Is the American Dream Dead -- or Just in Hiding?

The Berkleys had to make some radical changes. Gym memberships? Cancelled, along with cable TV. That SUV? Sold and replaced by a used car. Family trips to the amusement park were replaced by trips to the backyard.

Despite all the cost-cutting, the Berkleys still struggle to pay their mortgage and could lose their house. It's humbling, says Keith.

"You're sitting there and you're like, 'God, I cannot believe that I can't make a living. With all the things ... I've been to school, I've worked hard ... and now I can't make a living?'"

But here's the surprising part: The Berkleys say the changes they've had to make have actually made their lives better.

Instead of take-out dinners in front of the TV, the Berkleys now cook their own meals from garden-grown vegetables and eat together around the table. Keith and Holly's gym workouts have been replaced by runs together through nearby Balboa Park. The Berkleys discovered that what they've lost in the economic downturn hasn't been nearly as valuable as the time that they've gained together as a family.

American Dream: Will Recession Improve Lives?

"Time is now at the top of our priority list," said Keith. "Now that we've chopped everything just to survive, time is back up on top of that list."

"The recession forced us to re-evaluate what's important in life," said Holly. "It's forcing us to pay attention to the people in front of us. The people that count, who don't care how many books you've published or how many clients and fancy offices you have. They care about how you make them feel."

Florida agreed. "I think what's good about a reset is that it's a period of introspection," he said. "You actually have to think about how you're going to organize your family. We know that spending time together, eating meals together are what create true happiness in life."

Some believe the recession will improve all of our lives by bringing us back to the original vision of the American Dream, first spelled out in 1931 by author James Truslow Adams, who described "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man."

"I think the economic downturn will allow a lot of people to give up a moving-forward-getting-more lifestyle that was leaving them feeling empty anyway," said Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan. "I do not think the American dream is -- let's go materially crazy. It's not some frantic driving engine of get and have and want. That's not the dream."

In a recent column, Noonan outlined a decidedly optimistic take on our post-recession American Dream, envisioning an America less fixated on designer labels, Botox, and facelifts.

"Mature people will be allowed to look mature," Noonan predicted with a laugh. "Elderly people will be allowed to look elderly."

We may change how and where we live, too. Florida predicts that suburban sprawl and hellacious commutes will decline as more people make the decision to move closer to city centers, living in smaller, more energy-efficient homes.

"Resets are really painful," Florida said. "It's horrible. But looking back through American history, these painful, terrible resets have always led to a much better way of life."

American Dream: 'It's Really About Balance'

"The American Dream still exists and is beautiful, dynamic, important," said Noonan, "Maybe we're saying the fruits of the dream are changing a little bit."

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