Does Life Get Easier As We Age?

72 comments

athens28 thumb   Does Life Get Easier As We Age?

Last week I met a lovely woman named Charlene.

Charlene lives in a nearby town and was coming to pick up a box of Glo Bars that she purchased for family down in Texas.

I was struck by Charlene’s enthusiasm and her generosity in helping spread the word about my business. One thing I have learned since starting this business is that there are many people who are willing to go out of their way to help. Charlene is definitely one of those people.

Charlene asked me about ‘my story’- how I left my research job and, on a whim, started the bakery shortly after. She commended me for finding my path so early on in life and for being able to listen to my heart at such a young age. Charlene, who is married with children and in her early 40′s, recently made a career change in recent years and was so much happier as a result.

She said, "The 20′s weren’t great. The 30′s were child-bearing years, but the 40′s are awesome!", implying that a woman’s life only improves with age. We grow in confidence, wisdom, and courage to follow our dreams and take a risk.

Even research demonstrates that one’s happiness increases with age!

Is this because we are more secure in ourselves?

Personally, I have made huge gains in self-confidence since my late teens and early twenties. Today, I wouldn’t dream of saying some of the nasty things to myself like I used to. I don’t beat myself up anymore, or at least I keep it to a minimum whenever possible.

I tell myself that I can do what I dream to do. The only barriers to my goals are the ones I tell myself in my own mind.

I know I am still not quite there yet, which makes me excited for the future. I am looking forward to the day when I can truly scream at the top of my lungs,

"I AM A WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR"

…and truly embrace the words with every aspect of my being and not hold back.

But I can’t help but wonder, must we wait until we are half way through our lives until we harness this hidden power? Is this ‘delayed happiness’ simply a generational constraint of The Boomer generation? If it is, why do young women in their 20′s and 30′s still feel its’ lingering effects?

Old habits die hard, of course.

In university, I stuck with psychology even though I didn’t see many career options out there for myself. I really wanted to be in the health or writing fields. I disliked grad school even more, but I denied my own happiness and gut feelings. I kept putting off my happiness for a later date. Of course that doesn’t mean that there won’t be some unhappy times! Unhappiness is a part of the ebb and flow of life, just like happiness is.

As women, I think that we need to stop delaying our happiness for a later date. When will this madness end? You tell me that you are going to settle for being happy when you retire? After the kids move out? When you win the lottery? After you graduate?

Of course, we must delay our happiness some of the time. We might not reach for that slice of cake after a hard workout even though we really want to. Or we stay up through the night looking after a sick child. We struggle to pay the bills while paying for night school. Sometimes delaying happiness is necessary and sometimes it isn’t. Telling the difference between the two isn’t easy and is something that I assume gets easier with age.

I do think life gets better as we age, but I also think that there are ways in which we can speed up the process. Self reflection and ‘inner work’ on a weekly, if not daily, basis will remind us that happiness is not a destination, but a journey.

~~~

Do you tend to put off happiness for a later date?
Do you think that life gets better with age and have you seen any changes in yourself?

I’d love to hear from older readers as well- tell me your experience!

Angela Signature thumb21   Does Life Get Easier As We Age? 

The only journey is the journey within.
Rainer Maria Rilke

Previous post:

Next post:

Previous Posts

{ 68 comments… read them below or add one }

caitlin December 20, 2009

i am really reconsidering some career moves because I’M TIRED of putting my happiness on hold. if i went back to grad school, i know i’m putting my life on hold for four more years. i’m just tired of doing that to myself! i could die tomorrow. i really could. i don’t want to wait to be happy… i want to be happy RIGHT NOW.

Reply

Laura December 20, 2009

I can understand how you feel – I was actually talking to my therapist recently about how I feel like I’m just “stuck” at school doing my PhD while my friends are out having “real” jobs, but she pointed out that my life is *not* “on hold” while I’m doing my PhD. I *am* living my life; I just happen to be at grad school. I think once you realise that you aren’t deferring “real” life and just learn to experience each day fully no matter what you’re doing, you stop feeling like you’re in a big rush and trying to constantly tick things off on some invisible list. It’s very freeing! :)

Reply

caitlin December 21, 2009

truth!! i agree 100%

Reply

Michelle@Eatingjourney December 20, 2009

I think it’s relly getting to your core. What makes you happy? What makes you feel fulfilled. Answer that and then go for it. Who cares if it makes money, if you have to shut other doors. You’re very right about the length of life being unknown. That’s why I am doing nursing. Who cares about the damn debt..it’s what is at my core. Seize Catilin…go kick a–.

Reply

Nick1254367 December 30, 2009

This is an inspiring story. Happiness means something different to everyone, and there cannot be an “objective” definition. However, I had a shot at trying to define it in a more “scientific” or “objective” way, despite it being a subjective feeeling: What is happiness?
I would love to hear your thoughts!
Thank you, Nick

Reply

Meghan@traveleatlove December 20, 2009

I absolutely think life gets better with age. I will be 30 in March and would never be 19 or 20 again if I had the choice! I have so much more security now and perspective to know that I have been through some REALLY tough times but I was able to survive and thrive. My friends and I are kicking off the year of the 30′s on January 1. It is going to be a great year and a start to a confident, fun decade!

Reply

Stacy December 22, 2009

It’s true! I will be 37 in February – and though I’m one of those who feels stuck & want to leave my career in Financial Planning, to do something in the natural foods realm – I would never go back to my twenties – I love the self discovery and acceptance that comes with age. I look forward to my 40s!!

Reply

Jil December 20, 2009

I’m only 24, but I’ve been through some pretty rough stuff — and I can say, even at my age, that life juzt keeps getting better…I can only imagine the happiness to come!

Reply

Chloe (Naturally Frugal) December 20, 2009

I know that I am the one who makes sure everyone is doing well before I take care of myself, and I think that’s true for a lot of women. My boyfriend, family, and work all come before my mental health, and I’m trying to change that, but old habits do die hard.
I think one of my goals for 2010 is to focus more on myself and my inner happiness and peace. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that I need help with things I can’t control, and am willing to seek that help.
I also think that as women age they tend to learn these lessons and then put them into practice. Saying and doing are not the same thing, but I believe as we get older we move more towards doing.
Great post Ange, very though provoking & inspiring!

Reply

Sarah December 20, 2009

I tend to put off happiness until a later date – it’s always when I’ve done this, or finished that, then I can be happy.
To a large degree, yes, I think that happiness does come with age, if only because of the greater self-awareness and self-confidence that one learns by getting older.
I agree with what Chloe said about how women tend to learn the lessons of taking care of themselves and their happiness as they age and then put them into practice.

Reply

Danielle December 20, 2009

Fr most all of us, experience is the best teacher. I think thats why many of us in our 30′s and beyond can clearly look back on the rest of our lives with the wisdom of today and see the things we could have done differently. Maybe you can speed it up, but not 100%. I think for the most part its ones life experiences that make all the difference.

Reply

ashley December 20, 2009

I too think life gets better with age. I know that’s how it’s been for me. I do tend to put off happiness though too. As a college student, sometimes I just grin and bear it through busy weeks looking forward to when I finally have a job, etc.

Reply

Danielle (Coffee Run) December 20, 2009

I try not to put off happiness but sometimes I find myself just going through the motions of life- if that makes sense. I think everyone should be more proactive about making themselves happy. My mom is in her 40s and just recently went back to school to become a nurse because it’s what she’s always wanted to do but other things got in the way. I’m really proud of her and it’s taught me to go after what I want :)

Reply

Lily @ Lily's Health Pad December 20, 2009

Great post, Angela! Thankfully, waiting for happiness is something that I’ve never had a problem with. If I’m unhappy, I just spend time thinking about where I need to make a change. And then I DO IT!

I think happiness increases with age simply because the older we get, the easier it is to bring good things our way. We’re typically more financially secure, we know more people, and we’ve been around long enough to figure out how to navigate through life.

Reply

Kristin (runningsongs) December 20, 2009

I don’t know if life gets easier as we age; but we do become more willing to accept the consequences of the “what if’s”. The willingness to do what makes us happy of course makes things better.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain”

Reply

Astrid December 20, 2009

What a great post. I always find myself feeling like I am waiting for something better to come along. I am waiting to finish my masters then get a job and then once I have money, go off and have fun and do something I love. How did I get myself to this place where I am merely surviving through each day, instead of living it? I must say that I have learned so much and have grown so much as a person during my early 20′s. I am enjoying life much more, I am a much healthier (mentally and physically) person.
I believe that life gets sweeter as we live longer. We learn to appreciate everything and therefore, we learn how to appreciate ourselves.
Thank you!

Reply

Cassie @ A Very Busy Mind December 20, 2009

Love this post because it’s so relevant to my life right now as I attempt to launch a writing career. I think a lot of us have the mindset that to be successful, we need to be struggling. It seems almost crazy to think we could actually follow our dreams and do something we love…for a living. We look at people who’ve done this and think ‘Oh, that’s so great for them. I could never do that, though.’ Maybe more of us need to stop telling ourselves we can’t do it…and start doing it! Perhaps that would help “speed up the process” of gaining happiness as we age???

Reply

Susan December 20, 2009

I think that for some people (myself included), happiness definitely comes with age. I went through medical school and residency and was miserable. I kept thinking “If I just make it through this, everything will get better” each step of the way. Well, it didn’t get better. I made a change (still in medicine) and am so happy with what I am doing now. However, knowing all of this now, I still think that if I went back and told my 20 year-old self not to go to medical school, I still would have done it. I wouldn’t have let anyone change my mind because I was so determined to “succeed” at something. I think that happiness comes with age because sometimes you have to figure out what you don’t want to find what you want. Great, thought-provoking post!

Reply

Angela (Oh She Glows) December 20, 2009

I love this! “sometimes you have to figure out what you don’t want to find what you want.”

Reply

Kerry December 20, 2009

For me, I think it’s a matter of learning to love the journey, rather than focusing on the destination. I started my career change over 4 years ago, and won’t be done for another 3. I have to try to appreciate these moments and find the happiness that I do have now. Yoga is so much about being ‘present’ and that’s a goal for me right now.

I’m not sure really if things get easier with age – change is hard at any age I think – but I’ve had time to try more things, and make more mistakes, and figure out my strengths.

Reply

Anais December 20, 2009

I definitely don’t want to put off happiness, but lately I’ve been noticing that that’s exactly what I was doing. I think it’s mostly because I just didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do with my life. I’m single now, and just had the most amazing trip ever, and somehow that’s helped me realized that I want to work for the foreign service. So that’s what I’m going to be working on now :) I think it will bring me happiness! Great post :)

Reply

AGS December 20, 2009

I definitely postponed (and will postpone) much of my personal happiness for the month of December. But all of the things that happen in December are part of a larger career that brings me incredible satisfaction and opportunity to thrive and grow. Acheiving great things that bring happiness and satisfaction, usually requires setting aside some other things (even if some of those things bring some happiness with them).

Perhaps as we grow older, we have more opportunity to focus on those things that bring a sustained happiness — and the frustrations and postponements are merely a function of something larger. I hope so.

Reply

Nicole December 20, 2009

I really think that happiness is a state of mind. If you are a happy person, you will be happy. If you are an unhappy person, you will always be unhappy. I think that our way of thinking just gets better as we age. We learn that knocking ourselves down does nothing but waste energy. I’m glad I figured this out in my 20′s! ;)

Reply

Mary Z December 20, 2009

I am in my early 40′s and have to agree with Charlene. I am so much happier now than I was in my 20′s. I got married at 22 and had 3 children right way. My first marriage was not so great. But I felt the need to stay in that relationshp for the kids. But at 30, I realized how truly unhappy I was and made the effort to make it better. Unfortunately, my ex wasn’t interested it making it better. So, I got the courage to leave him and was a single mom for 3 years. I met my soul mate when I was 35. We have been married for 3 years and he has shown me true happiness. I thank God every day for him. He has helped me over come some self esteem issues and helped raise my kids to be responsible teenagers. This is the happiest time of my life. I think as we get older we learn to love ourselves for who we are…we quit trying to be the perfect mother, daughter, sister, wife and accept ourselves for being human.

Thanks for the great post Ange!

Reply

Angela (Oh She Glows) December 20, 2009

ahhh such a lovely story, thank you for sharing!!

Reply

Katie December 21, 2009

Very inspiring!

Reply

leslie December 20, 2009

ange, this is a fantastic post! i love the topic and the way you wrote about it. i have been guilty of putting off happiness for various reasons, and that is something i am really working on changing. i think there is definitely a balance, where you can plan for the future but still enjoy the now.

i agree though that life improves as we age – which i think is wonderful! it means we have so much to look forward to, with wiser and wiser perspectives as the years go on. (not that my twentysomething status is giving me the experience to back this up haha). but my outlook on life has changed so much in the past few years, and i have become so much more accepting of myself and confident in myself. i can only imagine how that will grow in the future, and it makes the future seem very bright.

Reply

sarah (ghost world) December 20, 2009

i was just writing about this yesterday! nearing 30 (in 6 months!) i’ve been thinking about this a lot. i actually feel pretty at peace with ‘now’ . . .now.

yesterday i wrote at the end of my year-end review: “i think we’ve both reached a point in life where we’re just more comfortable with doing what feels right, rather than answering to someone else’s ideas about how to live.”

great topic & post!

Reply

Nicole, MS, RD, LD December 20, 2009

It’s probably hard for me to say because I am 24 and really, really happy. I think it’s really important to seize the day and go for your dreams. A friend recently resigned from a wonderful job with wonderful benefits to go back to school for nursing — something he really wanted to do. I am so proud of him for taking a leap of faith, and I would encourage others to do the same. For themselves, not others.

Reply

Susan December 20, 2009

I dunno, I’m currently going through a “quarter life crisis.” I feel like I’m stuck in this age where I still want to be young and care-free, but at the same time I want to be a stable adult with a nice home, dog, and normal schedule.

I think a lot of people my age (almost 24) tend to think it’s time to grow up, so they get engaged, married, have kids, and fall into the same old patterns. Then suddenly wake up in their 40s and can’t remember where the time went or when they lost control of their life.

I’m trying really hard to live in the moment and not do things just because it’s expected of me. That’s why I quit my stable job to follow my dreams of working in the fitness field. People may think I’m crazy, but I’m also a million times happier :D

Reply

Melissa December 20, 2009

Susan,
I love this post–it is so dead-on with how I feel at the moment. I’ve been with my fiance for 7 years and always thought we’d have the big wedding with the church and all of that. Then one day after being engaged for a year, we woke up and realized that we didn’t have to do everything that was expected of us just because “everyone else does it.” We decided to get married outside of the church with a smaller reception–my parents weren’t thrilled, but it’s so much more “us.” I’ll be 23 when I get married next year and since I took my college years too seriously, all I want to do is get out of the corporate world and LIVE instead of wasting my years away behind a desk. People think I’m crazy too–for being ready for the married life, but not the corporate life. To each his own, I say! Some people can sacrifice true career happiness for a paycheck; for me, I’d rather be broke than doing something that doesn’t motivate me!

Reply

Caroline December 20, 2009

Great post! Such an interesting topic! I’m a college student and I always hate when people say our life is easy. Middle school, high school, college.. they’re all not easy. You might have less responsibility but most teens/young adults face insecurity, peer and parental pressure, etc. I think as I get older I’m definitely happier. I was never really insecure, but I used to be very shy when I was younger, and as I get older I have seen changes in my self and confidence and am not as shy as I once was. I can’t wait to graduate and get into the professional world and start life on my own, I know it’s only going to get better from here!

Reply

Liz December 20, 2009

I am a 40 year old woman, so I have, perhaps, a different perspective than many of you. I believe that things do become somewhat easier as we age. In my opinion, this is due in part to the fact that as I have aged, my definition of what makes me happy has changed. Decisions I made and paths I traveled in my early 20′s, when I was a young, single new attorney, were not the same things that provided the same satisfaction as time went on and I married and had two children. It’s not that I delayed happiness so much as my priorities changed. I was happy at the time, but as I matured, evolved and progressed, I needed different things to find fulfillment.

Reply

Angela (Oh She Glows) December 20, 2009

Amazing thoughts! Gosh I love this, ‘as I have aged, my definition of what makes me happy has changed’

Reply

Liz December 21, 2009

Thank you. The important thing to remember is not to regret the decisions that you made when you were young. If you are happy now, you have your prior decisions (whether they were “good”, “bad”, “right” or “wrong”) to thank for getting you to that place! Kuddos to you Angela for figuring it out at such a young age!

Reply

Marcia December 21, 2009

This is the perfect answer. I’m turning 40 next year, and I feel just the same. Life keeps getting better and better. Can’t imagine my life without my son, and it’s easier for me to say “no” at work. Which is where a lot of the happiness comes in. Refreshing to know I’m not going to get fired for working 40 instead of 50 hrs/week.

Reply

Kimberly December 20, 2009

I want to be happy as well and don’t know which direction to turn. I am going through a divorce at 29, which sucks, but I know there are great things out there for me. That said, I know MUCH more than I did in my early twenties and have grown an amazing amount… for that I am proud of myself. I look to inspiring women like you to help me get out of my rut. Thanks!

Reply

Angela (Oh She Glows) December 20, 2009

You are right there are GREAT things out there for you- keep the faith!

Reply

Jolene December 20, 2009

I used to always put my happiness on hold and think that “I can’t wait to start life” when really life was happening. I have learned that when I want something – I will go for it now, instead of thinking that someday I will have what I want.

Reply

Kristine December 20, 2009

For the first 1.25 years of my graduate program, I was unhappy. I kept telling myself to give it a chance and maybe it will grow on me. Well, it actually did grow on me!! I am now happier in my program, and am 1.5 years into it! It was almost just like a lightbulb went off in me and I realized that it is what I want to do! :)

Reply

rachael December 20, 2009

My child bearing year came early:) The change in my perspective after having a child has changed my approach to life, which has made me be much more proactive in grabbing hold of my happiness. I realized how fast the years pass and my priorities have shifted. Not that one has to have a child to know how to be happy, just how things worked out for me . . .

Reply

Janna December 20, 2009

Really great post.

You’re so right. I always think… if I do this and that now, I’ll be happy later. we really do need to stop delaying our happiness for a later date.

We should do everything we can to be happy NOW, always. :)

Your post reminds me of a quote from sex and the city:

“Enjoy yourself. That’s what your 20s are for. Your 30s are to learn the lessons and your 40s are to pay for the drinks”.

Reply

Jessica @ How Sweet It Is December 20, 2009

Sometimes I do tend to put off happiness, but I really try not to. I think it’s so important to do things now, while we are alive and healthy. We never know what the next day, week, or year may bring.

Reply

Maureen December 20, 2009

This is a great topic and I agree with a comment made earlier that what makes you happy changes as you go through life. I believe as you get older you live more in the moment instead of always looking for the next thing or event in life that will make you happy. You have enough stuff and have learned that things do not make you happy. In my forties I lived through both my parents passing and a divorce but I also graduated college at the top of my class and watched my children go off to university. I was more than ready for my 50′s. I have children I adore a daughter in law I am grateful for as she loves and treats my son well and this year they gave us a beautiful grandson who is the light of our lives. I am going on here but what I want to say is that I even though some days have challenges I am happy everyday. When I think of my parents and feel sad because they are no longer here I remember times we shared and cannot help but to smile. If I am having a bad day I look at a picture of my children or have a conversation with them but every night I am grateful for my life. The lesson is to find the moments in the journey that make you happy instead of feeling like you are just not there yet and if only ….. then you will be happy. Enjoy the journey

Reply

Angela (Oh She Glows) December 20, 2009

this brought tears to my eyes- truly touching! Thank you

Reply

Michelle @ Eatingjourney December 20, 2009

I think it’s so interesting to write this. I have heard this. I have also heard that sex gets better as you get older–WOO HOO!

I can say that when I turned 25 I thought my life was over (ha) and then I turned 26 and I thought to myself ‘Hell Yes!’ I finally get to start living my life for me. There’s so many times when we live our lives for outside forces which are real and/or percieved. So to have the freedom to do whatever the hellz bellz I want and feel free in my heart is so empowering.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve realise that getting to where I feel comfortable in my skin is really facing down the demons of bingeing, overeating, and the emotional attachments which define all of those. It’s not about being skinny that is going to motivate this. It’s about having a healthy relationship with food, exercise, sleep…etc. This, for me, directly impacts my life and relationships.

Thanks for writing. HAPPY AGEING!

Reply

Erin @ Big Girl Eats December 20, 2009

I think this is going to be my goal for 2010. Try not to put off what I can be happy about today, for the future! I’ve been really happy lately and I think it’s because I’m learning to live more in the present and enjoy the little, itty, bitty things. And not stress too much about the future. I’m linking back to this post!

Reply

Katie O. December 20, 2009

Great post! I was talking about this with my co-worker the other day. I’m 27 and getting married next year and she is 34, married with two children and a nice house. I’m not sure how the topic came up, but she commented that she would never go back to her twenties- she loves her thirties because she has the life she has always wanted: kids, enough money to afford a house, etc. As a late twenty-something, I don’t think I feel happier than I did in my early twenties (I’ve always been a happy person), but I definitely feel more established and secure. I have a career, a source of income and a general sense of where my life is heading (barring any unforeseen circumstances!) I think a lot of people fear the unknown and it seems that the unknown is what your twenties is all about… finding yourself and figuring out who you will become. I agree that our happiness should not be put on hold- life is too short!

Reply

Pure2Raw Twins December 20, 2009

Great post Angie! I agree we need to be happy now, in the present moment, not wait till we are older. I do agree though as we age we do become more wiser and more confident, which makes it easy to be happy. Learning to live in the present moment and enjoy life is hard to do but something worth trying : )

Reply

MarathonVal December 20, 2009

Beautiful post, Angela! I would be willing to bet that a VERY large part of women our age – if not MOST of us – at times have put off happiness until we are married, have a better job, lose weight, etc.

Like you, I feel like I have come a LONG way in this regard but I still sometimes find myself trapped in that vicious cycle that’s so hard to get out of. Gratitude is such a simple concept, but I think it’s so much harder to actually put it into practice.

By the way, where is that picture taken with you standing on the hill? What a stunning view!

Reply

Angela (Oh She Glows) December 20, 2009

it was taken on our honeymoon in Athens. :)

Reply

Michelle@Eatingjourney December 20, 2009

you went to Athens…jealous. I love the pic as well.

Reply

Whole Body Love December 20, 2009

I always tell myself that things will be better when I get finished with school. I am looking forward to watching my daughter grow as that is what brings me happiness now. I know a lot of women who claim to be happiest in their 40′s. I love that because it makes me feel good about getting older. My mom is in her late 40′s and is the happiest I have ever seen her. She is a Humane Investigator and Chair Of Chihuahua Rescue USA.

Reply

Lindsay Perrone (goodiesgalore) December 20, 2009

First of all, the picture of you in front of that big city is marvelous and sums your whole post up.
I feel like I’ve spent my whole life believing that If I were thinner, things would be better. In my teens I said, in my 20′s I’ll be happier, there’s no way I could still not like myself then. Time passes so quick and things do not change unless you work for it. I’m almost 29 and do not want to wait any longer. I am so ready to make that change for myself. It is people like you who have been there, and moved forward, that make it seem possible. For that I thank you.

Reply

Tracie @hollafoodzone December 20, 2009

I don’t think that we put off happiness – everyone would like to be happy right now and most of us do what we can. When we are younger there are just some things in life we have to do – for some those are higher education years, or childbearing/rearing years. Not too many people want to delay those kinds of things. Those are all happy AND learning experiences. Just because we leave our parents’ home does not mean we are done “growing up”. That process continues pretty much for the rest of our lives. I think it’s not so much that women are happier as they get older – it’s a different kind of happiness that comes with the satisfaction of life experience. There’s just no way to rush that! Just savor it as you go!

Reply

alison December 20, 2009

what a great post, angela. so uplifting.

Reply

Page 1 of 212»

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: