Hello friends! Wow. We’re wrapping up another year. 2014 turned out to be pretty good for me, and I hope for you too. I published 49 blog posts (this is lucky #50!), hosted a launch party (thanks to everyone who came), and updated the name to “The Asian Slant“. I am totally looking forward to 2015 and all of the wonderful things that come with it—like another soon-to-be Seahawk’s Superbowl championship (Read What do minorities, youth and women all have in common with the Seahawks?)…and next Christmas!
Lately though, I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness. Perhaps it’s a mix of the New Year and the fact that, at 30, I’m getting settled into my professional career and am actively thinking about “the future.” Most people associate happiness with money. They chase after new tech toys, fancy cars and higher salaries; all the while taking on more debt. It’s like happiness is an Asian hot pot and everyone is rushing to get all of their fixings before the broth runs out.
Don’t get me wrong; I like all of these things too. Some nights, I wake up from a dead sleep pining for a car with bluetooth and a 3% cost of living adjustment. But honestly, I would rather buy a can of happiness from the discount shelf at Safeway than the organic, gluten-free and locally-sourced happiness from Whole Foods. I simply can’t afford luxury happiness.
Happiness has become big business. Around this same time each year I start seeing a lot of ads and articles on how to achieve happiness . Earn more money! Find a new job! Improve your health and fitness! Follow your passion! Smile more—especially Asians, who have mastered the art of smiling-on-the-inside and the happy-frown. But I’m not falling for all this marketing voodoo. I feel like that I have already achieved a reasonable, minimum level of happiness in my short life so far.
Instead, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to maintain my happiness, in perpetuity. I want to make it last as long as possible. World Life Expectancy estimates that the average Asian American male in Washington State will live 84.52 years (compared to 79.65 for all Washingtonians). That means I potentially have 53.52 years of happiness left to worry about. Ugh! My attention span can barely last through The Hobbit movie; how am I possibly expected to continue maintaining optimal happiness for another 53 years? It’s soo daunting and exhausting. The pressure feels like having to get straight As all the damn time.
Here’s how I see things. I reason that happiness has to hit a peak at some point. Or as I like to call it, “The Happiness Peak.” After that peak is reached, happiness begins its gradual descent back down to Earth. It’s like tossing an apple into the air and watching it fall. Most Americans try to reach that peak as soon as they can; chasing after the new car, buying a bigger house, upgrading to the newest smartphone. While these may seem important, even necessary, a lot of research has found that this type of happiness is short-lived. These desires can never be truly satisfied; there will always be a bigger house and a newer phone.
I advocate for delaying the happiness peak as long as possible. Draw it out! Ideally, I wouldn’t hit my happiness peak until 55 or 60. Then I’ll retire and hopefully catch a second wind. A new iPhone isn’t going to bring me happiness over the next 53.52. It probably won’t even sustain my happiness through next year. I believe it’s better to make memories and experiences with friends and family instead. That’s the kind of happiness that grows with you.
I’ve been on the losing end of peaking too early—like my height. I hit 5’6” back in 8th grade and have been stagnant ever since. If only I could have drawn that out for a few more years. On the other hand, I’ve successfully managed to stretch out my youthfulness an extra decade. At 30, I have the face and complexion of an 18 year old. And when I wear my thick-rimmed hipster glasses, I look a solid 20. But alas, age is slowing catch up. My hair is starting to grey and I wake up with constant back pain. Height and youthfulness—it’s the Asian double-edged sword.
The truth is there are few things that can substantially increase my happiness at this point (Mockingjay Part 2 is one of them). Look, we need to quit trying to cram a lifetime of happiness into a short 30, 40 or even 50 year window. It’s absolutely crazy. It’s like the Asian kid who thinks they need to get a phd straight out of undergrad. Relax a bit.
There’s obviously a lot of content to unpack here. I hope to continue exploring happiness in greater depth throughout 2015. How does happiness differ for Asian Americans? How can we achieve it? Why are some people happier than others? What is the impact of money?
But for now, I’m going to go spend New Years Eve with my family and friends. I’d like to wish everyone a wonderful and prosperous new year! Thanks for your continued support and readership.
What does happiness mean to you? I’d love to hear everyone’s own experience. Leave a comment below or Facebook me!