How coincidental that just as I’m turning 40, a new reality show starts called the “Big 4-0” documenting people turning 40. Sort of like “My Super Sweet 16” for old people. And if the first few episodes are indicative, it shows that Americans don’t really grow up. They just keep trying to pretend that they’re young like those “relevant” people on TV and advertisements who are all under 30. Its seems to be people who never had a blowout “Super Sweet 16” and now, with a little more money, are recreating their childhood.
Being born post-“baby boomer”, I never thought of myself as a part of a huge demographic. But I guess the Gen-X’ers are the first generation to be part of the whole “Real World” reality TV phenomenon. So now, even in turning 40, I can feel like I’m less important and more boring than the average person my age and that my life is a little less exciting and over-the-top than most other people.
Though, as in all of the reality TV shows, I wouldn’t want to be them. I think the whole reality TV thing is based on the idea that the viewer can feel morally and intellectually superior and thereby feel better about themselves.
But I hate having to compare myself so directly to other people. Its been shown that it’s the root of unhappiness. Its less important how much we have, than how much we have relative to those around us. Which is why living in NY (or LA or any other above-average income town) is a guarantee of unhappiness. Because someone always has more - more money, bigger house, hotter boyfriend, better job. That is the source of unhappiness – wanting what you don’t have and in most cases don’t need.
In reality, the only way I can be happy about being 40 is by not comparing myself to other 40 year olds or to what America says I should be or have at 40. No, I don’t have a job, or own a home, or have kids. But I have a roof over my head, food on the table and the love of the most wonderful man in the world (which, if I lived in Egypt or Iraq or Afghanistan, I could only dream about).
In fact, I have fulfilled my childhood dreams. Maybe not as rich, but I also don’t have a wife and kids which, like so many dreams force-fed to me in childhood, needed to be tossed out the window when I learned who I am and what real happiness is. And that, in reality, is the joy of turning 40 – ignoring what the world says you should be and having the wisdom to know who I am and what brings me happiness.