As a young girl growing up in Turkey, I dreamed about what life would be like in America. My ideals were based on what I watched on TV shows at the time. Would I have a great education? A thriving career? A family with 2.3 children, a white picket fence surrounding a split-level house with a dog and a cat, driving a station wagon to take the kids to sports practice on weekends?
Coming to America
As an immigrant, I often get asked if I’m living the American dream. Now in my late 40s, I find myself spending more time reflecting on what the American dream means to me in this season—compared to what it meant in my early 20s when I first moved here.
I remember everything being so new and exciting then. I knew there were no limits to what I could achieve, if I put my mind to it and worked hard. I believed in the ideals of democracy, liberty, opportunity and equality. But mostly, I knew prosperity and success were within my reach, and it was up to me to decide how far I wanted to go.
My 20s and early 30s were spent chasing that definition of the American dream: prosperity and success. I had finished my undergraduate and graduate degrees with high honors, and started my career working for the second-largest privately held company in the U.S. at the time. I purchased a home and a new car, got married, got divorced, got remarried, changed multiple jobs and moved up into leadership roles, had five children and worked for a Fortune 50 company right here in Peoria. All the while, like many of my peers, I was living a life of what I would call excess: buying a bigger home, driving a newer car, acquiring the latest technology.
Thankful for Less
Then something changed in my late 30s. Looking in the mirror, I realized my definition of the American dream had been derailed along the way. I had boiled it down into one word: MORE. At least in my circle at that time, life was simply about more things, more debt, more meaningless hustle, more climbing, more chasing, more me, me, me.
I remember sitting down with my husband one day and having a heart-to-heart about what was truly important for our family. We knew we had to make changes, and at the top of that list was to focus on LESS. We decided to downsize our life, become completely debt-free, move into a much smaller house, get rid of all the useless things we had collected over the years, and just live simply.
I think this shift was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Living a simple life has created so much space and time to focus on deeper relationships and meaningful goals. A year and half ago, I even walked away from my successful corporate career. I now find the greatest joy in the simplest things: a morning walk with a friend, making time to mentor young women, getting involved in our community and growing our small business right here in Peoria, with the goal of impacting coffee farmers in developing countries around the world.
It’s been 28 years since I moved to the United States. I am so thankful for the opportunities I’ve had along the way, but mostly, I’m thankful to live a life of LESS. PM
Banu Hatfield and her husband Mike are the owners of Zion Coffee Bar in Peoria’s Warehouse District.