Tonight I’m thinking about the crystal shop in Paolo Coelho’s book The Alchemist. It’s been over twenty years since I read the copy I “borrowed” from my cousin Matthew (!!!) so I’m a bit fuzzy on the details, but here’s what I remember: the protagonist is on his journey (the Hero’s Journey, the monomyth), and at some point he ends up asking a crystal merchant for a job.
It turns out he’s pretty good at selling crystals. Not only that, but he ends up coming up with all sorts of excellent business ideas, and things are going great.
…except that our hero didn’t set out from home to do a great job selling crystals. If anything, hanging out with the crystal merchant has made him a bit complacent, and the reader wonders if he’s completely lost sight of his goal.
At one point the protagonist is trying to figure out why his boss, who keeps talking about his big dream of going to Mecca, isn’t doing anything that would help him actually get there:
“Well, why don’t you go to Mecca now?” asked the boy. “Because it’s the thought of Mecca that keeps me alive. That’s what helps me face these days that are all the same, these mute crystals on the shelves, and lunch and dinner at that same horrible café. I’m afraid that if my dream is realized, I’ll have no reason to go on living.”
Of course you want to just shake the guy: “What are you waiting for?! You’re not getting any younger, Mecca isn’t going to come to you!”
But you can’t very well judge, because you know that you’ve been in that exact place yourself. Continue reading “What’s your crystal shop? A lesson from The Alchemist”
As soon as I posted my last video it occurred to me: what I said was sort of true, but not nearly a COMPLETE representation of my experience of identity growing up. I thought about deleting the whole thing, but then I realized it was actually quite interesting to think about why it bothered me so much to leave an “incomplete” presentation of myself up on YouTube.
So many questions around how we present ourselves to others, and why!
Is it even possible to fully represent ourselves, in all our complexity, to anyone? How would we do it? Would it be worth the effort?
I am Chinese and Canadian-European (though to be honest I’m not sure if I marked that or the “American European” box on the New Zealand census last week) with both American and Canadian citizenship. Oddly, moving to New Zealand has made me feel more culturally Chinese.
But there are so many other ways that we identify ourselves. People like me often get asked the question I’ve used as the title to this post… which, incidentally, is not usually considered respectful, in case you were wondering 🙂
Americans love to ask “what do you do?” as if that is the only way to define who someone is… and that’s a question I also find really limited.
How do YOU identify?
For years I told myself I wasn’t cut out for a 9-5 job. When I ditched that story, I found a job that ultimately inspired me to move across an ocean. As of last week, this has officially been my longest stretch of employment ever (not counting the years I worked for myself) and I’m not planning on leaving any time soon!
I mentioned Rachel Meyer’s piece, You Are Not Your Story, for Down Under Yoga. I just adore Rachel’s writing; check it all out (and sign up for her e-newsletter!) on her website!