The American Dream is a big deal where I come from. My parents, Gary and Misty, struggled for a long time to keep their heads above the poverty line.
When I was six, they hosted a garage sale that, at the time, I thought was really cool. Suddenly everyone in the neighborhood wanted to buy some of the best stuff we had and it was great! Years later, of course, I found out that mom and dad had given up some of our most treasured possessions just so they could make their mortgage payment.
My parents spent a lot of years working as hard as they could to try to give our family more. They went to school, dedicated themselves to their careers, and used every resource they had access to in an effort to give us more opportunities. By the time I’d started high school, we moved into a new house, my sister and I had started cheerleading, and it felt like we were finally in a place where things were looking up.
While I was pushing pom pons and dreaming about the vacations we’d go on as a family, my parents were starting to pay for all of the stress and strain decades of working themselves to the bone had caused. My mom, a high powered marketing executive, starting experiencing anxiety and heart palpitations. My dad, a landscaper who earned his keep in the sun, started to experience health problems. I was focused on all the new activities I had access to and Kay, who was 7 years younger than me, was increasingly left behind while we all went about our busy lives.
We’d become so focused on having enough money to keep our heads above water that we’d forgotten that success without your family at your side is not success at all.
So, when we heard that our favorite restaurant, Squeeze In, was on the market, our family decided that it was time to change our lives. Famous for the best omelettes on the planet, it was exactly what we needed.
Almost immediately I started working in the restaurant. Together with my parents and a ton of other family members, we started putting in everything we had. We spent the days serving and cooking at the restaurant and the nights balancing the books and scrubbing aprons. We loved every single second of it!
Sure, everyone needs an economic engine to provide for themselves and their families, but not everyone gets to spend each day with the people they love the most in the world!
Since then both our family and our business have grown like crazy. We’ve surrounded ourselves with incredible people. From our kids to our grandparents to the beloved guests who continue to come back week after week, we’ve been able to build something truly special and to nurture the relationships that mean the most at the same time.
Family businesses aren’t the easiest endeavor. And most of us probably know families that should never even try it! But in our case, the people who cheer us on and support us the most are the same people who ensure we have fulfilling careers too.
For a long time we thought the American Dream was years of toil in careers with rigid schedules resulting in middle class success. When we got there, we realized it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and we were sacrificing too much of ourselves and our values. Sure, we wanted to be financially stable, but not if that was going to cost us meaningful time together. Instead, we made some changes, evaluated our “why,” and are now living an American Dream that fulfills us each and every day!