Have you ever read a book that completely changed your outlook on life, love, and happiness? The first time I picked up the Alchemist I was going through a rough time. I was twenty years old and struggling with my identity and my sense of self. I wasn’t sure the right path to take and that’s when a friend recommended I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
The opening scene finds the boy spending the night at an abandoned church, he wakes up before dawn from a dream he doesn’t understand. He’s had the dream before, and he finds it unsettling. In the dream a child transports him to the pyramids in Egypt and tells him where he will find his life’s treasure.
The boy dismisses his dream as he heads toward a nearby town. He is looking forward to seeing a girl he met the year before, a girl he believes he loves. As he walks he plays out their future meeting in his head. His insecurities and anticipation dance across the page in the elegantly simple style that only Paulo Coelho can pull off.
Santiago wanders closer to the town and he tells us of his past. How he grew up a well-loved boy whose ambitions differed from that of his parents. His mother and father were far from rich, but they worked hard to send him to school and prepare him for a life of priesthood. However, before he could dedicate himself to the path of God the boy convinces his father to instead let him buy a flock of sheep and travel the world.
While this lifestyle has made the boy happy, like most of us he can’t help but dream of more. He wants to travel more, experience more, and when he gets to the town he finds a gypsy who pushes him in that direction.
The rest of the book follows the boy’s quest for his life’s treasure. At every turn the boy faces hardships, but in each one he finds the silver lining and becomes a better person because of it. He learns to interpret omens and follow his destiny. We get to witness discussions between the boy and his heart, and see them become friends. As he learns to trust his heart he realizes that the best way to live his life is in the moment, the past is gone, and the future may not come, but the present is perfect.
For me this story is about never giving up. There is a saying that the darkest hour is just before the dawn, meaning that you will face your hardest tests just before you succeed. I’ve found this to be true in every aspect of my life, from the simplest things like climbing a hill to harder things like major life goals. This book teaches us that when things seem impossible if we just hold our heads high and keep working at it we can do it.
Another great lesson that can be learned is of love. In the book Santiago has two main loves, one he thinks he loves in the beginning of the book and his true love toward the end.
Many people these days settle down with their first love, someone they care about, but aren’t necessarily meant to be with. If Santiago had settled down with the merchant’s daughter from the beginning of the book he never would have followed his destiny or met the true love of his life in the desert.
We are all guilty of settling at some point in our lives. Whether we settle because we are comfortable or because we are afraid we may never find anything better we settle all the same. This book wakes up the part of your heart that wants you to follow your dreams and fulfill you destiny.
I think this is something we all face in our lives, maybe not with sheep, but with family, friends, or even lovers. It’s hard to say goodbye to the ones we love, but sometimes in order for us to be the best we can be we have to walk away. In most cases this decision is the best for both parties, but it’s not something people want to admit to themselves.
Once we are better people and have succeeded in our lives we can come back to those we love and if they still want us in their lives the relationship will be better because of it. When we let people or things hold us back it often destroys the relationship later on as we slowly begin to harbor resentment.
Paulo Coelho is a wordsmith like no other. His writing style is simplistic, yet romantically poetic. He makes us fall in love with every character, every animal, and every grain of sand he mentions in the book and then he begins to weave a story of pure magic. There are very few authors in the world that can produce books like this one. Books that can be translated to any language and still hold their meaning. Books that can inspire people of all ages to reevaluate their lives and follow their dreams.
In The Alchemist, the saddest characters are those who gave up on their dreams, the ones who were afraid of success and settled for mediocrity. This book has made me realize that even if I shoot for the stars and I don’t make it I can die happily knowing I tried. Many people die with the regret of never trying, of living a life that’s ordinary, and keeping their heart on a dusty shelf.
For me life is about living, about taking risks, and giving life everything you have, because when you try your hardest failure doesn’t feel quite as bad. I hope you read the Alchemist and I hope that it gives you all the courage you need to find your buried treasure, whatever that treasure may be!
I have donated the book to the world by leaving it in a public place for anyone to find and enjoy. You can see the pictures below.
Did you find it?