When I was growing up, I remember hearing the phrase ‘Your school days are the best days of your life’ many times. At the time I remember thinking this to be a bit wide of the mark- it’s well known that the majority of schoolchildren dislike going to school for a start.
Looking back now, I realise I had oversimplified the case significantly. By ‘school days’ the phrase is of course referring more to a person’s childhood and teenage years in general, rather than time spent in school. I still hold the belief though that the statement is not true for the average person. In my opinion, happiness comes later in life when you are mentally more developed and have a clearer picture in your mind of what exactly happiness means to you.
One man who voiced a similar opinion to my own was William Lyon Phelps when he said “The belief that youth is the happiest time of life is founded on a fallacy. The happiest person is the person who thinks the most interesting thoughts and we grow happier as we get older.” If we take ‘interesting thoughts’ as meaning thoughts on a wider range of subjects and concerning a more diverse range of people then the rest of this quotation really rings true.
A typical person’s youth is a time of great upheaval emotionally and socially, not to mention physically. Friendships and romances are formed and broken in the blink of an eye, hormones are running wild and, while you indeed do get to spend a lot of time with your friends, you also have to interact with many people you dislike intensely and many are exposed to ridicule and bullying. All of this with no experience of the world to fall back on, no idea how best to handle these situations. These years are a kind of boot camp, where you get screamed and abused before eventually working out what is right and wrong before heading out to the battlefield of adulthood and earning your medals by putting waht you’ve learned into practice.
Adult life is typically more sedate- not much is changing in your life, and definitely not at the same rate as back in your youth. In addition, you now know exactly what you want, whether it may be the ‘normal’ life of spouse, children, house, car etc., to live in a foreign land and learn the language and customs of a different nation or whatever else you decide is the life for you. You know what makes you happy and what doesn’t and have the freedom to pursue the former and avoid the latter, within certain moral, legal and social boundaries. By now you are aware of so many different aspects of life, you appreciate a much great variety of sensations, tastes and experiences, and many more of them are available to you.
How can childhood be happier? During that part of your life you don’t know what makes you happy. you think you know, but you almost definitely think wrong. You think that sitting in front of the TV instead of going to school will make you happy. You think having a new video games every week will make you happy. You think that smoking and drinking and having 5 boyfriends at once will make you cool and, therefore, happy. These things won’t make you happy and, worse still, since you’re still too young, you’re even allowed to find this out for yourself. Everything that you think you want is forbidden- where’s the happiness in that?