Book Review: The Alchemist

“No heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams.”—The Alchemist

It seems hauntingly appropriate that as we leave Southeast Asia, I finished reading the book, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I was astounded by how much I connected with the messages the novel produced. Coelho’s central theme focuses on the main character, Santiago, learning and finding his “personal legend,” as he goes on a quest, abandoning all he has and knows, to find and achieve an abstract, dreamlike ambition. I came to realize how much I exulted in Coelho’s proposition; that the pursuit of one’s “personal legend” is the only way an individual can live a happy and satisfying life. This single pursuit, this wholly important goal—that following one’s dreams is the only way to happiness, and thus success—resonated in my mind while I embarked on my own adventure, leaving everything I knew and loved behind. One of the echoing limitations in the novel was that of fear, presenting the only obstacle in Santiago’s quest. The fear he overcomes when he gives up his worldly possessions and previous, expected life to do something that seems a bit crazy and foolish, felt very similar and relevant to my own apprehensions. That fear evaporated the further through my journey I wandered.

In my own life, the possessions and inherent ideals I have been groomed to expect and believe are like Santiago’s life as a shepherd and his sheep. Santiago actually comes to belittle his sheep- the animals he cherishes- because he realizes that all they do in life is desire food and water and go through each day simply living for this base existence. This life, for me, represents the American climb to success. Over the past year, I have met very few Americans who defied these expectations and limited perspectives, and pursued something they dreamt of doing. Though I don’t have a steady, lucrative job, and I still feel I have yet to find something that will truly fit my own ideal of happiness, I believe that this year of my life was the most important time I have ever spent. I dreamt of seeing the world, without worrying about the opportunities I am missing out on, and I am fulfilling that dream every moment each day.

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