Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Daring the past to define us

Source: The Creative Citizen, via Pinterest
Americans are a people who value the future far more than the past. We focus on the accomplishments before us, daring the past to point our heads backward, defining who we are and what we can achieve.

For those of us rebuilding our lives in the wake of the financial crisis, this aspect of the American psyche provides us with the will to fight against our own ugly circumstances.  Though we might prefer to wrap our arms around our broken bodies, retreat into ourselves, and weep, our culture gives us the mindset required to tuck that sorrow in our back pockets and move forward.

When my husband lost his job and we were forced to dismantle a life of swanky neighborhoods, luxury vacations, designer clothes, and pricey schools, I clung to the ideas of scrappy Americans pulling themselves up by the bootstraps.  I was now one of the proud, tough, nimble, and ambitious.  I became unwavering in my dedication to making something of myself because I was an American, and that's what Americans do.  Invoking the fearlessness of the early settlers fighting off the British, I concluded I would not let an economy in a free fall bring me or my family down.

And so it is only in the last few years that I've realized what a profound comfort it is, to be surrounded by a nation of people who prefer not to focus on the bruising fall but the triumphant rise from it, who admire an ascent from the slippery bottom, an ability to beat back the past with abandon.  American culture encourages risk taking.  It encourages starting anew.  It encourages future thinking, resilience, and innovation.  What a comfort to those who fall.

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