Those of us over fifty can finally feel good about being boring.
When reflecting on the past, it’s easy to remember the excitement that accompanied turning points in my life. Starting with kindergarten and going all the way to retirement, nothing was boring except the last few weeks of summer vacations when I was a kid. Most of us my age looked forward to these milestones. They added zest to our lives.
But now I’ve reached the point where I’m less excited about future turning points. I want to enjoy the present — just as it is. I’m not opposed to new experiences, though death as a new experience isn’t all that appealing.
According to a 2009 “Scientific American” article — “Set in Our Ways, Why Change is So Hard”— we’re most open to new experiences in our twenties. Our enthusiasm for exposure to the unfamiliar declines gradually until we hit sixty.
My wanting stability at this stage in my life is not unique to me. In “How happiness changes with age, becoming okay with being boring,” (“The Atlantic,” May 2013) author Heidi Grant Halvorson says we define happiness in more mellow terms as we get older. We change from operating out of a “promotion motivation — seeing our goals in terms of what we can gain, or how we can end up better off, to a prevention motivation — seeing our goals in terms of avoiding loss and keeping things running smoothly.” Yes. A smooth-running life sounds just right.
The conclusion that our definition of happiness evolves over time comes as a result of the work of three social psychologists who analyzed twelve million personal blogs from writers of different ages. (Sounds like a fun job.) To describe their anticipation of future pleasures, younger bloggers used words such as “excited, ecstatic, elated.” Older bloggers were more likely to describe happiness as “peaceful, calm, relaxed, or relieved.” I’m on the same page as the older bloggers. These days happiness for my husband and me is going to Costco on a weekday morning instead of a weekend afternoon. Or watching the blue jays and squirrels fight over the suet feeder in the back yard. Or just getting a good night’s sleep.