True Happiness (Isn't Until Age 33?)

So apparently the happiest year of life has been discovered. If you haven’t already heard and can easily tune out monotonous spotify ads, British scientist have determined “People aren’t happiest until they’ve reach age 33.” This leaves myself, along with the rest of you young adults and teens of the world, to assume we should anticipate life being “less then” up to this magical age.  Not only does this imply that you must wait for happiness until reaching your 30’s, but that you are lacking materialistic, relational, vocational and personal contentment.

For anyone who’s left college or your youth and stepped into adulthood, life rarely feels as “happy” as you imagine it to be. Love songs, coming-of-age formulated films, and childhood fairytales ( excluding Brothers Grimm of course) often suggest that we’ve “yet to arrive.” This study seems to convey the same idea. But since these scientist are such experts on true happiness and have done their homework, I guess it should give me something to look forward to?  

Time magazine reports: “The age of 33 is enough time to have shaken off childhood naiveté and the wild scheming of teenaged years without losing the energy and enthusiasm of youth,” psychologist Donna Dawson said in the survey’s findings. “By this age innocence has been lost, but our sense of reality is mixed with a strong sense of hope, a ‘can do’ spirit, and a healthy belief in our own talents and abilities.”

So what are some things that could make today’s 33 so deliriously happy an age? While most 33 year olds today are single (or just settling into marriage,) have time for more than one job (one which probably pacifies their passion, while the other pays the rent) and likely don’t own a home, there is a lot of room left for … yourself. Granted any career-driven 33 year-old working 60-plus-hour weeks, or juggling grad school or on the dating scene or writing a book adapted from their blog (or all the above) may beg to differ. But such a life allows for much time ( a commodity most of us may never grasp until having children) much time for meeting one’s own needs than life may have ever allowed before. At least, this is the vague picture I have of most 33 (or 30-some)year olds I know. And apparently the studies show, such a life makes one the happiest. So do I really need to wait till I’m 33 to taste of such bliss? And how exactly would one define “happiest”? Merely crazy-busy success and more money to play with?

Our generation harps and criticizes the boomer generation (our parents and their parents) for working too hard for the sake of success, for the sake of money, also known as the “American Dream.” Unfamiliar with that term? Read or watch “Death of a Salesman.” That should give some perspective to the “American Dream.”

Could it be that “happiness” is this generation’s “American Dream”; where it’s not so much that success in wealth is the goal, but the dream of a spotlight on your originality or genius for, let’s say, one’s brilliant app idea, or best-selling book about how to be your happiest self is the ultimate end? Is there much of a difference between fixating on attaining the “American Dream” and the “happiest” point of life? But success and spotlight put aside, where does happiness fall? What’s it’s worth beyond the given fame and increased income?

We all anticipate “happier” years, weeks or moments of life. But this tends to taint every moment leading up to our “happiest” as less than. Labeling the years that frame our “happier” years as not-“happy”, not only is depressing, but demotivates and sucks the life and vision from out present.  Worst of all, this mindset sets our gaze more on ourself and our own “happiness”. Happiness just might not be all it’s cracked up to be. The pursuit of happiness may not be a means to more than money and success. Our hunt for happiness may be a wasted pursuit, if just for the sake of happiness.

CS Lewis, as always, put it best:

"God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

As much as I myself anticipate happier moments in life, moments when my income is increased to a comfortable level, moments where dreams and passions do come to life, I can not allow my daily happiness (let alone the years of my life) to depend on such things. I know when my mind and heart are commited to living each age of life dedicated to loving God, I am my happiest, no matter where I am and no matter what age. Because life is meant for so much more than to merely be “happy.”

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