Editor's note: This story is part of the American Next, a special project exploring the hopes, fears and changing expectations of Missouri's next generation in challenging times.
KIRKSVILLE — Brett Moser, 26, of Lee’s Summit is an admissions counselor at A.T. Still University’s Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville. He earned a bachelor’s degree in media studies/media production from Missouri State University and loves that he’s able to use interpersonal and technical skills acquired through his university training to help communicate with the school’s prospective students. Moser and his fiancee, Amanda Powell, met in college and moved to her hometown after graduating because they were both able to find employment there. They plan to get married in November. Moser tells their story in his own words.
Whenever I think of the American Dream, I think of almost like an old '50s educational video where you have the row of suburban houses, and you have the dad out flipping burgers on the grill, and you have the kids swinging on the swing set. I think it’s this very idealistic version that we’re all trained to just … we feel like we need to aspire to acquire materialistic things and acquire this materialistic sense of self. I think that that’s what the American Dream has been touted as.
I see some people who say that the American Dream is just getting by — it's just surviving. It's just doing what you have to do to put food on the table and make things work. And if you have kids, if you have a family, then doing what you need to do to provide for them.
If those basic needs are being met, then you get to be a little bit loftier in that goal. I think that younger people have these loftier goals, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It's really good to be innovative and idealistic because when you're putting your mind to those things, I think you can start to pave the way towards those goals.
I work with people who are in their sophomore year of college, and they're already talking about, 'I would love to open up clinics in underserved countries' or 'I want to travel to rural areas where there's not a hospital in sight for two hours.' A lot of these people are already taking the steps to do those things.
I think it's kind of a misconception that people who want to be physicians want to be in a position of power and making lots of money. I get to see it from another side where these people are wanting to make big changes in the world. I think that partly has to do with what the new vision of the American Dream, you know, not only meeting the basic needs, but also how can you make your imprint on culture and humanity and how can you make a difference in someone's life.
I feel like whenever I look at my path in the next five, 10, 15 years, we don't know what kind of world we're gonna be living in. Things move very quickly right now in terms of not just technology but advancements in information, so jobs and opportunities that didn't exist five years ago are now a reality. I realize that the American Dream is changing. Or maybe the American Dream is 'change,' and the ability to adapt to what those changes are.
Many good things can occur, in terms of change, but then there are also some not-so-good things. I was one of those people, who, as far as the job market, as far as the economy, as far as those things, had to make shifts as far as what our focuses were.
We were no longer at a point where just because we had a college degree, things were going to be handed to us or we were going to get that ticket for the new house, the car and the 2.5 kids.
I find it really hard that the biggest concern people have when they graduate from college is 'How am I going to pay off my student debts?' Unfortunately that can keep people from moving toward some of the more lofty ambitions.
The old idea of the American Dream is that if you just pull yourself up by your bootstraps, then everything will be OK. I've seen some people where that's been OK, and I think for some people that’s not OK. I think we need to understand that that whole issue is complex and that we don't live in a perfect world where everybody wins. I hate that that's the case, but there are so many times where those other factors come into play.
I listen to many, many news stories about the state of the economy and how that relates to the housing market, and the adage is that owning your own home is the epitome of the American Dream. I don't own my own house right now. I rent. At this point, I don't know if I want to get in on that racket.
A lot of people are saying it's a 'buyers market' right now. You can 'own the American Dream' because you can buy a house for dirt cheap. And, yeah that might be the case, but it's kind of a 'fool me once' type scenario. I'm trying to look very cautiously at what I'm being told the (American Dream) is supposed to be and how I'm really choosing to go about pursuing that.
If (my fiancee and I) had to rent for the rest of our lives so we could spare ourselves some of the things that have occurred to other people, then so be it. That might be the case because I know that we are going to be fulfilled in many, many other areas.
I think we're in a transition period because I feel like part of me is still feeling like I need to check those things off my list. You know, I gotta have the house, I gotta have the car, I gotta be able to 'keep up with the Joneses.' But at the same time, there's a big part of me that wants to reject that and say, 'You know, I've been able to see people who have all those things and they're not any happier.'
We're never gonna go backwards, 'cause now we've turned a new page. I think that a lot of the campaigning is saying 'We're gonna try to hit the reset button and go back to what it was previously.' It's not gonna be what it was previously. We are now changed because of the events that have occurred. We've turned a new page.