Elizabeth Ortiz, editor in chief / photo by Helen Arase

Elizabeth Ortiz, editor in chief / photo by Helen Arase

Books have always been my escape from reality. For me, they were always the cheapest form of travel and a valuable form of education. My love for reading began in pre-kindergarten when I asked my teacher to help me read a book from the Junie B. Jones series. Now, 18 years later, more than 150 books line the shelves of my bookcase. Every single book on that shelf has taken me on a journey and taught me an important lesson, but there is one that has always had a significant and special meaning to me – “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho.

I was 16 years old when I first came across “The Alchemist.” I was in my older sister’s home office looking through her book collection. I remember picking it off the shelf and looking at the cover. I was about to open the first page when my sister caught me and said, “You’re not ready to read this yet,” and put the book back on the shelf.

I wondered why she made that comment, but two years later I came to understand what she meant. I did not know it then, but that book with a simple beige and purple cover held the most powerful message I would ever read. Over the last four years, I have read and re-read “The Alchemist,” and each time I find that the overall message becomes more relevant to my life as I grow older.

In less than 200 pages, Paulo Coelho’s book reveals the meaning to life: all you need is to find your personal calling. Although that seems like a simple piece of advice, it is one that is often overlooked. In a society that values money and material objects, we often overlook the fact that sometimes the simplest goals and accomplishments in life bring the most joy and sense of fulfillment.

We are also our own worst enemy. We often fail to achieve our personal callings because we stop ourselves out of fear and ultimately, we do not believe we deserve to accomplish our goals. After realizing this, I have made myself a promise, and I encourage you to do the same, to never lose sight of my dreams, no matter how unrealistic they seem. As Coelho says, “And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” No matter your age, it is never too late to pursue your passions and achieve your personal calling.







Elizabeth Ortiz,