Inspiration Break: The Alchemist

Here it is; probably the reason I started writing again after I was no longer required to do so for grading purposes.  Yes, I was inspired to do so by one author’s novel, at a time when I was open to its message.

It was nearly ten years ago when my 11th grade English teacher assigned The Alchemist to the class. At the time, I had never heard of Paulo Coelho, nor were his writings typical fair for an English class.  This was a modern author and a recent publication. I vaguely recall that our teacher had to fight just to use it in our class.  The books we were handed were brand new, so I’m certain that this was new addition to the syllabus.

I was content to read along with the class at first.  We only needed to cover certain pages before the next class.  But one of my friends finished the entire novel and insisted I do the same.  I acquiesced, and the next evening after school, I finished the whole thing.  It was certainly unlike any other reading we’d ever been required to do.  It was some mix of religion, Middle Eastern culture, philosophy, and self-help.  The story was just gripping enough, and the doctrine inspired without being overbearing.  I loved it just as much as my friend had.  When our teacher continued to dish out the readings in installments, I read it all again.

There was one message that stuck out to me, above all others.  If I may quote:

“Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is.  At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible.  They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives.  But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.”

When I was younger, about the time I was in first and second grade, I wanted to be an author (and sometimes I’d include illustrator with that).  I loved writing, and I would fill up those black-and-white marble journals with my own tales.  Though it was always at the back of my mind, that desire faded as I grew older.  Being a writer didn’t seem like a realistic goal. Yet here was The Alchemist, telling me that my younger self’s dream was my Personal Legend.  It was what I was supposed to do.

My mind was still malleable back then, and my heart still open to such conjecture.  It got to me.  I still hadn’t a clue what my career goals were, or what I would even study in college.  But Paulo Coelho was telling me I already knew.  It just made sense.

If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know I did not go on to study writing in college.  However, The Alchemist was always at the back of my mind.  Once I graduated, I had no idea what my next step was, so I started writing for myself again.  Other pursuits obviously interfered, but after I retired from politics, realizing I just wasn’t meant to be a part of it, being a writer remained a long term goal. And it continues to be, despite my unrelated day job.

Years after I read The Alchemist, I picked up another Paulo Coelho book titled “Manuscript Found in Accra.”  It had decent reviews, and a plot reminiscent of his best work.  Except there was barely any plot or forward action, and it was mostly philosophical pabulum that I disagreed with.  After finishing it, I recognized how fortunate it was that I read The Alchemist when I was younger.  Even less than a decade later, my observations and opinions on life had become hardened.  I called myself a realist, but I’ve gone even further into cynicism since then.  But that Personal Legend still calls to me, because it was ingrained when I was younger, when I could still believe.

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