Listening to “22” is a four minute jolt of infectious auto-tuney happy earnestness which bleeds into intense nostalgic yearning. The soundtrack to trying on outfits while wearing a clay facemask. Sitting shotgun driving to get frozen yogurt. Laying out at the pool and not worrying someone will make you get them a graham cracker.
It’s pretty sweet to go inward in that particular way a pop song can free you from your present, even if that present is not exactly unpleasant and you’re cool with where you are in your life. Plus, I get a tiny thrill listening to it on my phone on the train between some skinny hot girl with librarian glasses and a tough thug with his legs spread maximally.
Factors that contribute to happiness in your 20’s are sharply different than those that please you in your 40’s according to an interesting article my husband pointed out to me while constantly reading his iPad. It’s about what motivates you at those specific times of life.
The author of the article, Heidi Grant Halvorson, who is on the cusp of 40, writes:
“Happiness becomes less the high-energy, totally-psyched experience of a teenager partying while his parents are out of town, and more the peaceful, relaxing experience of an overworked mom who’s been dreaming of that hot bath all day. The latter isn’t less “happy” than the former — it’s a different way of understanding what happiness is.
Social psychologists describe this change as a consequence of a gradual shifting from promotion motivation — seeing our goals in terms of what we can gain, or how we can end up better off, to prevention motivation — seeing our goals in terms of avoiding loss and keeping things running smoothly. Everyone, of course, has both motivations. But the relative amounts of each differ from person to person, and can shift with experience as we age.”
I suspect that the place of calm and complacency the author is writing from reflects that she is NOT having a midlife crisis, feeling the need to challenge herself physically by juice cleansing or running a marathon. Or becoming depressed and thinking a drastic career or spousal change will be the answer, or having another kid. This writer, in a vague, non-type A personality kind of way, seems to have what so many of my contemporaries are striving for: some peace and contentment for five minutes. It can be enough that everyone is healthy and safe and playing Junior Monopoly on Saturday nights. So good for her! This is great news and I appreciate the reminder that not everyone is out there being groovy all the time and that as parents we are occasionally allowed to breathe a sigh of relief that things are dull and unremarkable.
I listened to Terry Gross interview Greta Gerwig, 20 something actress and co-writer of “Frances Ha,” where Greta is talking about the moment, shown so beautifully in the film, where a person is a post collegiate mess a bit too long to be charming, and how some people seem to move more gracefully into adulthood than others. This film was excellent at probing that side of being youngish and flailing around, and how murky the experience of driving your life forward can feel. I loved it because it showed a character who couldn’t not be who she was, until she found her unique path, which most of us eventually do.
I guess these pieces of art, this pop song and this film, are two halves of a whole. The Taylor Swift song paints a condensed and uncomplicated version of events, feeling free and happy because things are in front of you and who knows where the night will take you? And the film, “Frances Ha,” is a more lengthy, more intellectual take on this exciting and awkward time of life, more probing, more squeamish and more mortifying in its execution. Both young, female protagonists are searching for answers, hoping vaguely for the future and trying to find the joy in the journey.
I do love when a study in a magazine validates a feeling I’ve been having, which is that getting older, raising kids while watching parents age, and feeling overwhelmed with responsibility at times, can and does have its moments of relaxation and self acceptance, where your happiness can be found in staring into space and listening/watching/saying/doing whatever you want.
We need to congratulate ourselves for the work we’ve done to get to this boring-ish place.
Cue Taylor Swift, and whoever the hell else I want to listen to.