Finding joy in unexpected places

My youngest son emerged from preschool recently sporting a huge grin. It wasn't an uncommon sight at pickup - he loves his school and is a smiley dude in general - but when he shouted, "MOM! GUESS WHY I HAD THE BEST DAY EVER!" before buckling himself into his carseat, I knew I was in for a treat.

I inquired immediately. Did he get to be the line leader or the lunch helper? No. Was he fresh off constructing the largest Magna-Tile tower in the western suburbs? Nope. Could it be possible he was elected class president again? (It would have been the fourth time in as many weeks and warranted a discussion about term limits.) Nay. At this point, his giggles had reached a fever pitch so I gave in and asked him for the answer ... to which he gleefully replied, "I farted and it made the funniest sound!"

That's a kid for you: Finding joy in unexpected places.

Our exchange got me thinking about joy in all its different forms and I realized pretty quickly that the places in which I find my happiness have changed drastically over the years. As a kid, pleasures were as simple as a fresh box of crayons or a midweek snow day. In my teenage years, an extended curfew or fresh graphic tee did the trick. College Lex loved a skinny reporter's notebook and a level beer pong table. As an adult, I find the most joy in my family, relationships with friends old and new, quiet moments, chaotic energy - and, yes, the unexpected: I have a nearly-complete DIY spice drawer project and an upcoming Blink-182 reunion show I'm decently pumped about. This is middle age. Soak it in.

That shift in where I find joy didn't exactly surprise me. I look at the littles and see flashes of my past; conversely, I get free glimpses into my future by observing those older than me. Where my kids find enjoyment in LEGO and coloring, my mom and dad are happiest from an impromptu FaceTime call or making bad jokes to the server at the restaurant he's gone to for the last 30 years, respectively. By the time I'm a Nana, FaceTime will surely be replaced by some other crazy technology and I'll have a slew of one-liners to call my own. I truly can't wait.

Finding and embracing joy in whatever stage of life you are in - even if that happiness looks different than it used to - is a must. You can even do it with your eyes closed. Just ask my son.

- Lex Silberberg of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].