Around ten years ago, I was just starting out in my own career as a young executive in a corporate job and was working long hours daily. Then a few months after I started my first job I heard this song while I was driving my small second-hand car to work. The song was by a band called Switchfoot entitled Happy Is a Yuppie Word. I was quite taken by the song’s lyrics and the impression I felt from what the writer tried to provoke behind his words. The song’s overall style and sound gave out a feeling of resentment, disdain, disgust, maybe even a lingering sense of unease but at the same time, there was also a theme of longing and then relief, that things are not permanent. What am I talking about? Read on.
This was not easy to write as while I form my understanding of the song, I had to examine myself and my motives, if whether or not I too fell into the category of the type of person of which this song was written about, even if partially. Some may debate with me on the meaning of the lyrics, but this is my interpretation of what it meant, and my personal take on the meaning of this song.
Yuppie is a slang term coined in the 1980s describing young urban professionals. They are well-paid young adults obsessed with financial success and material possessions. Taken from the word’s definition in Investopedia, a yuppie is often ‘characterized by youth, affluence, and business success. They are often fashionable in appearance and like to show off their success by their style and possessions’.
Let’s break it down some levels and imagine you are a ‘yuppie’, at least for what this word stands for in today’s modernized setting.
You got a college or university degree.
You secured a stable well paying professional job, and you are good at it.
You probably live in a city. The nights out are fun.
You have now material possessions and can afford to dress well with the high income you make.
You have a university degree after all, a stepping stone, a backup plan, surely, we are always employable.
We are young, and in good health. You work-out, and have a fit body. You have to look good in those clothes after all.
You have achieved success. The next thing is just a challenge to put under your belt of achievements. You are very sure of yourself.
You have to work smart, be better than the rest, climb the career ladder as fast as possible.
We get the sense that we could do anything, achieve whatever we want.
Money is consistent, it won’t run out, even if it does we can always make more.
You eventually got a car, and then probably a house. Put some assets under your name.
Money is pursued, and money is abundant.
You are capable and smart now, talented probably, you can argue your way of most things.
Most of the time you are right, aren’t you? It’s important to be right, more right than others.
You are at the prime of your life be it in your mid-twenties to early thirties. You start to reap the rewards from having a good education, good income. You eat expensive food, buy new clothes and dress well. You go out and socialize, frequently and have many ‘friends’.
You may even post about your successes and how you look or dress on social media.
Image is important. Your reputation is important.
It seems like nothing could fail us now.
Is this what you wanted? What you have pursued so hard for, and the fruits of your labour.
The pride of life. Arrogance. Boasting. Materialism. Achievements.
Is this ‘happiness?’
Are you sure you are so secure, so untouchable? Will the abundance last?
This song sings about these typical ‘yuppie’ character traits and thoughts, and how the writer finds it really off-putting to his own views, and is annoyed by the pursuit of such lifestyles which he deems as ’empty’.
My view? Do not be disillusioned by what appears to be the ‘time of your life” and your abundance, youth, and possessions. This kind of happiness is temporary and fleeting. Youth fades, and so does beauty. Remember the book of Ecclesiastes and its repeated theme of how all this is ‘meaningless’.
Seasons will come and change, and we plan, prepare and adapt. It’s best to think long-term and beyond, but more importantly to figure out what matters the most to your heart.
Love your loved ones while you still can, and not be fixated only in the current, in the now, and the abundance of what you appear to have at the moment. Stay humble and grounded, and get your priorities in order.
Yes, working hard and pursuing success is your job a good thing, but it cannot be the by-product of wanting lots of money to pursue a rich, luxurious lifestyle alone.
When he sings ‘nothing is sound’, he may mean that nothing is certain, we do not rule our lives alone. He then sings about the emptiness of material possessions, and longs for love and a home, for a place beyond death and for a God. A type of joy that is not found in earthly possessions or in the zealousness of youth.
At the end, when it’s our time we have only one certainty, our faith in God. The rest will stay behind. Would you have any regrets?
At the very least, this song opens up some personal questions and provides some food for thought tonight.
Have a listen and make your own judgment for this song. Does it matches mine or do you have another interpretation altogether?