I’m turning 30 this year.  Technically I will turn 30 in December, but if I’m honest not a day has gone by in the last six months when I felt “29”.  No, this is not the year I am age 29; it’s the year I’m “turning 30”.

I didn’t anticipate the head trip that would come with this next decade.  I figured 40 is the one people freak out about.  But I live in a society where the young are glorified and the older are not.  The elderly in America aren’t even disrespected or mocked.  It’s worse than that, really.  They’re ignored.

The television shows I’ve watched in the last fifteen years image twenty-somethings for every stage of life, it seems.  From high school students through lawyers and doctors – young, smart, sexy is the rule.  The idea that life happens in your youth is pervasive, as is the inferred notion that life ceases when you are not young.  So I am here, approaching my fourth decade, fighting back the instinct to believe that the living opportunities in life are winding down, and that I have failed to experience them.

To be sure, there are perspectives that would say I’ve done a lot of living in my twenties.  They held two years of college, six years of marriage, more than seven changes of address.  If I were to google my name I’d find some things I’m quite proud of, and I live in Nashville, which would be a pleasant shock to my twenty year-old self.

But often times since moving here, even since the release of our album,  I find an unbidden Weepies song running up from the back of my head, “everything’s greener; you’re still hard to please.”

We have had unbelievable experiences in the last decade, begun incredible friendships, even bought a house that is perfectly situated for our situation.   And yet, I find myself driving on the 440, whining to God.  When I said we could cut our paychecks way down, I didn’t mean for this long.  How did I get to 30 years old without trying to have kids or a career?  When I was a kid I put a lot of hope in the idea that eventually I would be pretty – I’m still waiting…  What the heck am I doing over 500 miles from anyone in my family??  I think of the lives of specific friends from college or high school and feel totally justified in my pouting.  Why couldn’t I make something of myself like them?  Why can’t my story have reached a happy ending by now?  (Those of you who are a day above 40 can go ahead and laugh right now.  Don’t worry, it’s only on my really dramatic days [read “most days”]  that I think life ends in your thirties…)

Slowly and surely, creeping through my anger and hurt, in the middle of a freeway junction, God answered.  He brought to mind a quote I had heard from Dwight Edwards through Twitter and, at the time, given my hearty approval.  “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

My mind stopped.  The list of reasons to be discontent disappeared mid-rant… What exactly was missing in my life?  Shelter? No.  Food? No.  Love?  No!  So what had gotten me so out of sorts?

Comparison is a wily deceiver, offering itself as a scale, but likely used only to mislabel abundances as voids.  Comparison can tell a successful artist or business person that they have failed because they don’t have a family.  It can tell a stay at home parent that they have failed because they don’t have a career.  And it can tell someone with a family and career that they have failed because they did not choose one.  Comparison will tell us what we want to hear, every time.  If we want to feel better than someone, we’ll find  the appropriate data.  If we’re looking to prove what we lack, we’ll find that, too.  It can make us feel better or worse than others, but it cannot tell the truth.  It claims to simplify what cannot be simplified.  It can say that an ex-girlfriend is better than a wife, or that new is always better than old.  But true comparison doesn’t exist, as no two sets of circumstances are exactly the same.

I have tortured myself with comparisons, mistaking happiness for a happy ending.  But I know full well that the source of happy endings is not happiness.  It is resolution.  If I want to live a compelling life, a story worth listening to through the end, my focus must not be on happiness.  Happiness, much like success, is a by-product.  The content of a happy ending, in an imperfect world, is not beauty or riches or even laughter.  It’s justice.

The good news is that the story of the world is in safe hands.  Justice is guaranteed in the end.

And the stories we tell, with our lives or by our hands, should model that justice.  The world cannot gain happiness without it.