In the 1998 film The Truman Show, Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) is unaware that his entire life is a reality show, and that his idyllic existence on Seahaven Island is but a sham on a studio set. To discourage him from catching wanderlust (and thus finding out the truth), his local newspaper routinely runs headlines touting Seahaven Island as winning the best-place-in-the-world award (yet again!), and his local travel agency sports pictures of plane crashes and other warnings of the dangers of going other places.
Like many people, I’ve jokingly wondered over the past 16 years whether my life is an engineered production just like Truman’s. (Sure seems like it at times.) But finally, I have proof that it isn’t.
The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch has declared Lafayette, Louisiana — my hometown — to be the happiest city in America. Which I get, because Lafayette is generally a pretty festive place. It’s not the best fit for me personally, but I can see why people love living there. It's pretty cool to see it excel for a nonbusiness reason for once. Four more Louisiana cities, including Baton Rouge, round out the top five, with Lake Charles close by at 8th and New Orleans at a too-low 59. That's a lot of Louisiana. Exclamation points!
Had this been released in mid-2013, right before I moved from Lafayette to Reno, Nevada (114th), or in 2007, when I first left Lafayette for Springfield, Missouri (237th), that would have been some Truman Show stuff right there. But with this show-unfriendly timing, I guess I can breathe a sigh of relief the next time I’m in the bathtub. Though there’s still the possibility that my life really is a reality show, and the puppetmasters want to make me feel bad by releasing a glut of Lafayette-is-the-best-place-in-the-universe stories since my move to Reno. In that case, sorry about the ratings plunge, guys.
For me, sliding 113 spots in the happy ranking was an excellent move. I love living out west, with mountains, bike trails, beaches, laid-back people and a distinct lack of oppressive humidity. I recently lived in two of the top five “happiest” cities, during which I tended to range from somewhat unhappy to catatonically miserable. My brother lived in a third city among the top five for a while, and told me I wouldn’t fit in in that one either.
Is my sense of happiness out of step with America’s? Well, probably, but that was a rhetorical question.
Lists like these are inevitably skewed. They imply that the key to happiness can be found in a particular spot. Conversely, if you don’t get along in those places, obviously there’s something wrong with you. Neither is necessarily true. You can happy in a toxic-waste dump or miserable at Disney World. Your particular situation matters for a lot.
So, continue to be happy, my Louisiana friends. I’ll be over here making Reno happier. You can probably watch.