Contentment. Satisfaction. Joy. Delight. Exuberance. Jubilation.
It doesn’t matter what you call it. We all want to be happy. It’s a pretty basic universal truth. What makes us happy, however, is as unique as each of us. And, to complicate matters even further, what makes us happy today may not do the same tomorrow and vice versa.
Happiness is constantly evolving as time unfolds and our perceptions grow and unfold right along with the seconds on the clock.
When we are babies, happiness is a full belly and an empty diaper. It’s having your dad make a silly face that never fails to make you giggle. It is the magical mystery known as peek-a-boo.
As children, happiness might be defined by a new bicycle or a giant cloud of cotton candy. It is camping out in the backyard, ice cream for breakfast, the first day of third grade, living room forts and the magical mystery known as the tooth fairy.
As teens, the quest for happiness continues, albeit without any cotton candy clouds or visits from the tooth fairy. For teens happiness may seem more elusive, life more complicated as the realities of self-awareness and peer pressure kick in. Still, teens do acquire happiness on occasion. It often involves friends, the social scene and dating. It might come from success in sports, academics, school activities or hobbies. Often it takes the form of the magical mystery known as the car keys and a full tank of gas.
Young adults are eager to join the world of grown-ups but don’t yet have some of the responsibilities that will build up over the coming years. They now understand the world of work and probably have come to appreciate the happiness brought on by a promotion and equally so a day off. Weekends may take on new meaning (and joy).
The act of dating, which started during the teens may develop into marriage and a lifetime partner. This should, in the best-case scenario, increase one’s happiness quotient. Young adults still experience a sense of immortality; life is an adventure waiting to unfold. They enjoy roller coasters, fast food and splurging on themselves because they can. However, happiness also comes from the increased responsibilities that often accompany this time span. Things like a mortgage, a baby, a dog and that magical mystery known as employer paid health insurance.
Seasoned adults no longer self-actualize over a 30-year mortgage but continue to seek happiness based on their experiences and tenure in life. Happiness isn’t as easy as a new bike or new puppy, but it isn’t as fleeting as it perhaps has been in the past. Joy comes from solid life relationships that have been nurtured and developed throughout the years. It comes from knowing what brings happiness and then pursuing that something. It stems from a knowledge of oneself that has also been built over decades.
Seasoned adults are no longer chasing the American dream because they’ve decided just to live it in the here and now with who they are and what they have. Their contentment comes from within, rather than from without. Life itself has become the magical mystery, with the realization that it has always been this way — clouds and all.
And that, in and of itself, brings on an overall sense of peace and contentment.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.
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