The following is a guest post by Vincent Clarke. Last week, I wrote about contentment. Many of us might imagine living in Hawaii to be a dream come true, but no place is immune from being taken for granted as Vincent explains in this piece.

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The key to happiness waits in a darkened room, in a dirty, abandoned cottage, somewhere in the Pacific.

When I was little I remember smelling my mother’s homemade jam every morning. My father owned a surf shop in the town, and I never missed a chance to visit him there. In the summer we’d all go out to a small shack on the easternmost point of the island. The ocean was so clear and bright. Every day was a treasure.

I dreamed of a time when I could accomplish anything. I wanted so much from life. I felt that I had to move on, to leave everything behind to find my happiness.

I left home about 10 years ago, at eighteen, with the romantic idea of becoming a writer. I remember the bus ride south; with only the clothes on my back, eating an apple, and the entire world before me. When I left Hawaii I had neither fortune, nor education, nor connections.

When I set out to find my happiness, I had some idea of how I wanted to go about it. I was going to try and get a job as a writer for a local newspaper or business, go to college, and write my own book. I’ve actually been able to get all of those things done and much more.

While I am content with what I’ve been able to accomplish, these things were not the key to my happiness.

I learned that I already had everything I needed. Yet somehow this knowledge had been buried deep inside me, covered up by blind passion for the unknown and undiscovered.

When I first set out on my journey, I wanted nothing more than to change both myself and my surroundings. I thought that if I had made my fantasy a reality, I would be happy.

But it’s not writing or authorship that I fantasized about. It was the good feeling that went along with it. We all dream of things. We think about finding fortune, love, fame, and good health. If we just had all these things, we would be happy.

But that’s an illusion. The reality doesn’t match the fantasy. Just because I achieved my goals, didn’t automatically mean that happiness would follow. I needed to gain that separately.

Becoming a paid writer for a newspaper really taught me this. What had kept me from writing in the past was fear. I never got to the keyboard because I didn’t want to fail.

But once I had a job position that required me to write, I abandoned that fear and quickly learned that it was all a matter of experience. I would learn the skills I needed through the years to get better and move forward.

Happiness for me was discovering that I could do these things; that I had the ability inside myself all along.

When I finished writing my book, I realized it will never reach the achievements of JK Rowling or James Patterson. I’ll never match up to that fantasy.

But writing a book taught me that I could tell my own story. I realized that putting my personal writing out for public criticism wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined, and that writing a book came from within.

The same rang true for every fantasy I ever had. Even if I got what I wanted, it didn’t make me happy. The key to happiness came from realizing everything I needed was already there.

You can struggle to find happiness in anything you like. Becoming a movie star, a pop singer, a doctor, a lawyer, or anything else in the world is a noble pursuit if it is a desire within your heart.

But achieving your goal will not make you happy, at least not for very long, and when they stop giving you that good feeling inside you’ll be back on the hunt again, hungry for more. Your happiness will forever be at the mercy of external goals and people.

If you discover what you already have, you will find happiness from within. You’ll uncover some truly amazing things about yourself, and realize that they are admirable if you learn to accept them for what they are. You’ll discover that life has always been incredible, even without your fantasy.

Once you strip away your fantasies you’ll almost certainly be surprised with what you find. You need to discover what you already have to find the key to happiness. There’s nothing to remove or add to the equation. You just need to open your eyes to what’s already there.

For me, it meant remembering where I’d had come from. My family and life back in Hawaii had meant so much to my happiness, and yet I never bothered to notice.

Along the northern coasts of Oahu there is a small cottage. There my mother is putting up the laundry while my father is busy waxing a surfboard. On the Hawaiian plain the summer heat is extraordinary.

I step out of the cab and stretch my legs. The cab driver attends to the wheel and just for a moment I stand alone. I feel the ocean air flow around me. I’m stand on the edge of a hill, the wind blowing my hair. The key to my happiness was here all along.

Vincent Clarke is a copywriter. He enjoys reading, the oceans of Hawaii, and kung fu movies.  

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