A Quest for Happiness

In the first of a series of entries marking the end of Stage 1, Ben reminds himself of why he left home in the first place

In the 18 months since Graduating University I had achieved everything I had hoped for. A good job, a great apartment and enough cash left over at the end of each month to have a few nights out. 

Friends told me they were jealous. Family told me they were proud. I however, had never been so unhappy.

You see, from an early age I have always been under the impression that success can only be reached by heading down one path and that is of course to go through school, college and University, before beginning the long and tiresome hike up the career ladder.

And you know, it's odd. Whilst I don't remember ever being told that this is what I must do, I fail to recall ever being told that there is an alternative. Instead, the underlying message fed to me both at home and at school was that success is very much linked to your income and to earn well you must study hard.

Now admittedly, there were also a few people who tried to balance the equation. Namely my mum and my Gran, they have always told me that feelings of love and happiness should play an equal, if not greater role than that of money or success.

However, the overwhelming majority were clear. To be happy it seemed was not the point. The point was to be successful and if you ended up happy in the process, then that was a mere bonus.

But it is not until relatively recently that I began considering what it is I want from my life and growing up I just accepted the status quo of study and work, retire and die.

Though when I sat down to my desk in Dudley after graduating from University I found myself coming face to face with the future I had been working towards for some 18 years and put very simply, I hated it. Rather,  it took just a matter of a few short months to realise that this route, this life… it wasn't for me. 

So now sitting there all in a panic, I began asking myself day and night "what on Earth should I do?" 

I've just spent twenty grand on an education I no longer want and find myself doing a job that feels like it is killing me from the inside out. What I had always assumed would make me happy has done quite the opposite and sat in the most grimmest of environments, I feel lost as to what to do, where to go or who to turn to.

So what did I do? Well I did what everybody does... I buried my head in the sand and told myself to just get on with it. 

And hey, I was pretty good at it too... Or at least I was up until my Mum died.

My Mum always said to "do whatever makes you happy" and surely that is what it's all about!?
But as I have said in earlier posts, I am convinced that even the darkest of clouds have a silver lining and whilst my Mum's passing was a horrible one, it provided the catalyst for me to do what was necessary. At such a tender age, my Mum's death made me realise that life is as short as it is fragile and returning to work after the funeral I found I could no longer just let life pass me on by.

So now more than ever, it was clear that my goals had been all wrong and sat back at my desk in Dudley there was now just one thing I wanted to do. This of course was to be happy.

However, this still begged the question... what would I do? Well for six months I literally had no idea and as time passed me on by I became ever more frustrated.

But then on a cold Winter's afternoon in February 2011 I found myself picking up a book where on the first page I read...

"The World is a book" wrote St Augustine, "and those who do not travel read only one page of it"
And that was that. A decision was made and that same afternoon I wrote the very first entry in to my journal  which ended like this...

"At my desk I look out of the window on to what has to be the most consistently drab landscapes imaginable.Fortunately, far beyond what I can see, lies an entire World which until now I have been quite content to know it is just there. Well this week, I am no longer content." (See Entry: 001 So I Guess This is the Beginning (3rd February 2011)

And from that point onwards I felt alive. I mean yes, I was still stuck in a job I hated, but I had in place a bright light at the end of the tunnel which for 12 very long months kept me focused on reaching my dreams. 

And eventually, I made it and on the morning of the 26th March 2012 I found myself in an airport waiting to board a plane for the very first time. Waiting patiently, I wrote Entry 035 in to which I wrote:
I am a little nervous but mostly I am filled with excitement knowing that in just a couple of hours I am going to board my plane and embark on the adventure of a lifetime. 
Today is truly the first day of the rest of my life. 
Well 213 days later and I once more find myself sat in an International Airport waiting for a flight. Likewise too, my presence here marks another significant transition for my flight out of LA in just over an hour will mark the end of the first stage of this journey.

But as one stage comes to an end, another begins and with Stage 2 promising to be a stark contrast from that of the 1st, this natural break in the journey has prompted me for the first time to take a good look back at the journey so far and develop what I have come to call The Stage One Review.

So with highlights and lowlights, stats and facts, this upcoming series of entries is more than just a conclusion, for I have been sure to include a wealth of information that until now has remained quiet.

So please, sit back and enjoy.