I remember when I read The Alchemist for the first time, about a decade ago:
“Everyone, when they are young, knows what their destiny 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 destiny….
[But] there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth….
To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation.
All things are one.
And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”
~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist”
When I first read this book, I was in Southern Thailand, incredibly sick with dengue fever. I was confined to a guesthouse unable to move or go outside. All I could do was sleep and read. I devoured this beautiful book in hours and can honestly say it changed my life. It carried messages I desperately needed to hear at the time and would continue to need again and again over the next 10 years.
At the time of my first reading of Coelho’s masterpiece, I had briefly begun to follow my heart’s whispers and started exploring the world. This book was communicating messages my soul had been trying to remind me of for years. However, prior to this they were spoken upon deaf ears, whispered to a girl who had spent most of her life in the corporate, cubicle world and had lived according to what other people thought was the best, responsible or the “proper” way to live.
This book and my initial travels through Asia showed me another way of living—an authentic way of living, a way of living that brought happiness to me. I was finally listening. My heart was happy that it was finally being heard.
Unfortunately, this beautiful time of clarity and joy was short lived. I returned to Canada, broke and needing to work. I returned to the corporate world once again hoping it would be different. We all know Einstein’s famous quote, “The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.” Well, I had heard this also but didn’t listen.
I went back to the same industry convinced that the knowledge I had gained on my trip would somehow spare me of the misery that came to me from working in an environment that was not conducive to who I was. I believe that this time would be different. But it never was.
I remained in this environment for approximately another 10 years. I always felt out of place in this world. Business, boardroom meetings, sales rankings and the frantic “go, go, go!” panic was just not for me. I didn’t get excited by a big deal the way the brokers and everyone else in the office did. I didn’t care that we had just acquired a huge parcel of prime real estate to develop.
(Here ,I’ll pause to explain that I am not trying to say that the corporate world is bad, or anything like that. Not at all. It’s perfect for many people. All I’m saying is that it wasn’t right for me.)
I wanted to create. I wanted to travel. I wanted to be contributing to the world in a meaningful way. I wanted to help others find joy. I wanted to wake up every morning and be excited, happy and proud of what I was creating.
But this all felt so unachievable. All of this was always just out of reach.
Predictably, every 12 months or so, I would become so miserable that I would need an escape and would travel again. The cycle repeated for many, many years. I’d be working for some of the most prestigious national companies, yet I was coming home crying often, praying for a miracle to get me out or counting down the days to my next escape. All I wanted was a reprieve from a lifestyle that went against everything I wanted in life.
Again and again I’d leave, but would always come back to this life. I’d leave my footprints in places that would forever change me. I’d see Tanzania, Honduras, Bali, Malaysia, China and my beloved Thailand (multiple times). I’d volunteer after the tsunami and live in Thailand for two years. I’d travel to Nicaragua, train with the incredible Meghan Currie and Mark Laham and become a certified yoga instructor. I’d briefly listen to my heart but would always return to the same life full of toxic people and habits that made me so miserable.
Why? The answer to that is complicated, but comes down to fear.
I realized only recently that icky, yucky fear has governed my whole life. I had so many sneaky fears lingering in my subconscious mind that were silently orchestrating the life I was living and for a very, very long time.
Some of the culprits were:
Fear that I didn’t have what it takes to create the life I wanted.
Fear that perhaps it was ”abnormal” to even want the life that I did. (After all, everyone else seems to be perfectly happy living in their nine to five worlds, right?)
Fear that if I followed my dreams I’d fail.
And the most destructive fear of all: Fear that my intuition was wrong and what everyone else wanted for my life was right. That the authentic life my heart was desperately trying to show me wasn’t achievable, responsible or the “right” way to live.
I know that there are many people out there with the same fears. I’ll fast-forward to the present day and say this: the life you want to live is possible. I have finally, finally realized this. It was not a convenient, painless or easy process, but it happened.
The key for me was to slowly release fear, be brave, release the opinions of others (in a kind way—they are usually only trying to help) and let my heart do the talking again. It has always known what is best for me and yours knows what is best for you too.
Another important component for me was releasing things from my life that were no longer helping me become the best version of myself— a “spring cleaning” of my life, so to speak.
The list of things I let go of is long but includes people, old ideas, limiting beliefs and alcohol. If it wasn’t allowing me to be the most authentic version of myself, it was gone, just like that. But things started to change. Quickly.
It’s not easy and there can be painful lessons to learn along the way. But they are necessary. I believe they are life’s way of testing us and seeing just how badly we want our dreams.
Things just start to work out. We become confident again. Bizarre, serendipitous scenarios will start to become a familiar occurrence. Life unfolds in ways you never would have expected, all beautifully taking you closer and closer to your dream.
I am not quite living the life of my dreams yet, but I’m getting closer each day. I no longer work a job that makes me miserable. I left downtown Vancouver and now live on a peaceful island that is conducive to creating the life I want. I have incredible people in my life who support my dreams. I don’t stress about the future or punish myself for the past.
Most importantly, I wake up every day happy.
Everyone deserves to live their own authentic life—a life filled with joy and happiness. A life without fear. A life without regrets of unfulfilled dreams. Look for patterns: pay attention to those ideas that keep cropping up in your life. They are there to guide you.
There is no quick-fix; change takes time. But you will be happy you began.
Another well-known quote to end this:
It does. It really does.
Just do it. Take the first step towards the life you know you should be living. It’s so worth it.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Jamie Khoo / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Author’s own