When I was in fifth grade, I moved from my childhood home in Alpine, Wyoming to Fresno, California. I had to say goodbye to my friends, the house I grew up in and most of my belongings.
Moving here, we did not have enough money to buy or rent a house, so my mom, sister and I lived in a one bedroom apartment. We slept on air mattresses, sat on the floor or beach chairs and wore our suitcase-worth of clothes until they were falling off our bodies.
Because we lived in such a small space, we did not have the room to bring all of our furniture from Wyoming. All of mine and my sister’s toys were there. Everything we had held dear was states away, breaking under the strain of being in a storage unit during sub zero winters.
This experience set in me an inherent understanding that belongings, material and financial wealth were replaceable and unimportant.
Though I would have loved to have my toys and books as we made the transition from Wyoming to Californian life, I did not need them. I could buy new toys and go to the library to get books.
What actually got me through this experience was my family.
We did not have much for a while, but once we began accruing more of our belongings, most seemed inconsequential.
My mom, sister and I still do not strive to attain material wealth, but rather a wealth of experience. We pride ourselves on the adventures we have taken, meager as they have sometimes been. We learned how unimportant wealth was in comparison to the family connections we have been able to build through our shared experiences.
I still want to “live the American dream,” but my American dream is centered around having the time and relational connections to create memories rather than make money and buy toys.