On Ambition

On Ambition

Profiles of ambitious people who achieve a great deal often reveal an unquenchable thirst for more; a dissatisfaction with stagnation that propels them, continuously, into bigger and better things. From the outside, these sorts of people embody the myth of the American Dream: that anyone, despite life circumstances, has the potential to rise and achieve success. This restlessness that makes certain people achieve greatness can also contribute to the majority of people’s misery. If you’re continually eyeing the horizon, when do you have time to live a meaningful life, celebrate your accomplishments, and exist in the moment?

If you live in a hypothetical future that you’ve mentally constructed, you’re not actively living because presence is what connects us to our world and our lives. The recession caused very obvious financial problems for so many people, but it also struck many people at a deeper level than perhaps we’re ordinarily comfortable to visit. Americans, and more specifically, American men, have their identities tied up with their careers and aspirations. When you think about the natural steps in socializing with a stranger, one of the first questions is “What do you do?” If the stranger is a student, the next question is, “What are you majoring in?” I find myself doing this all the time as if knowing the person’s employer somehow tells me everything I need to know about the person.

While both women and men are expected to work nowadays, there is still more emphasis on men being the “breadwinners.” This is objectification, plain and simple, demeaning in the same way that women are expected to be the virgin/whore/mother figure. Women may have more roles demanded of them at once, which is what often makes being female so confusing, but the value of a man being tied up with what he can earn in an economic climate that is difficult to thrive in is problematic, as well. My hope is that people are able to see themselves as a non-object. Not a sex symbol, perpetual fixer, and not a meal ticket. If you see yourself as an object, something that can be valued and devalued, and thrown away, when do you have a chance to get to know yourself? When do you discover and cultivate the depths that exist inside of you?

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