Does Having Fun Make You Happier?
by Jay Fadden
Time and age have a way of beating us down. The other day, I was speaking with a younger person and I told them that I was much more fun when I was younger. In those days, possibilities seemed limitless. Everything was new and exciting. I was sure that nothing would change and that I would feel forever young and think the same. I had free time on my hands and I got along to get along. In a sense, I was a bit selfish, thinking that if something did not affect me, then why bother?
Everything was much more black and white. I did not know what the grey area was or even care. Life was my carousel, going around with no boundaries or impediments. It was a time of self-discovery and recklessness.
As a young child, I have a vivid memory of my mother stopping me from eating more than three of my favorite chocolate cookies. I stood in the kitchen and professed that when I was a parent, my kids would be able to eat as many cookies as they wanted. I was going to be a fun parent!
College was just fun! I had good friends and was discovering the world with my new freedom as the shackles of my parents were loosened and I was my own person. I made mistakes and fell on occasion, but I was free and uninhibited. It was a time of laughing and growing. Everything was falling into place, and I was consumed by my selfish pursuit of fun and expression. I did not care about the cost because I didn’t understand value—the value found in time, friendship, love, family, and self-respect. All I understood was having fun and living life full throttle.
Then, something extraordinary happened to me. I began to grow older, and my perspective did change. I got a job and realized that you needed to work and that hard work brought rewards. I learned that nothing was without a cost. That cost could be financial or emotional, but everything had a price. I got married and had three children and no longer had free weekends. My responsibilities grew and my free time disappeared like smoke in the wind. Opinions that seemed so black and white were no longer so easy. The nuances that are in each decision were clearer and yet less defined. Those nuances led to the search for a greater truth than self-worth. When on the rare occasion when I had free time, I wanted to take a nap, not find something else to do.
People are fond of saying that you become your parents. I am not sure that is true. In fact, I think that what you become is experienced. Time and age shape and mold you with ferocity. When I was young, I did not have the luxury of knowing everything my parents knew because they had experienced so much more. I was sure they were crazy and I was always right, but look who is crazy now. Through all my failures and success, I have had experiences that shape my decisions and how I choose to live my life.
Today, I may not be as “fun,” but I hope and believe I am a better person. I am a person who is not swayed by the ebb and flow of societal change, but by relating my experiences to situations and developing an opinion based on those experiences. My life is no longer about me, but about my family, faith, friends, and community. My values are rooted in the understanding of the failures of my past and the faith I live. I am older, but more in tune with who I am and what I believe. Today, I can look in the mirror, and the reflection I see is of a man trying to do better in life and in this confusing world, and not of Narcissus. I may not be as fun, but I am happier!