Does The American Dream Still Exist? The American Dream Depends on Your Perception
By Saloua Ibaline, business strategist, author and digital marketing coach.
When I first arrived in New York City in 2005, I was 21 years old. My eyes were full of sparks and my head was full of dreams. I was dedicated to success. Nothing could’ve stopped me from achieving my vision of the American dream. In my mind, the United States was the promised land, where I would be able to achieve anything while becoming rich.
American Dream for Immigrants: A Rocky Path to Success
I had no idea of the painful and inescapable challenges I would face; language barriers, culture shock, and lack of proper documentation to name a few. I also faced difficulty finding work, a lack of support system, and financial instability.
My dreams of prosperity and freedom started to fade away. I realized that I would have to start over in a country I didn’t know anything about. It ended up taking me about a decade to have access to things considered basic American birthrights.
I was living in New York City. NYC consistently has the highest cost of living in the country. So financial struggles in this city make it almost impossible to have a decent lifestyle and save money.
Though I was indeed struggling, my resilient mentality pushed me to keep going. I tackled challenges one by one, like an American football player pushing through his opponents. I stayed in a studio apartment with roommates and cooked at home instead of going out, all while going to school. It was very hard, physically and mentally. However, I knew I had to find a way.
I sometimes wonder where my resiliency came from? I guess it may have come from watching my mother face similar struggles when she emigrated with me as a baby from Morocco to Belgium. She had to fight for a better life for her children and watching her influenced my young mind.
Your Environment Defines Your Future
It took me a long time to realize a maxim of life, that your environment determines your future. My previous environment had put me on a path where I was bound to fail. Originally from Morocco, I emigrated to Belgium as a child. I grew up in a very dysfunctional environment. My mother was a single mother of five, twice-divorced from abusive men. The first one was my father. He had an arranged marriage in Morocco and divorced my mother for another woman. He left my mom with 4 children, no help, and no way out.
The second man was my step-father. He was an abusive alcoholic man. After marrying him, my mother had a child, my younger sister. Despite being a nightmare for us, he showed us a way to freedom when we became Belgian citizens after my sister’s birth.
My younger sister and I spent our childhood between women’s shelters and a foster family. My mom was illiterate, and despite her trying her best, she couldn’t avoid the inevitable. Growing up in poverty, even with some governmental assistance, I was set on a path to fail in society. We were dealing with racism and bullying in a small town in the south of Belgium. We also dealt with failing school. Our mother was distracted and exhausted, working long hours as a housekeeper, providing for us while trying her best to keep her own head above water. Our circumstances weren’t easy, but it was normal for us. This experience helped me navigate through life and eventually led me to start over in the United States.
Turn Adversity Into Success
In my opinion, the American Dream still exists. However, you have to recognize the access to that American Dream is drastically different for a born American than it is for an immigrant.
Today I can say I have achieved my definition of my American Dream. I’m an author and have recently published a book on the stories of Immigrant Women Entrepreneurs ( Immigrantwomenentrepreneurs.com). I’m a certified business coach, and I’ve helped many people start their businesses with my signature program ( Salouaibaline.com). In addition, I’m a digital nomad traveling the world working from my laptop. I’ve spent time in over 25 countries, and I’m still going strong.
The reason I succeeded is that everything that statistically proved that I was on the path of failure, was the exact reason why I succeeded. Those challenges I experienced at a younger age fostered a very resilient mind. To this day, when I face a challenge, I don’t run from it. I face it, and I figure it out.
If I can end this with one piece of advice, it is that no matter where you are in your journey to the American Dream, do not run away from your challenges. Face them, grow from them, and learn from them. They are your journey, and you should embrace them. Being an immigrant, achieving American Dream is not always comfortable, but in my opinion, it’s all worth it in the end. Your challenges may be the very reason you will succeed. If I had the chance, I wouldn’t do anything differently.
Saloua Ibaline was born in Morocco and emigrated to Belgium with her mother as a toddler. At 21 years old, she emigrated again to the United States, this time on her own. Alone in New York City, with neither money nor connections, she worked her way up from nothing. Eventually, she created her own successful business. Today Saloua is an established entrepreneurship coach, author, and runs multiple small businesses. More info about Saloua at www.salouaibaline.com
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