21 August 2009

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

On Tuesday, my friend Lydia visited me from her tenure at Yale Divinity School as a 3rd year MDiv student and presented me with two books for my birthday. One was on cupcake recipes and uber cute and the other was called The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

I'd never heard of The Alchemist but Lydia assured me that I would love it and that in fact, she was very intrigued to hear what my response would be like. Among her description of the book was that she had cried while she read it and that her brother (a prolific reader) had thought it was boring.

My interest was peaked.

On the cover of my book was a sticker that said it had been a bestseller for 20 years. And the image on the front depicted a dark castle on a hill with sand blowing around it.

Was this a tale of mystical intrigue and medieval secrets? A lingering romance?

According to Wikipedia and Paulo Cuelho's website, The Alchemist is Brazil's literary bestseller of all time. I started the book Wednesday afternoon and finished it in bed that night. Was it amazing? Yes. Will this book impact my life? Yes. Was it a literary masterpiece? Not in my opinion. Should it be considered a classic? Yes. So maybe it is a literary masterpiece? Well....

The language of the book did not blow me away. The storyline was solid and interesting but not a whole lot of frothing fun. I can see why Lydia cried and her brother was bored. BUT-- I have never read a book that described the process of following your dreams as well as this one.

The Alchemist is a work of fiction, a fable, set in the Arabian deserts, following one Spanish shepherd boy as he tries to follow his dream. What he learns along the way changes him and becomes a part of his Personal Legend. In the intro, Paulo outlines everything he learns by telling the reader the 4 obstacles you will face as you try and follow your dream. The story fleshes out the obstacles and helps you live that experience through your imagination. The intro becomes priceless condensed wisdom that you can take with you to inform your journey. And the story stays with you and reminds you of that wisdom.

I recommend picking up a copy and reading the inside cover summary, Paulo's introduction, and then his bio at the end of the book. Then you will see why this book is worth reading. Paulo is one of those present day mystics who had a dream that he was tortured for (by parents and paramilitary groups), which he then abandoned only to be led back by the intervention of visions and strangers telling him to go on a pilgrimage and nurture that dream. He is a Catholic, a spiritual person, and someone who seems to truly fulfill the role of wise elder in our society.

The Alchemist encouraged me to keep going and to be wise to the realities and sufferings and rewards of following my dream. I think it will do the same for you.

12 August 2009

Job Search Good News

I've been actively job searching for the last three months and passively searching for up to a year. In the process, I've learned some things about the job search process that's helpful for the psyche and spirit.

Here are a few below:
  • If you look at a job description and you're not sure if you should apply, apply anyways. Positive action is always better than passivity. The process of applying gives you the chance to get better at tweaking your resume, writing a cover letter, and improving your interview skills.
  • Don't be afraid to network. I've learned not to feel so awkward and nerdy about calling up people that a friend knows but whom I otherwise have no connection with other than my interest in a job or organization. You can always come up with a few intelligent questions even if you feel like you don't know where to start and feel extremely self-conscious. Networking helps you feel better about the job search by taking you out of isolation and expanding your range of future opportunities. If they don't want to talk to you, they'll let you know. But almost every time, they will want to help you with some useful info.
  • Use the job search process to learn about yourself. Just today, I was working on a new application and realized something new about my vocational process. The job I'm applying to is in a different field and upon brainstorming, I realized that I had a storehouse of experiences that I never mentioned on past resumes because they weren't related. The discovery helped me realize that I need to consider another field of opportunities.

05 August 2009

Italia here we come!

J.'s best friend, Dan Chen (an amazing wedding photographer), is marrying the love of his life, the beautiful Sarah Krusen (who is also a filmmaker in her own right) in Florence, Italy. For two such artistic, creative, and free-spirited people, North America venues would just not do so they chose Florence. Their invitations were styled after passports, our rsvp cards were boarding passes, and they invited us to witness their vows in a beautiful ancient chapel.

For months, Jacob and I debated whether we should go or not because of our current financial state (i.e. unemployment for me). Then we decided to finally face that we could not go. We shed some tears and moped for days. But last week, after a heart-breaking phone call from Dan who offered to pay for part of J.'s ticket and go into further wedding debt, we decided to dig a little deeper and find a way to go. Lo and behold, my parents had some frequent flyer miles on hand to match up with ours and allow both of us to go.

The frequent flyer mile program ended up working out in such a way that we had to fly to London first to get the best deal then fly to Italy and come back through Rome. I am ecstatic! J. has never been to London, my favorite city, and I know he's going to think he died and went to heaven. I'm going to take him to my favorite haunts as well as Oxford, my favorite academic town. We bought guidebooks today and we're looking forward to traipsing around Venice, Florence, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, and Rome on a budget.

We'll be departing on August 24 and coming back Sept 9. I welcome your suggestions for places to eat and experience.