By Jasmine Scott
It was once said, “Americans forever imagine the lands further off are still better than those upon which they are already settled. If they attained paradise, they would move on if they heard of a better place farther West.”
In the fall of 2014, I traveled East. I came to Kuwait in search of ‘The American Dream’, and as odd as that may seem, the irony of this truth has become a reality for many unemployed young Americans struggling between trying to make it and giving up. It seems that overnight, the Middle East has become an unexpected haven for foreigners looking for opportunity, and the most popular place in the world – and for good reason.
America is no longer the land of milk and honey. It’s become a depleted resource for young Americans looking for employment, and for those lucky enough to land a job it hasn’t been easy. The myth has always been that the job market is a game of chess, but this isn’t a case of cut-throat competition as it’s been exaggerated, instead a nation who has been failing to employ graduates and lying to look good. But numbers don’t lie.
5.6 million Americans between the ages of 16-24 are unemployed, and the rest, 3-6 million, are abroad.
Like many, I heard of Kuwait through the grapevine. Yes, it was known at the time that Americans were going overseas for jobs, it was the popular thing to do after America had outsourced the majority of its jobs overseas and left us crippled and hopping on one foot to China, but unlike Dubai, Kuwait wasn’t famous yet.
There were people describing the Middle East as the new hot spot, where there were no taxes, salaries were higher, the job market was expanding, and where it was easy to save money. This was the new phenomenon that everyone was talking about – prosperity – and we were willing to risk everything to get it.
For many young Americans, the thought of living abroad seems idyllic, and though sweet and immature, it’s a reasonable longing for 20-something-year-old’s eager to jump-start life right out of college. But the desire to begin life abroad isn’t a choice anymore; it’s become a necessity where more and more young Americans are willing to take the leap just for a decent paycheck and perhaps some benefits.
Imagine, students who have achieved the “status” of earning a bachelor’s degree enrolling into trade schools after two years out of work, or that the only guarantee is working odd jobs on a dead end interval.
America has always been a refuge for those seeking better lives, a place for immigrants to lay down their burdens after carrying them overseas, but the tables have turned. We are now in the position of fellow migrants knocking desperately on doors hoping someone will let us in.
It’s only once in a blue moon that a region rises to fame so quickly, and rarely ever that Americans be desperate to leave. You may doubt this, but our struggles alone are the tattle-tellers. The majority of American expats are between the ages of 25-44, and the numbers are growing.
The original script for the American dream is stale; “work hard, save a little, send the kids to college so they can do better than you did, and retire happily to a warmer climate.” But what if this isn’t even on the market? What’s for sale is the old dream, the one the Puritans dreamt up, “Men and women content to accumulate their modest fortunes a little at a time, year by year by year” – and barely!
We want what America thought it promised; upward mobility in a timely fashion and the prospect to improve one’s lot. Though young and agile, we’re tired of running in place. No more of the sweet dreams, broken promises and ‘little’ white lies. No more of the fantasy. Yes it was all these things that made America attractive, the shining armor, and the land where the gods may play. But all of this deception has left us poor.
Kuwait never promised us anything, instead it gave us legitimacy. It validated what’s become void in America and encouraged us to work smarter not harder. America prides itself on the motto ‘pull yourself up by your boot straps.’ It’s modest, respectful, yet unreasonable. The East however is no fairytale, but a real symbol of prosperity. And without a shadow of a doubt we intend to relish in this new found glory.