By: Ciara Drummond

Source: David Gavi, Unsplash. 

A few years ago, I was working at my mother’s real estate firm. I asked my mom why she chose to be a real estate agent; she responded that she knew if she worked hard, she could make a lot of money. I was so confused at the time. I was under the impression that work and passion were connected and that one could not exist without the other. I would soon grow up and learn that passion is often put on the back burner to money.

Money has always been a strange concept to me. The only thing stranger is the phenomenon of capitalism. 

Capitalism has created “The American Dream (Or Canadian Dream)”—the idea that if you  work hard enough, you can achieve anything. The American Dream pushes the idea that any hardship or lack of wealth someone faces is a result of laziness or lack of determination. Therefore, the solution is to work harder. It promotes the idea that an individual’s life should be centred around their career, and that they should focus on growing that above all else. By sacrificing other life experiences, you will achieve financial- and career-based achievement: the ultimate purpose of the American Dream. Although, the American Dream has no end destination, which means that you have to constantly improve and make more money. This promotes a cycle of perfectionism with little room to find actual happiness—a cycle I have found myself in many times. 

As students, I think we now and then experience the toxic perfectionist cycle. We feel the need to be the best; to get the top marks; to be in the coolest extracurriculars; to have the best university experience…all to achieve whatever your ultimate goal is. I can’t speak for you, but it is exhausting to me. It’s okay to falter; it’s okay to fail. I don’t think that makes anyone a failure. Rather, I suggest that the American Dream fails us. 

The American Dream ignores the systemic barriers many face in their path to gain wealth. For example, jobs are starting to require more education and more experience; it is becoming harder and harder to find well paying jobs as the price of life continues to increase. Despite how it’s becoming harder and harder to afford to live, the American Dream and capitalism only encourage people to work harder or to collect more jobs. You know, like Pokemon. Side jobs which originally were uptaken to afford luxuries have growingly become necessary to afford basic living needs. There’s a reason the wealthy stay wealthy. They are afforded different opportunities and have prominent connections that allow them to stay wealthy. But the American Dream doesn’t talk about that. It doesn’t like to shine light on its imperfections. 

Capitalism has created the idea that people will only work if they are given money, so capitalism and money are required for a proper and modern society. To me, this is a ridiculous concept. If people worked only for money, why did people become teachers and nurses? These jobs are famously underpaid for the amount of work required, but people still pursue these careers. There must be something else that helps drive people in their career. I argue that without the aspect of money, people would pick a career they were passionate about. Without the stress of money, I think people would pick jobs that made them happy. I think we would have a significant rise in jobs that involve directly helping people. 

I was chatting with one of my friends the other day about why I applied to a STEM university program when I took no undergraduate science classes. I had replied that I originally wanted to study biology because there were more job opportunities, but I realised that while I have an interest in Biology, it wouldn’t make me happy. I was scared that if I graduated with a humanities degree, I would find it harder to get a job or would make less money, which under the “American Dream”, would make me a failure. However, I ultimately decided that it was more important for me to enjoy my classes and be happy with my career choice.  

I have always been in love with writing. I got my first computer at eight years old; I had set it up in my living room and typed for hours. Nothing could pull me away from my slow Chromebook. I was so sure that I was going to write the next Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. The novels I butchered on my computer were quickly deleted once I was old enough to realise how terrible they were. But that never stopped me from wanting to become a writer. Yet, I put my writing on hold to focus on a biology career I never really wanted. 

That was a choice I deeply regret. 

Now, I have decided that I want to use university to work on my writing and pursue my dream of becoming a published novelist. I have been working to unpack my perfection-based capitalist mindset because frankly, I don’t care to be the richest person. Money wouldn’t make me happy. Instead, I wish to find what will make me happy, wherever happiness will take me. 

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