A recent article from TIME magazine claims that “People Aren’t Happiest Until They Reach 33.” I thought this was a curious claim, and so decided to look further. According to the article, a study by Friends United, a British social-networking site, “found that 70% of respondents over the age of 40 claimed they were not truly happy until they reached 33.”
But what does that mean? And why? Well, according to psychologist Donna Dawson:
The age of 33 is enough time to have shaken off childhood naivete and the wild scheming of teenaged years without losing the energy and enthusiasm of youth.
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.
Can this be true? And what if you are the age of 33, and haven’t shaken off “childhood naivete”? Haven’t surpassed the “wild scheming” stage? What does that say about you?
Certainly some innocence has been lost by this stage, but hopefully not all idealism. All hope. The article speaks of hope, and confidence in our abilities at this point. Has anyone who is or has been 33 experienced that?
The article went on to recognize that only 16% of the survey’s respondents pined for their childhood, while (only) 6% said they were happiest in college. I would have thought those numbers higher, particularly college. I thought many people felt that was the happiest, most hopeful time in their lives: so much meaning, so much fun, so many possibilities.
Many respondents attributed happiness at 33 to fulfillment in their professional lives, “as well as having a support system of family and friends.” It went on to mention (I thought strangely) “[n]ot surprisingly, 36% said they were happiest when they had children.” If it’s not surprising, then why is the number not 100%? I am kind of perplexed both by why the number is so high and why it is not lower.
Finally, more than half of survey takers who chose 33 as the magic number said they did so because “life at that age was more fun — probably because they had more money to enjoy it.”
For me this article created more questions than answers. I would like to know a lot more about the ages of the people taking the survey. Did they interview anyone under age 33? Right at age 33? Is 33 supposed to feel like the happiest time in your life as you are living it, or is it something you only recognize in retrospect? And is it only going downhill from there, or once achieved, can you hope to then experience years and decades of abject happiness?
I liked being a kid. I don’t know if I’d want to go back, but I miss it. I loved college. LOVED it! But that’s my personality. I’m an “anticipation” kind of person. In college, I loved what I was doing and loved the possibility of where I was going. I could find a lot of happiness in looking forward to something, and part of that happiness stemmed from not knowing exactly what that was going to be.
By 33, you are pretty much “there,” or well along that path. So if you like where “there” is, and can get excited about being there, every day, for the next 50+ however many years, then yeah, I see how that could be your formula for happiness. I just don’t know how realistic that is.
Also, I hope to never grow out of the “wild scheming” stage. That, for me, is where the fun is. The excitement. I just have a hard time getting my head around a “hope” that things stay exactly as they are. It seems like the only kind of true hope is that things keep getting better, and better, and better. And if that necessitates change (which it probably does sometimes) then so be it. Don’t get me wrong, I like what’s good in my life. But the thought that this is as good as it is going to get is too much for me to handle.
How about you? What is the magic age for happiness? Anyone agree with 33? What do you say?