Editor’s Note: What is Happiness?

It’s our own personal journey, as we see it. And hopefully, this issue offers clarity.


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Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

This is a special issue—a chance to explore a topic that’s difficult to define yet frequently mentioned as a life aim, especially of late during the pandemic. Happiness is something I’ve thought about a lot, and like others, have committed to making a priority. Yet, it remains elusive (what is happiness, really?), so I decided for this issue, we would delve into it.


I asked our editorial team to find people in Hawai‘i who are seeking happiness in compelling ways. The seven people we ended up featuring range in age from 22 to 102—people with diverse histories, stories and perspectives. I didn’t know what to expect when making the assignments, but upon reading the pieces, I was moved by all of them for their spirit and honesty. They reveal a depth of humanity that I hope inspires readers. I know personally they made me contemplate my own journey.


To be honest, I  wasn’t in the mood for happiness.


In my 20s, I assumed I would be happy if I met the right guy, got my dream job, lived in a cool city and had lots of friends. But even when those things happened, I wasn’t happy. In my young mind, I equated happiness to being blissfully content, and that I wasn’t.


In the past 17 years since I moved back to Hawai‘i, after working and living in several cool cities, I’ve faced challenges as many others do—divorce, single parenting, death of a parent to cancer, being laid off, financial worries and family issues. And even as I was spearheading this happiness package, new stresses arose in my life that have caused turmoil. To be honest, I  wasn’t in the mood for happiness. At the same time I knew that many around me—friends, co-workers, family members—were asking similar questions while dealing with their own struggles. Now, in middle age, I’ve realized that happiness is about the inner journey, the self-discovery that strengthens  in times of adversity. It’s encountering pain, stress and problems, and handling the turbulence with inner fortitude, and letting life unfold. Being able to practice this has inspired a greater sense of peace, clarity and sanity, and this has made me happier than I’ve ever been.


While writing this column, a post by poet and author Yung Pueblo uncannily showed up on my Instagram feed, guiding my thoughts: “When you start journeying through your own inner forest, self-awareness is activated and the door to wisdom opens up. The fact that you are no longer a stranger to yourself helps you make your connections richer and more mutually fulfilling.”


At this juncture of life, this is my happiness. I hope in reading the stories in this happiness issue, you will embrace yours too.