Growing up, I too found myself enchanted by the promise of the ‘American Dream.’ White picket fence, income enough to put food on the table every night and take the family on extravagant vacations every summer. I pictured a job I loved and a spouse that cared about me more than anything. I thought if I worked hard enough, I wouldn’t have to face the same hardships I had growing up, that I could make enough here to be comfortable and that would make me happy.

I grew up in an abusive family of addicts and poverty in a town that didn’t know the meaning of diversity or adversity. Every choice I made as a child and teen were small parts of a greater scheme to leave and never look back. I believed I was just in an unfortunate situation and that leaving this situation would automatically grant me this dream I had been looking for.

I started to become desensitized to the ‘greatness’ of the United States when I studied abroad at 17. It is fascinating to look at our own country through the lens of governments unrelated to ours. We are not the heroes. The media we feed ourselves is skewed so consequently that even we cannot decipher between the truth and fiction. Outside of the country however, news is objective.

I realized there are a few issues with my ideal ‘American Dream’. For one, we all know that the LGBTQ+ community is not one that is granted the pass to this dream — at least not for free. I am also a woman, better yet, a woman in engineering. Nobody told me that in order to work in my field, I would be sexually harassed constantly — told there was nothing to be done by HR — and have to continue working harder than others to prove my performance. When I visualized my version of the American Dream, I did not anticipate old white men to tell me what I can and cannot do with my body. I did not anticipate the vast majority of coworkers to be so condescending while I am perfectly capable of doing a job.

My American Dream didn’t involve having to work at least three jobs during the school year to pay for necessities, or that I would struggle to buy food and tampons because every penny I made went to paying my tuition. I didn’t realize that every year I stayed in school, I would nearly double the amount I was paying out of pocket because the administration in the school I chose, continuously did not choose me.

Let’s get one thing straight however, I am still white. I still have privileges that others do not; such as decent human rights and a justice system that is not actively working against me. I do not have family and children that are locked in cages at the borders of our country, whose stories have been covered up within the media and glanced over by an average scroller on Facebook. I have not had to seek refuge in this country from unsafe environments, just to be criminalized and demonized by American people who if given the chance, could not point out a single other country on a map.

Knowing all of this, the injustices and the corruption, I have to ask: What is your idea of the American Dream?