Lessons Learned From The Alchemist

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A little while ago I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. And I loved it. The story not only resonated with me, but it also caused me to reflect on my own life and my own Personal Legend (more about that to come).

The story itself is quite simple: Santiago, a young shepherd in Andalusia, has a recurring dream about a treasure at the base of the Pyramids. He ultimately decides to make the journey to Egypt to find the treasure. On his way, he encounters people from different walks of life and learns about the world.

Perhaps the beauty of the book lies in its simplicity. In just a few words, Coelho is able to convey universal truths about life that are applicable to anyone at any point in his or her own journey.

Some of my favorite moments:

At one point, Santiago loses all he has to a thief. He has given up everything to travel to a strange land, and now he is alone and possesses nothing. He realizes he has two ways to look at the situation: he is either the poor victim of a thief or he is an adventurer on a quest for treasure. He decides, “I’m an adventurer, looking for treasure.” In such a simple way, Coelho shows us that we too can decide whether we are victims of life’s trials or whether we are adventurers on a quest to fulfill our Personal Legend.

Along the same lines, there comes a point where Coelho writes, “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.” It’s something that I don’t often think about, but now that I do, I realize how much truth the statement holds. There have been so many times when each day seems to blend into the next. I have a set routine: go to class, do homework, take exams, eat, sleep, repeat. And I forget to acknowledge good things that happen to me – because indeed, every day is like an adventure, and every day is full of good things, full of new and exciting possibilities. It’s all about how we look at it.

And, above all: the Personal Legend. Coelho uses this term to mean one’s destiny or purpose in life. The entire story revolves around the fact that everyone, every living thing, has a Personal Legend. A life’s calling. And we know what this calling is from a young age, but few of us pursue it. According to Coelho, the world’s biggest lie is that at some point in our lives we lose control and no longer have the ability to fulfill our Personal Legend. This is what we believe, but it’s not true. In fact, “people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.” In other words, it’s never too late to start doing something you’ve always wanted to do.

I don’t want this post to become too long, so I’ll stop now (although there are really so many other moments and life lessons that struck me as incredibly thought-provoking and inspiring). I highly recommend reading The Alchemist if you haven’t already (or reread it if you have!). It’s a short read but contains so many universal truths.

“Everybody Dies, But Not Everybody Lives”

I came across a really nice video a while ago. It not only cheered me up at a time when I was feeling low, but it also got me thinking. The main idea was something along these lines:

Most people don’t regret what they’ve done. They regret what they didn’t do.

This past winter semester of college was possibly the most stressful I have experienced thus far. Now that it’s the middle of summer and my head has cleared a little bit, it’s beginning to hit me how fast everything is going by. I’ll be honest – last semester wasn’t the most enjoyable. I felt like a workhorse, constantly toiling, but without a clear end in sight. I was so caught up in struggling to stay on the boat that I lost sight of where the boat was going, and I forgot to enjoy the ride.

Watching this video made me realize that I still have my whole life ahead of me. I realized that I don’t want to waste it away “sweating the small stuff.” There are so many things to do, places to explore, goals to fulfill. And I don’t want to look back on my life fifty years from now and say, “If only I had…”

I think it’s easy to forget, especially at certain points in life, that whatever we’re going through is a small piece of a larger puzzle. This is precisely what I did last semester, and I don’t want to spend another one like it. But sometimes it seems to me that life is a paradox. People tell you to think of the “big picture” but they also tell you to “live in the moment.” So what does it mean? Well, from the perspective of a college student, it means keeping in mind that studying all night and cramming for tests is part of a larger goal, a greater purpose. That’s the big picture part.

But the big picture is made up of small memories that stand out in your mind. I like to imagine life as a string of pearls – a collection of shining moments. Like a beautiful spring day with a balmy breeze that makes you feel like you’re by the ocean if you close your eyes (how often do those come along?) or an evening spent laughing with your best friends. I guess if we barrel through life just wanting to get to the end of our big picture, we don’t realize how much we’re missing. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “I want to live deep, and suck out all the marrow of life.”

If you’re looking for some inspiration, take a moment to watch this video!

The Poetry in Money

I’m sitting in the business school at my university as I write. This past semester was my first semester being part of the business school, my first semester taking business classes. People kept asking me if I liked it. Do you like your classes? Do you like the B-school?

And I felt myself struggling to say yes. I really wanted to, but for some reason I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.

Why?

I wasn’t sure before, but I think I know now. I think for a long time, I’ve typecast myself. I’ve told myself that I love creative writing, and therefore I am a certain type of person. And that type of person doesn’t belong in a business school. It sounds absurd, and honestly, it is. But it’s what I was doing subconsciously.

Last year I took an English class and didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. But my brain said, “You like English. So you should like the class.”

I’m realizing now how silly that was, and I’m also realizing that I don’t have to like every aspect of things I like, if that makes sense. I can like business without liking all the classes in the business school, and I can like English without liking all the English classes I take, and I can like reading without liking every book I read.

Most importantly, I’ve realized that choosing to major in business does not make me a certain type of person. It does not mean I have to follow a certain path. It does not mean I’m greedy or materialistic. And it doesn’t mean I can’t love to write poetry.

It means I’m learning things that are useful, things I want to know, things that will help me understand the world around me better. And yeah, hopefully I can get a job out of that. But hopefully I can also live a life that makes me happy and that makes me feel good about what I’m doing.

Robert Graves said, “There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either.”

But I think there is poetry in money – if you want it to be there.

The Perfect Idea + The Best of 2014

So at this point there are about six hours until 2015, which just goes to show how good I am at procrastinating. I think the reason I stayed away from this blog for so long was that I just didn’t know what to write about. I wanted to write something interesting, something people would enjoy reading, but I didn’t know where to begin. I spent so long searching for the perfect idea that 2014 got tired of hanging around and just sped on by.

It’s the same way with writing novels. I’ve been sitting around for a year now, just waiting for the perfect idea to come to me. Just waiting for inspiration. But I finally realized that you can’t just sit and wait, because life will pass you by. The perfect idea isn’t something that comes; it’s something that’s made. And it can’t be made unless you start somewhere. So from now on, I’m not going to sit and wait anymore. My resolutions for the new year are to resurrect this blog and to write as often and as much as I can.

That being said, even though 2014 went fast, it was a great year, and I feel obligated to recount some of what made it so memorable for me:

1. Graduating high school/getting my IB diploma/starting college

2. My trip to Egypt, Yemen, and India/seeing family

3. Getting my driver’s license

4. Summer sleepovers/get-togethers with friends/volleyball/badminton/playing euchre all night

5. The coldest winter ever/the most snow days ever/skiing/bonding time on the ski lift

6. Performing at teahouse

7. Prom

8. Senior prank/senior skip day/senior skit

9. Playing “I Spy” with my friend Shriyash during band class/band in general

10. My last synchronized swimming season

So here’s to 2014 –  and here’s to 2015 being even better.

The Old Man and the Sea

I couldn’t sleep last night because of this book. Which is strange, because I read it last December. I can’t tell you why it rushed back to me all of a sudden. But I can tell you how it made me feel.

I couldn’t sleep because each time I closed my eyes all I could see were the vast rolling waves. It wasn’t just a dark ocean; it was a menacing one. I was scared.

I was scared of that black, endless ocean. And the sharks. Oh man, the sharks! They were enough to strike terror in one’s heart.

I know I put this in the Book Reviews category, but it isn’t really a book review. It’s more of a “this book made me feel something and I want to share it” sort of thing. Certain books leave an imprint on my mind, and this book is one of them.

When a book doesn’t let me sleep at night, I know it’s good. When it doesn’t let me sleep almost a year after I’ve read it, I know it’s really good. And when I can see the ocean every time I close my eyes, and I can feel myself moving because of the waves tossing and turning and pitching below me, and I can feel the strength of that marlin, I know it’s really really  good. Actually, no – it’s more than that. It’s powerful.

I guess what I’m trying to say here in a sort of roundabout way is that a book doesn’t necessarily have to be long and fancy to be good. The Old Man and the Sea is 127 pages long. It’s not even really a novel. It’s a novella.

But I don’t think I will ever forget it.

Because it made me realize that there are things like this in the ocean:

I’m not saying that I didn’t know sharks existed before I read the book. But… they just didn’t seem real. It was like, “Oh yeah, sharks. No big deal.” Not like, “SHARKS!”

Hmm. I don’t think this is coming across the right way. I’m not trying to show that I’m afraid of sharks. I guess I’m trying to show that I’m in awe. In awe of the ocean, and all the creatures that live there.

And I didn’t really realize that until I read The Old Man and the Sea.

It wasn’t a perfect book (no book is – gasp!), but it was beautiful. And it made an impact.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I’m doing the ocean or the book justice right now. I feel like I’m just rambling and none of this actually makes sense.

So I’ll stop. Right now. And hope that you take away something meaningful from this post.

URLs for both pictures:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/73/Oldmansea.jpg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2f/Isurus_oxyrinchus_by_mark_conlin2.JPG/220px-Isurus_oxyrinchus_by_mark_conlin2.JPG