The American Dream is a Nightmare
It was with this mindset, this deep knowing of how terribly far off course we humans can get, how close we are to witnessing the destruction of our civilization, that set me off to find a place where I can be free in all of the know it all glory I could muster. I still haven’t found that perfect job where I can talk about God, make art and help people but spending another 50 grand on an education is not something I am willing or able to do.
When we left Minnesota, I didn’t know exactly what would happen; we had an outline of a plan but nothing written in the margins. I could sense the potential for a positive outcome, however, because my intuition, my spiritual radar said yes, all signs point to yes, head West young Jedi!
That is basically what it is like to allow yourself to be guided by God, by Faith. It is of no use to have a blind faith however, without well thought out and tested convictions you could wind up following the devil himself without even realizing it. I have put in over 20 years of work to have a faith that is based on experience. I needed a little more proof and my little tests have consistently shown me that following those little hunches and soul-level urges leads you to growth and knowledge that make even the craziest sidetracks worth it.
With practice, this becomes a knowing, it becomes an agreement between yourself and your Higher Power. You know when “He” wants you to go here or do this or be still, you get used to the feeling of that calling enough to reliably follow it, but you don’t always get to read the fine print.
If God had said to me, “hey, you should definitely head out to the West Coast if you want to follow your dreams and have any shot at changing the world, you’ll get to learn most of what you wanted to know about the homeless condition and maybe write a book, maybe even meet a couple good people that will become lifelong friends BUT in order to accomplish this you’ll have to experience all of the hardships firsthand, the bedbugs, the junkies, the fear, the hunger and physical discomfort, the loneliness…” I don’t know that anyone would agree no matter how passionate their desire was to be of service. What I knew is that He would get me through it and I was right, He did, He has.
I promise you, Faith is 1000 times more valuable than gold. If we literally start helping each other, this number increases exponentially.
Rejection Number 1: Bye Felicia!
So, I’m thinking about this today and holding on to that faith in a positive outcome, whether it be growth or peace or the fulfillment of my earthly dreams. The tiny little damper on that faith happens to have come in the form of my first query rejection. So along with this reminder to myself that faith isn’t about getting what you want but getting the YOU, you want, I’m riding the “don’t give up” train even though I am rational enough to realize, money might just stop being a thing before I ever get around to having any. An option I am wholeheartedly ok with. I am literally just done watching people get killed over someone else’s greed.
You might not find this as humorous as me, but bear with me. I have thrown a few curve balls out in my query sending spree, knowing that at least a few of these are being sent to an agent that is not a slam dunk fit. Felicia was one of those. I’m pretty sure this was one of those future self favors I did so that I could survive this difficult process. Call it intuition but I wanted to have a little practice with getting rejected by someone that doesn’t really matter before I have to face the ones that might break my heart.
I sent out a query this past weekend to an agent named Felicia so that if or when she sent a rejection back I could say: Bye, Felicia and be done with it. (You have seen Straight out of Compton, haven’t you?) That this was my first rejection is surprisingly gratifying. Now I can continue this buffering process with any future rejections and they can all go into the Bye Felicia folder hidden far in the recesses of my documents library. Rejection doesn’t get much better.
But let’s talk about that rejection if I may? It was pretty telling, kinda the whole reason I’m sick to death of this American Dream bullshit being a thing people still put FAITH in. I’m not trying to be a sore loser, but I do think it is important to continue documenting how fucking difficult it truly is to get out of poverty. Here it is in its entirety:
Homelessness is a major issue for our times, but I’m having a bit of trouble seeing this book as the one that publishers are going to respond to as the one to offer solutions, sorry.
Just so we are clear, I would never assume to think one book, especially a memoir, would solve the homelessness crisis humanity is facing on a global scale. I do offer some solutions, however, the biggest one being to decriminalize and actually start helping the homeless and I provide ample but purely anecdotal reasons why this should be. I’ve written a book proposal and done a little research on what’s out there, so I know there isn’t something like what I’ve written. I did do my homework.
The books on homelessness are clinical in nature and almost always written to suggest that every homeless person is mentally ill or an addict. Or you get the comeback story like The Pursuit of Happyness which suggests one only needs to persevere in the face of this hardship and the American Dream can too be theirs. That is just a repackaging without even putting a new spin on the American Dream. It suggests implicitly that anyone is capable of escaping poverty’s deadly clutches through hard work and determination.
When half of the 600,000+ citizens living without shelter in one of the wealthiest nations are disabled, hard work and determination have absolutely nothing to do with the reality they are facing. Five years ago people were still eating it up, hence the major motion picture, but today we are experiencing a time period where many of us have finally realized what a complete crock of shit this is and trying to figure what the fuck to do about it.
I never promised to fix the whole damn thing, I did promise honest reflection on the serious policy issues and stigma attached to homelessness and I stand by my work. It is certainly going to do a hell of a lot more good than another 200 pages of drivel or bullshit that we should all be sick to death of eating.
So in terms of solutions, Dear Felicia, let me introduce you to Senator Bernie Sanders. The power of social awareness about social issues is how you begin to fix things. When the media lies and covers up the truth about what is happening to our fellow citizens, having the truth brought to light in a way that people can actually relate to, does make a difference.
When homelessness is constantly coupled with stories of drug addiction and the most severe mental illness, people are left feeling it is beyond their scope of influence. This is the perfect set-up for an apathetic citizenry who leave these issues they think are too complex for them, to the policy makers and experts who in no way relate, even if they are someone like Mr. Sanders and sympathetic to their plight. When it is presented with an honest reflection of how social policy plays out in one person’s life, especially when that person is college educated and determined, it gets a lot more relatable.
Anyways, here’s my query letter, for what it’s worth. To be fair, I’m open to criticism but I’m also not going back to the drawing board just yet. I have to say, however, both a cabin in the woods and the idea of self-publishing is getting a little sweeter. My concern is I won’t reach enough people that way and I for one, cannot simply do nothing while innocent people -innocent children- are being abandoned over false notions that the homeless population is made up of lazy, mentally ill, drug addicts that deserve the result of their own bad choices or karma.
We live in a society where you have to have money to make money. You don’t get out of poverty working at McDonald’s. Not that a homeless person can easily get that job in any case. You still need to look the part and the last time I checked, shoes, clothes and haircuts, not to mention running water and electricity are still commodities, the marketing of which tells us who to like and how much to like them. Homelessness is a symptom of a corrupt system that purposefully and continuously neglects the weak and vulnerable. We live in a country with over 500 billionaires. We actually rank number 1 in that area. We ranked above Lithuania in the number of homeless children we have.
Don’t even get me started on how fucking scared I am that one of those bastards will simply steal my good idea and make a movie about it.
So here’s the query letter:
I am writing to request representation for my inspirational memoir. I have two potential titles for this work: “This is NOT the Country I Grew Up In, A View From the Bottom” or “Off-the-Grid is Just Another Word for Homeless, Memoir of a Hippie That Failed”. This is a completed manuscript of approximately 48,000 words; a voice-driven narrative that follows my life as one of the invisible survivors of homelessness.
While my story is filled with the obvious amounts of tragedy you’d expect, it is not just another misery tale. It provides a human perspective and balanced approach to the aspects to homelessness that the rest of the world is not privy too: the fact that sometimes homelessness is fun, filled with blessings, freedom, comradery and hope. It is a provocative and first-hand account of this often forgotten and sorely misunderstood underclass.
In my over 2 year journey to reclaim my lost footing, I squatted with old-timers (the grizzled alcoholics and veterans that have made the streets their home for more than 5 years), young anarchists who left civilization behind living on a mountain, a group of Rainbow Family vagabonds surviving a failing commune, supremely talented artists whose quest for the American Dream has left them hustling on the same streets they call home, and the fellow residents of the community homeless shelter where I was living when the majority of this book was written. The reader follows my emotional journey out of homelessness with journal entries that give a real-time perspective in addition to a narrative arc which follows the strange twists of fate that left me repeatedly on the outskirts of society.
It is written to encourage a dialogue with the reader and asks them to question their own belief system and the effects of capitalism on our collective evolution and humanity. It highlights the unique perspective of the travelling artist and the politics of revolution from the Occupy and Anonymous movements. It is a highly relatable tale, written with the page turning grace of a novel and the pace of a reality show you can’t get enough of. It could not be timed better with the election year we’ve been witnessing to grab a strong readership. The conversation has already started.
I engaged a gonzo-journalistic view on my experience to document and record the struggles many Americans face and simultaneously provide a cautionary tale for the highly popular off-the-grid movements. The fact that I was living in a homeless shelter while I wrote this should not be understated. I studied Studio Art and Psychology at the University of Minnesota and am an avid, but savvy, social media user and conceptual artist. I have recently started a blog and website dedicated to this book and my profound experiences, which continues the themes and issues raised throughout.
I believe this is a book that people need to read. The issues surrounding economic inequality and homelessness are not going away by themselves and there absolutely needs to be more visibility brought to the forefront on these issues.
America has been waiting for a story from the front lines of the spiritual and political revolution that is happening out there and this memoir is it.