I recently read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho for the first time. I have no idea why I never read it before, but it's something every artist and every person who is trying to persue their personal legend should read. Both Mark and my dear friend Lindsey recommended it to me, and I'm sooo glad!
Lindsey and I were talking one day about our job and life situations. She is a friend from art school, a college roommate actually, and a very creative person. She recently quit her job to go back to school to pursue a dream that she had always had. I, however, did not quit my job, but was laid off two years ago. But rather than rush out and take the first crappy McJob I could find (to be fair, even crappy McJobs have been hard to come by the past two years), I began working for my friends (NC Black Co.) in my field, and began pursuing my dream of being a full-time artist and living an artful life. Sometimes things happen for a reason. As the book says, "we must be prepared to have patience in difficult times, and to know that the Universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we might not understand how."
Coelho says that in order to pursue our dreams we must first overcome four obstacles. First, we are often told from the time we are children that everything we want to do is impossible. Our dreams become buried in layers of prejudice, fear, and guilt, and can become nearly invisible, but they're still there. If we can hang on to the dreams and overcome this obstacle, then comes a second: love. We're afraid we're hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dreams. But we have to realize that those who love us genuinely wish us well, want us to be happy, and are prepared to accompany us on this journey. Once we've accepted that love is a stimulus rather than a reason to not move forward, we're up against the third obstacle: the fear of defeat. This is particularly terrifying because those of us who fight for our dreams suffer much more when it doesn't work out because we can't use the excuse that we must not have wanted it that badly anyway. But defeats will happen. It's just part of the game. As Coelho says, "The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times, and to get up eight times." After overcoming all of these obstacles, there comes the fourth: the fear of actually realizing the dreams we fought for our entire lives. We actually feel guilty for getting what we want because we see all those around us who have failed to do so, that we feel we don't deserve to get what we want either. We forget about all the obstacles we overcame, and all the suffering along the way, all the things we had to give up. This is the most dangerous of all because it has a "saintly aura about it, renouncing joy and conquest." But we must believe that we are worthy of the things we fought so hard for, and that this is the reason that we are here in this world.
And all of this from the introduction?!? Love.
The book itself is actually a novel about a shepard boy who meets an old king who tells him about following his personal legend. The boy sells his flock and buys a ticket to Africa to begin his pursuit, and soon loses all he has. He has to stop a few times along the journey for various reasons, and he finally meets the Alchemist, who helps him to see things more clearly. The boy never gives up, though he is sometimes distracted by all the obstacles of life, but he is always, in some way, in pursuit of his personal legend.
I love this book. It is so inspiring to me at this point in my life as I try to figure out the best way to pursue my dreams and be the best person I can be. When I feel myself getting discouraged or frustrated, I think about the message of this book, and it puts me back on the right track - or at least back in the right frame of mind.
Seriously, go read it. Now.