September 12, 2013

5 Things to be Happy About Now.

Photo: Mohammed Sinardi on Pixoto.

Confession time: this past month has been a rough one not just for myself but for several people I know.

In no particular order, common woes include relationship issues, professional problems and financial stuff. Often, it seems that when it rains, it pours. (And that’s just the stuff happening my life and that of my friends’ lives. On a broader scale, think of the situation with Syria or the fact that this September is also the 12th anniversary for the 9/11 attacks which always tends to bring up painful memories whether we knew any of the victims or not.)

While some days I am tempted to throw up my hands, run away and join the circus, the truth is, there is still a lot of good stuff in this world to be happy about.

So, if you find yourself in a similar boat, consider these things:

1. We are living longer.

Per recent reports, the human life span has more than doubled in the past 150 years.

Therefore, it’s now possible to live two or more lives in a single lifespan. By living two or more lives, I am talking about the ability to have multiple careers, have more than one “life partner”, or just having more time to ponder the sort of deep, extensional questions like “What is the meaning of life?” that our great-grandparents could not because they simply did not have the luxury of time that we have.

It also takes away some of the anxiety that frequently came with aging.

You probably heard that “30 is the new 40” and in some ways, that is very true. When you are my age, 36, and stop to consider how it is very possible you may live to see your 100th birthday or even beyond that, 40 suddenly does seem , very young.

Also, many people my age are fortunate enough to still have one or more of their grandparents still alive. This is only going to increase as the overall life expectancy increases.

While aging doesn’t automatically mean that you will become wiser, there is some truth that often time when we are older, we often have more tools and resources to make wise decisions that we may not have had in our younger years.

Sometimes it’s easy to focus on the negatives of aging, but there are advantages. Perhaps my generation and the one proceeding it will be the ones to change how society perceives aging and view it as a privilege rather than a burden. In any case, we can try.

2. The teen birthrate is at an all-time low.

We hear all the times the horror stories about teenagers: they are growing up too fast, they are irresponsible, and if you go by the media, they are all engaging in sex.

Turns out, that is not the case. Today’s teens are far less likely to become pregnant than the teens of my yester years or even my late grandmother’s teen years. (It’s the lowest it has been in the 73 years that the U.S. government has been tracking it.)

Since 1991, the teen birthrate has been dropping steadily and is now at an all-time low. Even if this is primarily due to greater knowledge about birth control, it shows that at least these kids have the foresight to guard against an unwanted pregnancy. In other words, they are showing responsibility.

Plus, as someone who works with teens from all socioeconomic backgrounds, I can truthfully say that the kids I know are as a whole thoughtful, kind, and deeply concerned about the world around them. (So much for the stereotype that kids nowadays don’t care about anything.)

Even if you don’t have kids and plan never to have them, this can only make smile because these kids will grow up to be the leaders of the next generation, and many will end up as the doctors, nurses, and caretakers who will oversee us in our extended old age.

We’re going to be okay. The kids are alright.

3. We aren’t going to war, or at least not yet.

I tend to a be pacifist in my every day life, but as someone with a political science background, I do believe that sometimes wars are a necessary evil.

However, I would like nations to avoid wars whenever possible. The reason being: even when they are justified, there are always innocents who are hurt or killed aka the “collateral damage”. Plus, the emotional and physical scars that war leaves on both veterans and civilians much longer than most ever realize.

In the Syria situation, the world is seeing how diplomacy may be effectively used to prevent going to war.

I often felt that the art of diplomacy was one of the many things that was lost following 9/11 and the war on terrorism.

Perhaps we are finally finding it again.

4. People are more accepting than ever of “alternative” lifestyles/living situations.

Even before the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, numerous polls showed that Americans are more tolerant than they ever have been when it comes to gay people and the majority believe that same-sex couples should have the right to marry.

This is excellent news, whether you happen to be gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered, etc or whether or not you are married or unmarried.

More and more people are realizing that one size does not fit all.

A relationship no longer has to mean a man or a woman. It also doesn’t have to mean married, monogamous or life-long or any of the things  that people used to automatically envision when they heard they word.

Even many of those who are fairly straight and vanilla (read: me) really don’t care what consenting adults do in private nor do they automatically judge them because they have an arrangement that may be a little odd or unfamiliar to them. Live and let live seems to be the motto.

Generally speaking, the more love and tolerance we have for everyone, the better off all of us are.

5. There are still people who are in love and falling in love.

Okay. I know from experience that when one is nursing a broken heart, often the last thing they want is to hear stories about other people who are in love.  Sometimes it can feel like someone is pouring salt on an open wound and it can make even the most optimistic person channel their inner cynic and say, “Yeah. Well, just wait when it ends!”

Still, knowing that there is still love out there is comforting. There seems to add credence to the theory that there really is someone out there for everyone—or at least nearly everyone.

Just anecdotally speaking, I know more and more people well over the age of 50 who are falling in love and building new relationships which just seems to strengthen the belief that love doesn’t have an age limit, and there really isn’t such a thing as “too late” when it comes to finding a partner.

While there are always going to be bad things happening in the world, there is also a lot of good going on if you stop to look for it.

Rather than just nodding your head in agreement to the statement that the world is going to hell in  a hand basket, stop and ask yourself if that really is the case. You may be surprised by what you find.

Ideally, realizing the the world isn’t such a bad place may cause you to re-examine what is happening in your own life and perhaps see the positive things that are already there.

It can’t hurt.

Seek and you shall find.

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Ed: Catherine Monkman

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