The American Dream

15 Jul 2019 | by Helen Burge

When you consider the date 4th July, you can’t help but think of American Independence Day, their federal holiday to commemorate the Declaration of Independence of the United States in 1776 when the American colonies were no longer subject to the monarch of Britain. It’s a BIG deal in America, no denying it, even schools in the UK seem to have themed school meals that day. 

When I think of America,  I think of the Movie industry.  Born in 1976 and with two brothers, my childhood had a strong Star Wars theme to it. There are some people who have never seen Star Wars (My Headteacher being one of them – how??!), this is such a thing that there was even a Radio 4 comedy programme called “I’ve never seen Star Wars” when celebrity guests were challenged to try out new experiences to them, which were common to most others, for example, Sandi Toksvig was encouraged to wear high heels and Ann Widdecombe tried camping.  I love the idea of people being encouraged out of their comfort zones, into their stretch zones – which is surely something The American Dream would encourage to increase the opportunity for prosperity and success. 

I also think of Disney when I think of America. Back in 2016, we took the boys to Florida and did Disney World and Universal – it was incredible. We watched an extreme car stunt show at Universal, which as anyone who knows my love of H&S will know I would struggle with, however it was exhilarating as we watched the drivers perform amazing stunts at high speeds in close proximity, with fire, gun shots, explosions and falling scenery all around them. My favourite part though was when they showed the audience how they had performed the stunts, how cars were actually remote controlled even though there was a driver seemingly “driving” the car, or that cars were kitted out so they looked like they were driving backwards but a driver hidden out of view was really driving forwards. There were also distractions for the audience (who doesn’t react when there is a loud bang?!).  Like a skilled sleight of hand magician, but on a massive scale in front of hundreds of people.  It was fab and really struck a chord with me, that not everything you see is how it first appears. The movie industry, Disney, social media, some people, they can all be presenting themselves as one thing, but actually representing or feeling something else. Mental health and lots of physical illnesses are actually hidden illnesses, making it hard to know what or if it is suitable to offer support across the range. I know when I went to Las Vegas for a friend’s 40th, I had an amazing time, but was also intrigued by the greed and the consumerism and how it contrasted so abruptly and harshly to the reality for the hundreds of homeless people living in a network of drainage tunnels underneath my feet as I walked along the Las Vegas strip. The American Dream seemingly doesn’t work for everyone.

From Las Vegas we took a flight to the Grand Canyon which truly took my breathe away, as its name suggests it is Grand! It is vast. The contrast with the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas couldn’t be more apparent. Visiting the Grand Canyon helped me to feel grounded, it reminded me of what was real – millions of years of geological history standing solidly in front of me as far as the eye could see.  Even though I could see it and understood some of the geological processes involved in forming it, it was hard to get my head around.  There are some aspects of SBL life that are hard to get your head around, even when you understand all the facts in front of you and can see through the distractions and have learnt all the sleights of hand moves.  Right now, many are struggling with presenting to others the reality of their budgets, warts and all, no fancy costume changes or thrilling music.  Being the bearer of such news, is hard, it’s not a dream, it’s a nightmare.  There are no stunts left to perform, there are no extras in the wings, we are stretching ourselves out of our comfort zones regularly.  But we can do this, with pioneering spirit, we might discover opportunities not yet realised in ourselves and for our schools. 

As a Uni student in 1994, I was an avid Friends viewer I believe most situations can be related back to a Friends episode or quote. Monica and Rachel didn’t know what Chandler’s job was so lost their flat to Chandler and Joey as a prize in a quiz (“he’s a transpons, he’s a transponster”…”that’s not even a word…”) which I think most SBLs would find relatable as most find their colleagues don’t know or understand what their job actually is! “Pivot, pivot” when helping someone move furniture. I could go on, but ISBL have a word count limit. How do you keep a sense of Unagi? (sorry squeezed one more Friends’ reference in – Ross and historical state of awareness) or that balance between the glitz and glamour as presented to you and the reality? Are you being too harsh on your reality, could you benefit from applying a little lip gloss to it? If you’ve not watched Star Wars, try it! If you’ve not applied for ISBL Fellowship, try it! If you’ve not watched Friends HOW??!! It’s been on most TV channels for the last 25 years!!