. I remained hopeful, though. Given the strength of America, I was sure that it wouldn’t take long before the war ended and everything would be back to normal. My quest for greener pastures just hit a little snag.

My family followed a few months later. We had our first Christmas in America. It snowed, just like in the movies. Everything was working out just as I expected. I had work. I had my family with me. I had a car. I lived in a modest apartment. It was picture perfect. The air was so good.

The succeeding years came like a blur to me. I lost my job. I got a new one. I lost it again, only to find a job again. It was a never-ending see-saw of emotions. I had to remind myself every day that everything would turn out for the best. They did not.

The global economy eventually gave in, resulting in massive unemployment not only in America, but also all over the globe. Strong economies weakened and hope of any fast recovery eroded. Panic set in. This one was not only a hiccup. It was a major setback.

The possibility of having a failed American dream and a failed quest for greener pastures, caused me to panic. The dream script says, among others, I should have a high-paying job, be able to buy a nice car, send my kids to college, go on annual vacations, and build a house with a white picket fence in the suburbs.

It’s part of the indoctrination that I got long before I went to America. Some people call it the American religion.

But when faced with the real possibility that your dream may not come true, everything changes.

What I have learned through the years, especially after losing job after job, is to lower my expectations. There is nothing wrong with down-scaling expectations while working on making a dream come true.

Seeking greener pastures is about looking for and finding a better situation. Ten years since having moved to America, things have changed, and we’re not in a better situation than before.

In hindsight, America may not necessarily be the place to seek greener pastures at the moment. If you are in search of one, like I was 10 years ago, it might be best to stay where you are and build from where you stand. –

(Dominic Rivera is a New Jersey-based Filipino who manages blogs for other people, while hoping to finally find time to launch one for himself.  He is the 2006 Time Person of the Year.)

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