“I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else.” —Zorba the Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis
There’s a distinct memory I have from a few years ago. I was in a period of transition – had left IBM, spent half a year wandering around Europe, learned how to publish books, kept up a blog, spent a couple months in London running events Escape The City (all which helped me barely scrape by), and had just delivered my TEDx talk. Now I was back Stateside staying with friends and parents.
I had very little money and hardly a clue if any of this stuff was leading anywhere. It was a confusing time. But also felt like an adventure. I’d never felt so alive.
In that liminal space I experienced a pivotal moment in my life.
Sitting on a quiet beach alone at sunset, with a good book I’d checked out from a local library, drinking the last bit of coffee from a thermos, it struck me:
I was as happy as I’d ever been.
On that day I understood how little I needed to truly be happy. All of it found in this simple moment, one almost everyone has access to: a sunset, soft ground, free book, stale coffee. I realized I could lose almost everything, but as long as I could access a few essential elements, happiness could never be taken away.
Not that I didn’t want to grow, have ambitions, work hard at those ambitions, and live a rich life. But that my happiness didn’t solely live somewhere out there.
This was extremely liberating. It instilled in me tremendous confidence, which I carry with me to this day. Confidence to try things that might not work. Confidence to risk it all. Confidence to pursue what matters.
I learned happiness does not live somewhere else, on some far off day in the future, only after you have / are / do / accomplish whatever you think you need to. It lives in the simple, the mundane, the everyday.
It’s in front of your face, waiting for you to notice it as the thing you’ve been searching for.
Because if you can’t see it here and now, you won’t find it there and later either.