Book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Length: Short: 167 pages
Similar reads *in my opinion*: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
The Walking Drum by Louis L’Amour (not a western story)
One thing I’ve always loved about books is the way the perfect story always falls into my lap when I need it the most. This is what The Alchemist has done for me these past few days. I’ve heard all the rave reviews for months and months now, but finally splurged and bought it on a impromptu Hastings trip. The pull was too strong!
I sat on the beach reading this book as waves lapped back and forth in front of me. Before this vacation, I had the daunting feeling of future expectations weighing me down. I was (and still am) facing the last semester of my undergrad career, along with having to ask for letters of recommendations from my favorite professors (something I’ve been apprehensive about- I don’t like asking for favors). I’m going to start applying to NYU and Cambridge summer programs- major life dreams that I have been trying my best to follow for the past three years, despite all the obstacles. Lastly, but perhaps the most difficult thing to wrap my head around is the prospect of being away from my best friend and my other half for a year. This all had been weighing on me as we drove down to the beach for a last-minute vacation. I’ve always known the importance of the here and now, more lately than ever, but a precarious future has sagged my usually relaxed posture.
As I turned the pages of this book and read the story of the shepherd boy who leaves behind everything he has known to follow his Personal Legend, I began to feel tears forming in my eyes as I began to apply my own journey to Santiago’s (I think I’ve warned everyone before that I’m a sap when it comes to books- but these were happy tears, hopeful tears). We all have dreams, but the price of those dreams are terrifying to us. Paulo Coelho’s beautifully simple tale of a young man’s pursuit of happiness and one’s personal legend (AKA destiny/life dream) is a wonderful fable that I’m sure will inspire many for ages to come. The boy goes on a spiritual and intimate journey with himself, with the sage advice from the unexpected meeting with the alchemist. This book and all it’s reassuring wisdom slowed down my racing heart and let me listen to the lapping waves and the soft cry of seagulls. I can already tell this book will be passed around my family and friends, and be read multiple times by myself, which is a huge honor because it is something I rarely do.
More than anything, this book taught me not to be scared. We are all scared, but it’s how we react to that fear that matters. In the book, Santiago falls in love along the way and is unsure whether or not to continue pursuing his Personal Legend- but learns that true love doesn’t hold you from your dreams.
The alchemist tells him, “If what one finds is made of pure matter, it will never spoil. And one can always come back. If what you had found was only a moment of light, like the explosion of a star, you would find nothing on your return.” (p.123)
The prospect of being away from M for a year while we journey our separate paths was a terrifying challenge to me. But like the alchemist said, what is real will always be there, waiting for your return.
The Alchemist is wonderful. I found myself in all of the characters, and only really good stories can achieve that. Even M read it in one sitting, and he too thought it was worth reading. I would like to think that we both have some more reference for the long journey ahead.
I will leave you with just two quotes from the book. I would give more, but I believe this book is like a treasure hunt. I enjoyed finding all these little tidbits of insight, so I will leave it where you will have ample to find on your own (if you choose to read it…. do it now….now! 😉 )
“The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better.” (p. 103)
“…every day was the same, and when each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.” (p.27)
I believe that more than ever, thanks to Coelho. The timing could not have been more perfect. M is pursuing his dreams in defending what he loves, and I will be weaving my way through my own journey. This is a path we can walk together, even from a distance.