Happiness comes in all forms: sleeping in on the weekends, seeing a chubby pug puppy waddle by, playing a game of Go Fish with a family member. But the things that make us happy at any given point in our life changes as we slide into the next decade (and into the next, and into the next).
Here is a handy reminder of the things that made us happy when we were young and the kind of things we can look forward to as we grow up.
Arguably the happiest any of us will ever be is when we’re infants. The injustice here is we won’t actually remember any of it later on, but we’re still filled with some shiny remnant of the good times we had in diapersl. Try watching a baby stare at a mobile above its crib or at shimmery and glow-y shapes on the wall. As it giggles or smiles or full on chortles, you know true happiness is bubbling up inside them. The simplicity of an infant’s happiness is that it happens immediately, unfiltered.
Everything sucks when you’re a kid. You’re small, not that well-read (yet), and no one trusts you to take care of yourself, so your parents are always telling you what to do. The one joy though, is getting forgetting all of that and curling up for 30 or 40 minutes each day and napping. Remember that? A nap! Piled under blankets in bed or conked out on the couch in an effort to recharge and refocus is one of the greatest things any one person can experience.
Kid: The Playground
If for one moment you felt any kind of true power and happiness in life, it was standing on the top of the jungle gym and proclaiming yourself to be Supreme Ruler of All The Children. It’s a good feeling, climbing up those treacherous bars to reach the top, proving yourself superior to any and all challengers. But the playground wasn’t always about competition and getting to the (literal) top; it’s also where imagination ran wild and anything was possible.
Getting your license, your first job, first relationship -- the possibilities of joy are endless when you’re a teenager. It all falls under the pretense of freedom; freedom from childhood, but not yet holding many of the responsibilities of adulthood. It was so awesome being a teenager, minus the crippling effects of roller coaster hormones. Anything was conceivable, and those kinds of imaginative thoughts make for the happiest moments.
What makes us most delighted about being in our twenties is that we are certainly no longer teenagers. What a mess that was! That aside, there is something really cool about being a twenty-something: success. Landing your first job interview, getting into that really awesome grad school, having your own grown-up apartment, complete with a bedroom and a bathroom! Everything is coming up You in your twenties, and each victory is fresh and personal.
At the next point in your life, success becomes something to treasure and keep, but alongside it comes the security of knowing that you can provide for not only yourself, but also a family. Isn’t that pretty great? Getting it together and using the means and resources to make your housing, or travel, or familial dreams come true. It’s assured and self-aware and kind of awesome to know all that.
Forties: Being An Actual Adult
You’ve got the car, the kids, the house, the partner; or the loft, the no kids, the multiple stamps in your passport, depending on what floats your boat. Some say you have it all. This is actually everything we all dream of: a life full of experience and goodness and support. What this all means, really, is being a confident and secure adult happened sometime between getting your license and getting a promotion, and you barely noticed it.
Fifties (and beyond): Freedom, Part Two
There’s the kind of freedom you have as a teenager (which isn’t real freedom, but we won’t tell them that) and then there’s the true kind of freedom. At 50, you’re seasoned, smart, and grounded. Maybe your kids have grown up and gone away to start their own families; maybe you’ve taken a trip around the world; or maybe you’re preparing for the next stages of life. In any case, everything has slowed down and now you’ve got nothing but time: time to look back on all that has been accomplished and what there is to come.