E132: What's YOUR American Dream?
Which generation has the most debt?
Questions for Reflection
In each episode, we offer you a few prompts to think about how that day's conversation applies to you. You might pause the podcast and answer them right then and there, but if you keep a journal (Steph and Beth both do), feel free to download and print a PDF of the Questions for Reflection we've made just for you:
Landscape or Portrait
Beth Demme (00:03):
Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:06):
Where we share personal experiences so we can learn from each other. I'm Steph.
Beth Demme (00:08):
And I'm Beth.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:09):
I've been in recovery for 16 years and am the author of Discovering My Scars, my memoir about what's done in the darkness eventually comes to light.
Beth Demme (00:16):
I'm a lawyer turned pastor who's all about self-awareness and emotional health, because I know what it's like to have neither of those things.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:23):
Beth and I have been friends for years, have gone through recovery program together, and when I wanted to start a podcast, she was the only name that came to mind as cohost.
Beth Demme (00:29):
I didn't hesitate to say yes, because I've learned a lot from sharing personal experiences with Steph over the years.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:34):
We value honest conversations and we hope you do too.
Beth Demme (00:37):
On today's show, we're going to have an honest conversation titled, What's Your American Dream?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:42):
Then we'll share a slice of life and the show will close with questions for reflection. We'll invite you to reflect on the conversation in your own life. All right, Beth. So, I looked up the Webster's Dictionary definition of American Dream, because I was curious, I think there's a stereotype in our head, but then I was like, "What is that definition?" And this is the definition I found online.
So, maybe true, maybe not, but I looked at a couple sources. So, the definition is a happy way of living that is thought of by many Americans as something that can be achieved by anyone in the US, especially by working hard, becoming successful with a good job, a nice house, two children and plenty of money. And if you have this, then you believe that you have the American dream.
Beth Demme (01:25):
Okay. So, the American dream is to work hard, have a nice house, two children, plenty of money.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:34):
I also think people say a lot, "Work hard, play hard."
Beth Demme (01:38):
Oh yeah, I have heard that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:39):
So, I think that's another definition of, or something else you could add, which play hard is like, I don't know, what do you think when you think play hard?
Beth Demme (01:49):
I think play hard just means you get to do whatever you want to do. So, it means you could travel, you could party, you could-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:55):
I was thinking party. I was thinking drinking a lot. That was my head. But also I think play hard could also refer to spend your money on all the things.
Beth Demme (02:04):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:05):
I think that's a big part in my mind of what the American Dream is, is spending. It's consumerism, spending money. And the first time I remember actually really digesting the American Dream actually was years ago there was a documentary about a guy that made a tiny house and basically it was this minimalist movement that was going on, especially for my generation. And it was basically about this guy that sold all his possessions and lived in a small house. And it actually wasn't legal for him to live in that house. I think it was under 400 square feet and he was in maybe California, and it wasn't legal to have a dwelling that small, because in most places it wasn't legal.
And that was because, well, probably some racist reasons in our rule books from a while ago. But a big part of that was the idea of the American dream was to have a big house. So, why would we want people living in these small houses when we want people to have these big houses? So, that was a movement probably 10 plus years ago. And I mean you've heard of Tiny House, right?
Beth Demme (03:15):
Oh yeah, no, I used to watch, there were a couple of different tiny house shows on different channels that I would watch.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:20):
Yeah, I mean it's a whole concept, a lifestyle of having less stuff and having more financial freedom by having just a small, simple house. And it's the opposite of what came before that, was the McMansions, the huge houses, expensive cars, all the things where you are working to pay for all these things, but then you have no time to really enjoy them because you're constantly working to try to pay for just this lavish lifestyle.
Beth Demme (03:50):
Yeah, I think that the tiny house movement, I mean I'm sure that it still exists and is a thing, but on the TV shows, the way that I knew that they had peaked, when the people on the tiny house shows were not buying their primary home, they were buying something they could put on land as their vacation home. So, it's like they weren't really looking to live a minimalist lifestyle. They were looking to have a smaller footprint in their second home. So, it's like, okay, well, that's not really what minimalism is about.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:20):
Well, I think the concept is sound, and things go through stages. I would agree. I think that height is gone. I personally was wanting to do this. I literally was wanting to build a tiny house and travel around. Before I bought my house, that was what I wanted to do. I'm really glad I didn't, because I realized I like to be in my home a lot. And so that's not really the greatest concept when you have a tiny house, because the idea is you sleep in it and then you go out in the world. Well, I don't want to go in the world, I want to be in my house. So, for me, a more decent sized house makes sense. I think it would be great one day to have a tiny house as an office or as a guest room. But I agree, if I was to do a tiny house, it would be a secondary.
Beth Demme (05:02):
What I remember hearing when I would hear people talk about tiny houses is like they had been living to work and they didn't want to do it that way. They wanted to work to live so that they wanted to not put in 60, 50, even 40 hours a week just so that they could pay off a mortgage and be underwater all the time with debt. And instead they wanted to shift their financial priorities and their financial obligations so that they could have more freedom.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:31):
Yeah. And I think the concepts from that still are resonating within, specifically my generation, because I know my friends live way within their means. All of us, we don't have large houses, we have houses that makes sense for us and our families, and we aren't swimming in debt. I'm not saying that there aren't people swimming in debt. I think that also seems like the American way, sadly.
Beth Demme (05:58):
I do think our economy requires people to be in debt. I mean, it seems to be-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:01):
Sadly, yes. That definition though, do you think that is accurate? The American dream. Of the stereotype of what the American dream is?
Beth Demme (06:08):
Well, I think the first piece of it, the idea that anyone can achieve something if they work hard, I do think that is part of the American dream. I don't think it's necessarily the American reality and we're probably going to talk about that. But I do think that it is part of the American dream and part of what we say about ourselves and believe about ourselves. That this is a land of opportunity, a place of opportunity, and so things can happen here.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:34):
That they might not be able to in other countries.
Beth Demme (06:36):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:36):
Yeah, I would agree. And based on that definition, you had the American dream. How does it feel?
Beth Demme (06:42):
I would also like to have a trophy and a ribbon and a gold star.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:45):
Very American. Very American.
Beth Demme (06:48):
Because my husband and I are successful, we have good jobs, we have a nice house. We have exactly-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:53):
Plenty of money.
Beth Demme (06:54):
... two children. Exactly two children. And there are no pets included in this definition, so I feel pretty good about that too.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:02):
Because you don't have any.
Beth Demme (07:03):
Because I don't have any pets.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:03):
Well, sadly I don't fit the American dream. The one thing that I don't fit is the two children, and I will not fit that. I don't apologize actually for that. I do have two dogs, so if there is an asterisk on there, then I have the American dream. Yeah, the stereotype.
Beth Demme (07:22):
Yes. I mean it is definitely a stereotype.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:25):
So, this episode is actually coming out, and if you're listening to this in any other day than it comes out, I'll let you know today's episode is actually out on Black Friday 2022, which is the day after Thanksgiving. So, this is an interesting time, because I think it's kind of evolved over time. But this is typically the day, the day after Thanksgiving is when stores have deals on everything and people get a little crazy and they go and do all the deals.
Which to me is when you think of America and you think of the American dream, I feel like Black Friday, if you see the things on TV, you're like, "Yep, that's what I think of America. They're getting their deals, they're spending all their money." The more I spend, the more I save, the more I buy.
Beth Demme (08:18):
And people lining up very early and there being this limited quantity of things, you have to be the one to get there and people fighting over it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:28):
So, are you a Black Friday shopper? Is that a big deal for you?
Beth Demme (08:31):
I am not the get up super early and go wait in line person, but it is a fun activity to do. I like to shop and so I do often go with my mom, my mother-in-law, usually my sister-in-law. She's not going to be with us this year, she's got other plans. But we do like to all get together, load in the car and go hit some stores.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:50):
So, more like an event or an activity than a, "So many deals." You're not really going because of the deals necessarily, it's just something that you guys like doing.
Beth Demme (08:59):
Even if there were no deals, we would probably still go that day, because it's something to do.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:04):
Yeah, that makes sense. Growing up, we never went really big into it. We would sometimes go and get a couple things, but never those doorbusters. And the deals are not the craziest deals also. And with technology and with things online, you can always find those deals almost all the time in different places. So, it's not just one and done kind of thing. But I feel like Black Friday has shifted. Do you feel that, or is that just me? It's shifted in my world.
Beth Demme (09:39):
Well, I think that it has shifted for the reason you just pointed out, which is online shopping. I think that has changed dramatically. And also how it's like Halloween starts right after 4th of July, and then Christmas starts basically in September. Well, now Black Friday deals have been going on since November 1st.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:00):
Beth Demme (10:00):
So, I'm like, "Okay, this is not Black Friday," and I don't know, Cyber Monday, one of the Cyber Monday deals.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:05):
I think they're just using the term to get you to realize, "Ooh, deals." So, I think all of that is why the actual day is not, I don't think, that big of a concept anymore. And something that I really like is REI, which is one of my favorite stores and we have a new one here in Tallahassee that I'm so excited about. But they, since 2015, have actually been promoting opt outside, I think is the hashtag, where they close on Black Friday and they encourage everyone to go and be outside, which I just think is the coolest thing. I'm like, I'm all for it. So, my goal is to go kayaking on Black Friday.
Beth Demme (10:47):
That's your goal every day.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:48):
Yeah. Well, that's my life goal. Exactly. But I think it'd be fun to hashtag it for REI. So, I don't think there's anything wrong with shopping. I'm not against shopping, but I'm against crowds and busyness. So, will you be going out on Black Friday this year?
Beth Demme (11:09):
I don't know. I don't know if I'm out shopping this year. I don't know, because this is being released. I don't know what's happening in life.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:17):
Do you feel like you will?
Beth Demme (11:18):
Well, COVID really shifted it, right? So, we haven't gone, I mean for sure we didn't go in 2020, because before there were vaccines and then it was kind of like it was okay not to do it. The day was still fun. We found other things to do. One thing that I think where Black Friday had gotten especially, well, I just think it was bad. I don't like to put value judgments on things, but it was bad, was that a lot of stores were opening on Thanksgiving night. And Black Friday was starting on Thanksgiving, and that really bothered me. I think that COVID fixed a lot of that. I don't think stores are doing that this year. And I love what you're saying about REI, that instead of going and shopping and spending, go and be outside, get in the fresh air, do something that's healthier.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:06):
Which is so smart for them.
Beth Demme (12:08):
Yeah, no, it's totally on brand for them.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:08):
It's super on brand. But hey, still hats off to you for coming up with the hashtag.
Beth Demme (12:14):
Yeah. Even better if they pay their employees for the holiday day.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:17):
I think they do.
Beth Demme (12:18):
That's really good.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:19):
I think that says it. Yeah.
Beth Demme (12:20):
So, I don't know what Black Friday will hold for me this year. I hope that it includes some leftovers. Because, again, American dream and consumers and there's also this element of gluttony in it. And Thanksgiving Day is definitely a day where we overdo. In fact, the prayer that I wrote and shared with my church for and encouraged them to read on Thanksgiving Day was like, "God, as we are filling our plates, overfilling our plates, already thinking about our leftovers, help us to not forget about people who don't have all of this."
Because I will just say that for myself that I tend to lose sight of that on holidays that are so much about family togetherness and food. It's easy to forget that not everybody has that abundance of family or abundance of food. But the American dream, the idea of that is that there will always be abundance. This is the land of plenty, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:17):
That's what I was wondering. So, people that have "stereotype achieved the American dream," do you think those people, I mean we included, do you think American Dream winners of the award that we don't have, but we're going to get, do you think they feel like everyone is on the same level playing field? And when they're eating their Thanksgiving meal they're like, "Everybody has this opportunity. If they're not eating their Thanksgiving meal, that's their choice." Do you think that?
Beth Demme (13:49):
I think so. I think that there's a tendency to say that whatever our experience is, is the typical normal majority experience.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:59):
Well, I'm going to say something controversial and I know some people in my life that will not be happy with it. But I personally feel like there's different types of people. Let's just say there's Republicans and there's Democrats.
Beth Demme (14:14):
Let's just call them, I don't know, pick a word.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:17):
Pick a word.
Beth Demme (14:18):
Republicans and Democrats.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:20):
I personally have been a registered Democrat since I was 18 and I could legally register. And the reason why I picked to be a Democrat is because when I looked at the parties, the Republicans seemed like they were always about themselves. And they see America's great, everyone has the opportunity to do anything they want. If they haven't achieved what they want, then they're lazy and they haven't been working hard and that's their problem. We're not going to take care of them. And then I saw the Democrats were like, you know what, there are reasons why people are in the positions they are, and we aren't here to judge them.
And we need to make sure everybody has at least the basic needs met. And so for me, when I sit down at Thanksgiving, I do think there is so many countless Americans out there that aren't able to experience this, that, A, have no family to be with, may not have the funds to have this kind of meal, may not have a home to experience it. I probably tend to be more negative than I would like, but I tend to think of the negative. I think there's so many people that don't have this opportunity, and then I realize I'm very fortunate to be in the position I am. But I do realize there's so many people out there that are in America and do not have just these basic things that we take for granted.
Beth Demme (15:46):
Yeah. I don't think that I can go with you on the broad brush of Republicans and Democrats. I mean I remember-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:55):
Well, that's too simplified. I would agree. And nothing is one or the other. I agree. But in my mind, that's how things tend to be, is I tend to look at Republicans as very much them themselves focused, and Democrats not so much. I think politics is a hot mess.
Beth Demme (16:14):
Yeah, politics is a hot mess, especially as we sit here in Florida, we probably-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:19):
Don't even. Don't even.
Beth Demme (16:20):
... have nothing really we can say.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:22):
I voted. That's all I have to say. I voted.
Beth Demme (16:23):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:24):
And our county is blue.
Beth Demme (16:26):
Our county voted.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:28):
Look at the specific map for Florida. Don't come after us. We are blue, surrounded by way too much red.
Beth Demme (16:35):
Well, I just am remembering a specific experience I had when I was, this was way back in the day, and it was Christmas time, I was practicing law and I was at that time still ardently Republican.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:50):
Old school Republican.
Beth Demme (16:51):
Yeah. Old school Republican.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:52):
Beth Demme (16:53):
Not a 2016 forward Republican.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:55):
Yes. There is a difference.
Beth Demme (16:56):
Pre 2016. And this wonderful woman who was a paralegal in the office, she decided that, as an office, we would buy Christmas presents for a family, which was a great idea. And she was a Democrat. And I remember her coming to me one day and going, and I gave her money, and she came to me and she's like, "I don't get it. All the Republicans in the office keep giving me money, and none of the Democrats want to give me money. And the Democrats are my people. What's wrong with them?"
And my takeaway from that one experience, a sample size of one, was that although Republicans tend to say things like social programs are not the answer, it's not that they don't care about people, it's not that they don't know that people are in need. It's like, no, we're going to accomplish this through charitable organizations, or through our own giving, or through churches or whatever, rather than it being the government's job.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:52):
Okay. But then I push back on that and I say, I could easily see where Republicans are like, "Look, I gave money. I'm a good person. I've solved the problem." And then they disregard those people. They're doing it as a show to, "Look, here's the money."
Beth Demme (18:09):
That crosses party lines. The people who-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:12):
Oh, I agree. No, I agree.
Beth Demme (18:13):
People who give to show money, that is bipartisan.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:16):
I agree. There is a lot of issues in both parties. That's, I think, part of the problem with a two party system, is that people are too different to have just two parties.
Beth Demme (18:30):
Just two, yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:31):
Bu that doesn't super surprise me, your story though.
Beth Demme (18:34):
I think one thing about what I heard growing up and what I continued to believe well into adulthood about the idea of welfare being a handout and government handouts are bad unless they're going to corporations. I think one way that ties back to the American dream is the idea that in order to participate in the American dream, you have to be productive. You have to be a productive member of society. And so your contribution to society is measured by what you produce. I do think that that is part of the American dream. And I'm not saying that it's bad, I'm just not sure ultimately how healthy that is to be measured in terms of your productivity. Like a human doing instead of a human being.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:17):
It's too simplified, I think, because there are so many varying reasons why someone is in the situation they are, especially when disability comes into it. I mean I think it's so ignorant to have that thought process, because everybody has their reasons and has a different situation. And that's a way more complicated conversation to talk about welfare and those kind of things and social security, which is a joke. But all of that is a whole nother conversation, and I don't want to do any more politics. I'm sorry.
Beth Demme (19:53):
Yeah. But what about that idea though of productivity, of being measured by what you produce? Do you think that's tied to the American dream?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:01):
Yeah, I agreed with that. Yeah, I agree that, well, part of it is work hard. So, I would say work hard is translating into be productive. I think you have to justify how you're contributing. I don't know that every single job I would consider contributing to society in a positive way. I mean maybe the street corner drug dealers would explain that.
Beth Demme (20:27):
They work hard maybe, but...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:28):
Well, it's maybe different. Even a lot of the politicians, I don't think they're contributing correctly to society.
Beth Demme (20:36):
I think the idea is that if you contribute, if you produce something and you contribute to society, your reward for that is a nice house, two children, a savings account. That's like your reward for it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:53):
Are you saying that's the concept?
Beth Demme (20:54):
Yeah, I think that's the concept of the American dream.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:56):
Yeah, I guess so. I think that's the idea is if you work hard, you can have these things. If you work hard, you'll make enough money to have these things and you should want these things. Which is where it gets into it's a little muddled, is I think the stereotype is you should want all of this, which is something I grew up very much butting heads with. Because I was like, "I don't want..." Because part of it also, it's not in this definition, but I think part of it is being married also.
And especially for a woman. A woman being married, having two kids. So, I butt heads with that when I was growing up because I'm like, "I don't really want to settle down and have kids. I want a house, but I want a house." So, I do feel like I have failed at the American dream concept. So, I know as I've gotten older I've realized no one's going to tell me what my dream is.
Beth Demme (21:54):
Right. Yeah, I definitely think you're right, that marriage is part of it though. Because I don't think that the dream or this false ideal-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:02):
The two children are not out of wedlock.
Beth Demme (22:04):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:04):
Beth Demme (22:05):
Exactly. So, I do think marriage is implied in that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:07):
It's always a good time when you can say wedlock.
Beth Demme (22:09):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:11):
You probably say that a lot as a pastor.
Beth Demme (22:13):
I don't, shockingly.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:16):
You just randomly say that. Just to remind you.
Beth Demme (22:17):
I do wonder how this specific definition and the fact that it includes a house, because we talked about the tiny house thing, I wonder how that is changing, because when I talk to my nephews who are in their twenties, it's like, "What do I need to own a house for?"
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:38):
That's not great. They don't understand why they need to own a house.
Beth Demme (22:41):
Well, no. And in fact, there are people my age who are like, "It's really better for me to invest that money and to not have the debt of a mortgage and not have the responsibility of it." I'm like, "But you have to live somewhere."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:56):
I don't understand that concept. Owning a house, yes, it's a big deal, but when you buy within your means, I think that's part of it, is you need to buy within your means, and you need to have a plan. In a 30 -year, what is it, a 15- or 30-year mortgage?
Beth Demme (23:13):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:15):
Yeah. You should have it paid off before that, in my opinion.
Beth Demme (23:20):
At a fixed rate, please.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:21):
Beth Demme (23:21):
Please get fixed rate mortgages folks.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:23):
I grew up with parents that really taught me about money, and so there was no... I mean I lived in an apartment in college, a dorm, and then I had an apartment in Orlando for five years. And that made sense for me, because I didn't want to stay in Orlando so there was no need to buy a house. And that made perfect sense. And it was actually a pretty cheap apartment. It was nice, but it was pretty cheap. And then when I moved back to Tallahassee, I knew I'm buying a house right away, and I did. Because it just makes sense.
Beth Demme (23:54):
Right. It does make sense. I do think that we have issues probably everywhere, but especially in Florida, especially in Tallahassee, we have issues with housing being affordable, with it being something that people can afford to buy.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:07):
Well, and rentals are tough these days too. Not having enough and then having to have so much-
Beth Demme (24:13):
Be able to prove so much income to qualify for the rental. And it is worse in Tallahassee, because in a big part of Tallahassee, a big section of town, the rent is determined by the bedroom, not by the apartments, because it's student housing. So, a 1,500 square foot apartment, well, if that has three bedrooms, then it's worth more than a 1,500 square foot house probably.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:40):
Yeah. It's tough. I'm not going to say there's an easy answer to it. Especially if you're struggling financially, you probably won't have the money to put a down payment on a house. There is a lot within closing costs that you have to go through. So, I mean I get why people rent and not buy.
Beth Demme (24:59):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:00):
I think the stereotype is buying a house, probably a big house, out of your means. And I don't think part of the American dream is to understand money and to have it. I think the idea is just spend it. When you get it, spend it. I think there's the stereotype of doing that.
Beth Demme (25:17):
The more you have, the better you are.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:18):
Yeah, which is completely opposite-
Beth Demme (25:21):
The more stuff you have, not the more money, but the more stuff you have.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:24):
Yeah. And I just feel like my generation is taking this differently and we are living within our means and we are not buying more stuff than we need. I think you looked this up, what is the generation, what age group has the most debt?
Beth Demme (25:38):
The oldest generation actually has the most credit card debt. I'll put a link to that in the show notes.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:42):
Is it seventies, or the Baby Boomers basically?
Beth Demme (25:46):
Yeah, it was basically the Baby Boomers.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:48):
Which makes total sense with them having that original concept of American dream, buy a big house, get all the stuff.
Beth Demme (25:56):
And their generation was also the generation of the suburb, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:59):
Beth Demme (26:00):
Their dads came home from World War II and they've got a family and they want a place to put the family. And so I know the one in Pennsylvania's called Levittown, I don't know what they're called other places. But this idea of cookie cutter houses and suburbs, because everybody wanted to own a house.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:16):
Like Edward Scissorhands. You know the neighborhood, they're all like cookie cutter houses. They leave the house at the same time. All of this.
Beth Demme (26:24):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:25):
It's a good Christmas movie. So, I feel like we are talking all about this, but something that is not in that definition, the working definition, is freedom.
Beth Demme (26:33):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:34):
When I think of America, I think we're free. Everyone is free to work hard, to make these choices if they want to have a big house, if they want to have kids. That's a big part of, I think is ingrained in the American dream, is the freedom to do these things. Because this is the only country I've ever lived in, and born here, but I think there's a lot of countries that you don't have that freedom.
Beth Demme (27:00):
I think you're right. I think that we do have freedoms here and I think that we have had them long enough now that we take them for granted. And that makes me sad. But it is interesting that the definition doesn't include freedom at all. In fact, the definition includes things that are the opposite of freedom. Like a job, a nice house, which to me I read that as mortgage, two children. Those are responsibilities, those are not freedoms.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:25):
But you have the freedom to choose those things. And I think as I've gotten older, that's what I've learned, is I have the freedom to decide if I want that. I don't have to have that, but I can choose if I want that. I was wondering if you've ever thought, your kids, we've talked about, are from Russia.
Beth Demme (27:42):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:42):
Have you ever thought about what their lives would've looked like if they were still in Russia?
Beth Demme (27:46):
I have. I think about that from time to time, especially around their birthdays. Because I tend to think about their birth parents around their birthdays and think, "Oh, they're probably thinking about them too. And what's it like for them?" And the truth is that even though we've been to Russia many times, I don't really have enough information to know. I know that if they had stayed with their birth families, I have one idea of what that would look like.
But if they had stayed in the system, so to speak, if they had not ever been adopted, then I know that the statistics there are pretty grim, because you get turned out at 16 with no resources and no money and no nothing. You're just basically unhoused at that point. And I haven't talked to them about the American dream. I don't know. That would be an interesting conversation.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:37):
Well, they've grown up in a household seeing two parents that have achieved the American dream. So, it would be interesting to get their opinions on what the dream is. Well, your daughter, we had her on.
Beth Demme (28:47):
Yeah. Well, she's got it all figured out.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:48):
I know. And she wants to be married.
Beth Demme (28:51):
And she's going to not have a house, she's going to always live in an apartment until she gets married.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:55):
Beth Demme (28:57):
Because I have been trying to tell her that in college she should rent a house with roommates.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:03):
I heard a should.
Beth Demme (29:04):
Oh yeah. I've been should-ing on her like crazy.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:06):
Oh, well, you're her mom.
Beth Demme (29:07):
Yeah, I'm her mom. And we're in the process of looking for housing for next year. And so it's like, "Well, why don't you do this? Find some girls, rent a house, it'll be fun." And she's like," No, I don't want to move into a house until I'm moving in with my husband.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:24):
Beth Demme (29:25):
I don't know. And I kind of said like, "Why?" And she basically was like, "Go listen to the podcast. I've got it all figured out."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:33):
Well, first of all, I approve of that response. But second of all, that's a weird line in the sand. I don't know that you don't want to live in a house, because living in a house with three people, three girls, is going to be real different than with your husband in the house that you choose together and you buy.
Beth Demme (29:51):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:51):
This rental is not going to be maybe as nice as you think. That is an odd concept to me.
Beth Demme (29:57):
You know who has achieved the American dream, now that I think about it, is my in-laws. So, my husband's parents, they are married, they had successful careers, they own a home, they have exactly two children. And my father-in-law worked in civil service, he worked for the government his entire career all the way up until the day he retired. And then when he retired, the first thing they did was they took a cruise to Alaska and now they take extended road trips.
I mean, for many years in fact, they had a camper that they towed and they would travel around to campgrounds, camping. Because that's what you do in retirement, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:40):
Beth Demme (30:40):
So, that's part of the American dream, I think. The stereotype is that you work for the same company, you retire from that job, and then you get to really live your life.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:50):
Yes. I forgot, that is definitely something I would put as part of that stereotype. And that is another part that I have strongly rebelled against. I remember when I was working for Apple, I remember thinking, "Why do I have to wait till I'm retired to start living life and experiencing new things?" And I was like, "No, I don't want to wait to vacation when I am old. I probably want to slow it down when I'm older. I don't think I'm going to be wanting to travel." So, I made a conscious decision when I was in my twenties to start vacationing now and taking those vacations I've always want to do.
One of the things I always have wanted to do since I was little was go skiing. And so I went skiing for the first time, I think in '09, and I loved it. And then I went skiing two more times after that. And actually the last few days I have been planning my next ski trip.
Beth Demme (31:44):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:44):
I'm going to say it right now, it's going to happen in February. And I am going to go to Utah and I believe I'm going to go to Solitude Mountain.
Beth Demme (31:54):
Okay. That sounds like your kind of mountain.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:57):
I know, right?
Beth Demme (31:57):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:58):
And its claim to fame is that it has tons of trails, but it's pretty secluded. There's not a ton of people there compared to all the other ski resource around. And every time I've gone skiing, I've gone to Sugar Loaf, Steamboat Springs, something else, Sugar, and then Solitude. So, they all start with S.
Beth Demme (32:18):
Oh, okay. It's a thing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:19):
And February is my birthday month, and my name starts with an S. So, that's kind of how I picked Solitude Mountain, but also solitude, that's my jam.
Beth Demme (32:27):
Yeah. Is it easy to get to? Is there an airport in a reasonable driving distance?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:31):
It's 15 minutes away, the airport. So, it looks like is going to be pretty straightforward. So, I'm in the very initial planning stages, but I wanted to say it out loud so that I can move forward with it and not be like, "Oh." Everything that you need is just, it's a high price, but for me, I absolutely love skiing and just the gliding down the mountain, there's nothing else like it. The closest is kayaking, which is why I love that I can kayak here in Florida.
So, that's for me something that I made a conscious decision in my twenties, was I'm not going to wait. I'm going to live now. I'm going to work and live now. And when I retire, I don't know actually, that's also something that, I mean, I don't have a traditional job at all.
Beth Demme (33:20):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:20):
And I don't know if I will ever fully retire in any way. When are you retiring?
Beth Demme (33:30):
I am going to retire when I'm 54.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:33):
Oh, you have it decided. You figured it out.
Beth Demme (33:35):
Yes, because our plan is that-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:37):
Is that next week?
Beth Demme (33:38):
Hey, I'm not even 50 yet. Because when we did our financial plan, you have to pick a day. And so it was, okay, we're going to retire when my husband is 55 and I'm a year younger than him, so that would make me 54.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:53):
What day are you going to die? Did they figure that out?
Beth Demme (33:54):
I haven't picked that yet.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:55):
Beth Demme (33:55):
Yeah, I think that we ran the tables out so that we could live until 99 or 100.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:01):
Beth Demme (34:02):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:03):
Oh, I'm excited. I'll come to your birthday. So, is that when you're going to start living life and vacationing, when you are 54?
Beth Demme (34:11):
No, we like to travel now.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:13):
I knew that about you.
Beth Demme (34:14):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:15):
You guys take big 'ol trips.
Beth Demme (34:16):
We take big trips.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:17):
Beth Demme (34:18):
And we have some ideas for the next year's trips. So, I don't know what retirement will look like. And in fact, I mean we actually talk about it pretty often, especially for my husband. I mean the work that he does is not physically taxing, he writes computer software. So, he's even said like, "Okay, well, if I retire, what will I do then?" And really it's just, I think for him, retirement will just be accessing another level or layer of freedom, because right now he is responsible to clients who pay him.
And so he needs to be available and the systems that he creates need to be online. And so he's got to manage all of that, whereas in retirement, he really will have the freedom to do what he wants to do when he wants to do it. And so maybe we'll be able to take longer trips.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:10):
How does he manage the systems when he is on vacation? Because he's the only one that works... I mean he's self-employed.
Beth Demme (35:15):
Well, it's all web based, so...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:17):
So, he does do a little bit when you're on vacation?
Beth Demme (35:20):
Yeah. But, for example, one year, this is years ago, the kids were little and we went to Chattanooga for a week and something went wrong with one of the systems. And the kids and I went and explored Chattanooga and he sat in the hotel and had to fix it. And it took a couple days. Or the year that we took the kids to London, he had an internet connectivity issue with his Comcast line. And it was like, "Okay, well, you stay here and work on that. We're going out to see the city."
And so he has missed out on things from time to time. Or we'll try to plan it so that the way the zones work is that we can go do stuff during the day and then while we're sleeping, he works. He has made sacrifices in that way so that we can travel.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:04):
So, that actually sounds very different than the stereotype American dream we're talking about, but to me it almost sounds like the new American dream is to have a job where you can start to vacation and explore life now, but that if there is an issue, you can be in the hotel room and work on it and you can work remotely, which I would think is very much into the new American dream, thank you COVID. That I think Americans are fully seeing the value of remote jobs. We've talked about the stereotype of the American dream, but Beth, what is your American dream?
Beth Demme (36:43):
You know what, I think I'm going to let you go first. Steph, what's your American dream? And then if it's really good, I'll just borrow it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:51):
Well, actually I think that was great and I'm going to keep that in because I think that's very American, to not have an answer and wait to hear someone else's and then say the other person's like you came up with it and make it your own.
Beth Demme (37:04):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:05):
That's very American.
Beth Demme (37:06):
And also the grass is always greener on the other side. I'm going to need to know your dream before I can fully define mine.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:11):
Because I don't want you to judge my dream, so I want to hear what yours is so I can make sure mine's in line with it. Yeah, I'm with you. I'm with you. We're very American right now. Very American right now. So, my American dream is definitely, well, we definitely take some parts from the stereotype, but I think that is part of the dream, is to make it your own. So, for me, my dream has always been to be able to have enough money to live and to live comfortably. And also, like I said, is to be able to vacation and experience life.
And I'm not a huge traveler, so I'm more a homebody, but skiing, that's something that I am willing to get on a plane for and not a lot of things am I willing to do that for. And also being able to have a job where I feel like I'm contributing to society, but I feel valued and I feel like I have control over it. And a big part of my American dream is to put my mental health in the forefront. That is a huge piece for everything I do in my life, is to make sure that I'm mentally healthy. And something that I feel like as a society we don't necessarily do a great job at, I do think that it's getting part of the conversation more within my generation, but that's part of my dream, is to always know that my mental health is important as my physical health.
Beth Demme (38:38):
A lot of that really resonates with me. Having control over your schedule, having the flexibility to travel, but also being in some way add value and in some way contributing to society. All of that resonates with me. I think that part of my dreams for myself or for my family that are specifically American, I think we are at this time where I worry that what it means to be an American is changing in ways that are not good. And I think there are things that we need to reckon with about being an American that have been glossed over in ways that aren't healthy.
But I mean I do hope that we continue to have freedom. I do hope that we continue to have, I don't know how else to say other than freedom from tyranny. I don't want a small group of people deciding what life is going to be like for everybody else. I really believe in the idea of democracy and hope that we can continue to achieve that in a way that makes this American dream, which I think what we've said today is the American dream can be different for each person. That in some way there's something about the way we exist as Americans that makes it possible for more and more people to have a dream and to make that dream a reality.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:06):
Well, slice of life is what we call this section. And you know what I just thought of?
Beth Demme (40:12):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:12):
Did you have a slice of pie yesterday?
Beth Demme (40:14):
I for sure did. I had at least a slice of pumpkin pie. Let's be honest, I had two.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:20):
Is that your favorite pie?
Beth Demme (40:21):
Yes, pumpkin pie is my favorite pie. And I only will have it between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:27):
Okay. I think pumpkin's probably my favorite. Yeah.
Beth Demme (40:30):
Do you like whipped cream on it?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:31):
No, I don't like whipped cream.
Beth Demme (40:34):
I like whipped cream. But I have a family member who likes pumpkin pie with butter on it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:39):
Beth Demme (40:39):
And I'm like, "No, whipped cream."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:41):
Beth Demme (40:41):
Whipped cream is the way to go.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:42):
There's butter in the pie. What do you mean?
Beth Demme (40:45):
Yeah. Well, I mean, more butter is probably never a bad idea. It's also probably never a good idea. So, I have a family member who likes pumpkin pie with butter.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:52):
Okay, well, that's not me. Just plain old pumpkin pie. I also like other pies too.
Beth Demme (40:59):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:00):
Beth Demme (41:00):
I like other pies. But if there was a choice, I'd probably go with pumpkin. But I would also put, if there was five different pies, I would try them all.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:08):
But I did want to say, because it was Thanksgiving yesterday, I'm thankful for you, Beth.
Beth Demme (41:14):
Wow. Thanks for saying that. I'm thankful for you too.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:17):
Thank you. And I'm thankful we have this podcast and I could not have imagined we'd still be going at it.
Beth Demme (41:26):
I was thinking of all that the other day. I was like, "Who knew we'd get three and a half years in and still be like, 'Yeah, we got more ideas.'"
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:33):
Yeah, let's do it. And I do want to also say I'm thankful for something that in a past episode I made fun of.
Beth Demme (41:40):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:41):
Beth Demme (41:41):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:42):
And we both made fun of.
Beth Demme (41:44):
I make fun of so many things.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:45):
Beth Demme (41:47):
This could be almost anything.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:48):
So, about a month ago, my doctor suggested that I start doing yoga, because I had a weird pain in my leg. And she said I might have a pinched nerve. And so I was like, "I've heard of this yoga thing, I'm going to just try it." And Apple has a program called Fitness+, which it's professionally produced exercise videos and is really well done. It's like $10 a month to subscribe to it. And I was like, "I'll do it for a month." And I started doing the yoga on there and I love it.
Beth Demme (42:15):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:15):
Oh my gosh. Molly's my favorite trainer. So, if you do Fitness+, Molly, hey, I follow her on Instagram now. She's the older instructor and she's like epic. I love her. But it's just so cool and chill and easy. It's easy to do it. I actually do it with the Apple TV and then it connects my watch and then it all works. And actually I do it every other day. But today you wanted to do this 30 minutes later and I was like, "Wait, I'm just going to do a yoga," because I didn't get to go walking today, because it's a hurricane right now.
Beth Demme (42:49):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:50):
But we're safe inside.
Beth Demme (42:53):
We're in Florida.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:53):
Yeah. Oh,, well. So I did it right before and it just chills me out.
Beth Demme (42:58):
Nice. I like that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:59):
And I love it because by doing it, it helps me keep my body nice and flexible so that I can do all the other things I want to do. So, then I can do more kayaking. And I've also been getting into biking and then when I go skiing. So, that's kind of how I'm looking at yoga is it like de-stresses me and it helps me stay flexible to do all the activities I want to do.
Beth Demme (43:22):
Love that. I love that. For a second I thought you were going to say that you had decided to do goat yoga.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:27):
Oh, I want to do that.
Beth Demme (43:28):
Yeah. But I think maybe that's what we made fun of.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:31):
I want to do it now though. I think it sounds silly and I think it's more like-
Beth Demme (43:36):
It sounds dirty.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:37):
Beth Demme (43:38):
Yeah. Both sound dirty to me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:39):
Well, I think for sure you'll get pooped on. How do they control that?
Beth Demme (43:44):
You assumed that and you still want to do it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:47):
I think it would be so silly. I don't know. There's a place that I found that does it and I really want to go, just because I think it will just be hilarious. And now that I do yoga, at least know some of the moves and wouldn't feel like completely out there. I don't know all the names, but they say them at least. And then I'm like, "Oh, okay."
At the end of each episode, we end with questions for reflection. These are questions based on today's show that Beth will read and leave a little pause between for you to answer to yourself, or you can find a PDF on our website.
Beth Demme (44:19):
Number one, do you have any Black Friday rituals? Number two, has your concept of the American Dream changed as you've gotten older? Number three, do you have dreams of retiring one day? What does that look like for you? And number four, what is your American dream?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:40):
This has been the Discovering Our Scars podcast. Thank you for joining us.
11/25/2022 05:26:01 am
My Black Friday ritual (getting ready to do now) is to go to the Festival of Trees at the Timonium Fairgrounds (VERY cool festival benefiting the Kennedy Krieger Institute), followed by visiting Valley View Farms (nursery that is decked out to the nines with Christmas stuff) and then visit Serpico Pizza and Subs for an out-of-this-world Italian Cold Cut sub (warm, fresh baked round bread stuffed with goodness). I hope you both had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are catching the Christmas spirit! :)
12/6/2022 10:46:57 am
That DOES sound like a great way to spend the day! Community, Christmas, and food are all in the plan. I hope it was enjoyable as it sounds.
11/25/2022 06:38:06 am
That sounds awesome! Thanks for sharing!
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Mental Health Advocate. Author. Podcast Host. DIYer. Greyhound Mom.
I'm a mom who laughs a lot, mainly at myself. #UMC Pastor, recent Seminary grad, public speaker, blogger, and sometimes lawyer. Learning to #LiveLoved.