Personal Essay:
"How The Alchemist Changed My Life Forever"

Personal Essay: How The Alchemist Changed My Life Forever
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Emily Safina
English 624
Professor Sullivan
14 February 2017

Personal Essay:
How The Alchemist Changed My Life Forever

As most people in Los Angeles are today, I was sharing an apartment with another roommate at a rent of $1,800 a month and commuting along the busy and noisy 405 to work everyday - two hours each direction, surrounded by traffic and angry people honking out of frustration. As I headed out for work every day and came back home after a long day, I eventually became more and more miserable as time passed - I stopped spending any valuable time with friends and family as I became bitter and sour spending most days and nights at a job that demanded more and more of me, I spent less time doing the things I used to enjoy like hiking or reading as I was worn out most days, and I was even getting more and more sicknesses and diseases I never used to have - most likely caused by all the stresses. Some days I would just tell myself that this is life and that the illnesses are just a natural part of getting older. I probably knew something was not right, but I numbed any thoughts that were not in line with my current lifestyle and kept continuing living my life day by day.
One evening on a rare holiday, I picked up a quick and easy-read book - ‘The Alchemist’ by Paul Coelho; it was a book I already read in middle school but didn’t remember much of. However, 14 years later at the age of 26, this book struck me like a lightning and it became the most influential I ever encountered, which changed the course of my life forever. If you haven’t read the book yet, the story is of a young sheep herder boy who travelled to find pyramids with treasures he
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dreamt about. Throughout his journey, he meets the love of his life. He also experiences new things and learns different lessons - all while searching for something he is not even sure exists.
At that specific point in my life, I remember believing I had to do what I had to do to be “successful”. What that meant, was working a 9-5 job and doing the “ought to’s” and “shoulds” to pay the bills and to be responsible; to continue being the “accountant” that everyone around me identified me as. The majority of us spends incommensurable amount of time doing the things we are told we should do; just like how I spent six years of my life after high school studying and getting both a bachelor's and master's degree, trying to squeeze in other certifications to make my resume more appealing for job opportunities. These are everything we are told will make us “happy”. But what I had realized was that this lifestyle only brought on so much unrest for my body and mind. Even after this realization, it was difficult to let go of everything you worked so hard for and committed to.
What The Alchemist taught me, was the importance of following my intuition and that when you really want something, “All the universe conspires in helping you achieve it” (Coelho, 22). From living a life where my friends and family deemed successful, this book gave me a push towards a path I never dared imagined before. This was one where I crafted my own path and where I dictated the direction of the path even if it differs vastly from other’s opinion. In this path, I had submitted my resignation letter to the job that was making me miserable, and started to work on my own businesses I had always wanted to do while travelling around different continents and meeting new people along my journey.
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Another thing that the book taught me was that the journey is just as important or perhaps even more important than the destination. In the book, the main character Santiago initially starts thinking that he would have still reached his goal without having to had give up his sheeps and going on a long journey. However, he realizes at the end that without the long travelled journey, he would have never met the love of his life, never would have understood the meanings of omens and signs, never would have met the alchemist, and would have also never seen the pyramids. This is something I, myself have also realized since I left my job to finally start a path of my own and I hold this value to my core. Having set a path of my own finally recently, while I believe having goals are important, I also would not have traded my experiences and processes over the past year. Without going through the process, not only would I not know how to start my own business, but I would also not have been able to meet the person I ended up marrying to, not have been able to rekindle relationships with family and friends, and not understand the feeling of immense gratitude and sense of achievement I do now with building new products I care about from scratch and watching them benefit other people’s lives. This appreciation of processes and journeys is fundamental to why I now truly urge anyone to also go after their dreams. And while pursuing dreams, value the processes and enjoy the moment as they come. It is through this, that life can start feeling like life.
I hope that more people will pick up this book and instead of living a life filled with monotonous activities as they avoid the fear of the unknown or living other people’s and society’s expectations, be encouraged to take a leap of faith towards their dreams. Knowing I would lose my chance if I didn’t make the changes I made, I opted for the path set on my own and believed the universe will be there for me - it was.
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