“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” -Paulo Coelho
Have you ever read The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho? If you haven’t, you should. Like, right now. Very few books have influenced my life as greatly, as profoundly, as this one has. This book is all about pushing you to chase your dreams, helping you to find your personal “calling.” It is lovely and inspiring and perfect. And it has honestly changed my life.
One of the main ideas of this book–which you probably gathered from the quote above–is that when once you put what you want out into the universe, the universe will answer by helping you get there. This idea has been a catalyst for change in my own life. It led me to believe that I could create the life I wanted and the universe would help me make it happen.
Elizabeth Gilbert offers a similar idea in her book Eat, Pray, Love (coincidentally, it’s another from my own short list of Life-Changing Literature). She argues that we can petition to God (or any higher power for that matter; in my case, I generally call it the universe) about the things that we want for ourselves.
For one final example, I will turn to the words from the musical Hamilton. If you follow me on social media (or have honestly just talked to me in real life), you have probably learned that I love the musical more than words can say. I know most of the songs by heart and often listen to the soundtrack from start to finish without stopping. As someone who feels like her creativity is just starting to find a voice again, the words in this musical are lifeblood. In one of the pieces, Hamilton says:
“When my prayers to God were met with indifference, I picked up the pen, I wrote my own deliverance.”
As shown in each of these cases, I have learned that the power to create change in your life lies solely in your own hands. You ask the universe to conspire. You draft that petition to God. You can write your own deliverance.
I spent years of my life waiting for things to happen to me. I would dream about things I wished would happen, but would rarely act on them. I lost creativity, love, and joy because I failed to embrace change and step outside of my comfort zone. I missed out on life. More importantly, I stopped believing that I could create the life I wanted. I believed my fate was consigned to the path it was currently on, and that my path could not be altered or reforged.
I have spent the last few years of my life trying to rectify those beliefs.
I have come to believe that there are practically ZERO aspects of your life that you cannot change. No matter how deep you think you are in, no matter how far from shore you think you’ve swum, it is never too late. Never. You can always start again. You can always try something new.
The best way I can communicate this is through personal experience.
One year ago, my cousin Molly called me and asked if I would like to travel across the country with her as she moved from Utah to her home Boston. I immediately agreed. I cleared out what meager vacation time I had left, and I went. Flew. I practically freaking flew, I was so excited. It was a new experience for me, something I had never done. A road trip. We drove through states I had never seen before. I saw Worcester and Boston and upstate New York. New England looked so different from Utah; I let myself get lost in the endless expanse of trees. I took one brief glance over the edge of the cliff, and I jumped. I have not looked back since.
Fast forward about four months to late February. I am scrolling online when I come across tour dates for two of my favorite artists, playing in concert together. They have a show location in Worcester, and another one at Madison Square Garden in New York City. I thought about how crazy it would be to be at one of those places to see the concert. I balked at the thought.
Five minutes later, I was texting Molly and asking her if she liked these artists.
Less than two months after that, I was riding the train into Penn Station, staring at the sunset-kissed skyline in New York Freaking City. Then, I was standing in Madison Square Garden, listening to a transcendent group of artists sing one of my favorite lyrics: “decide what to be, and go be it.”
Five months after that, I loaded almost everything I owned into the back of my tiny little Mazda, looked over at Molly sitting in the passenger seat, and drove. Across the country. To Boston. Just. Like. That.
I had a few months’ worth of savings in my account. Most of my boxes were filled with books. I had no job yet. No clear idea of what I wanted to do with myself. Just dreams and hopes and wishes, and a whole lot of determination to make them happen.
Within a week of crossing the border into Massachusetts, Molly and I found a great apartment. I also received a job offer. I started writing and reading and seeing more. I drive through these rarely-straight, mostly-disorienting streets and smile at the trees starting to color for fall. I feel like I am at home, within myself and within this place. I am so happy. So inexplicably, incandescently, profoundly happy. It’s great.
Now I’m telling this story for a two reasons. The first–and arguably most important–is that when you want something, the whole universe conspires to help you achieve it. I believe it wholeheartedly because I have seen it happen.
If you know me, you’ll know that my life has the tendency to become the antithesis of a cake walk. If something in my life could go wrong, become more complicated, or just stop working entirely, it most definitely will do that. Generally right at a time when it is least convenient to do so.
But for Boston, this wasn’t the case. At all. Once I made the decision and acted on it, almost everything was easy. Like really really easy. Things would click into place like cogs on a wheel. I could practically hear the hum from the universe working behind the scenes like a well-oiled machine. Like elves in Santa’s toy shop. There were so many instances that I cannot even begin to name them here, but my life’s proclivity for being annoyingly difficult taught me to recognize when things are actually easy. And moving to Boston was easy. For the most part, it was freaking cake.
The second reason is somewhat of a caveat for the first. If you’re anything like me, you may run in to a bit of a snag when you start asking the universe for assistance. See, the problem is this: you can’t petition for the universe to conspire if you don’t know what you want. And you can’t find out what you want if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Let me clarify something. When I use the phrase “what you want,” I don’t mean a shiny new laptop or a library filled with beautiful books. (As it happens, those are both things I want… but that’s not important. Well, at least not right now.) I mean real things, life changing things. Like if you want to change your career path, or you want to learn how to paint. Like wanting to start a nonprofit or a new business or a new creative idea. Like moving across the country or going back to school. Wanting those kinds of things. Things that take courage and confidence and change.
Things that can potentially alter the course of your life forever. (Not like that’s dramatic, or anything.)
My point is this: in order to discover what you want, you have to take risks. Any kind of risk, really. In my case it was small, calculated risks. Those small, slightly-reckless leaps that led me to spend more time in Boston, which eventually allowed me the courage to water the seed Molly planted when she so unabashedly suggested that I live here with her. I almost never asked her about that concert, because I thought it wasn’t plausible. I almost didn’t text her… and I’m pretty certain that if I hadn’t, I would not be sitting here writing this now. In. Freaking. Boston.
I wanted to share this with you because people keep telling me I’m brave for moving across the country. Or that they wish they could do something like that, too. But what people don’t realize is that they absolutely can.
When people tell me I’m brave, I don’t contradict them, because I know I am. I am brave for doing something so cataclysmic and life-altering and minutely reckless, but not for the reasons you might think. For me, it takes bravery to face what this move represents, rather than the move itself. Physical relocation is relatively easy; you just pack up your stuff and you go. But what being here in this new place represents to me–the perpetual change and the vulnerable self-discovery and the open-ended variables–that is something more sacred and terrifying than I can ever articulate.
What people don’t realize is that when I step up and face the dreams and the hopes and the wishes that live in my head–so pure and authentic and intrinsic to me–that is when I will need to be really, really brave. It will be when I finally have the courage to tackle them with everything I’ve got, hoping the universe continues to conspire in helping me get there. It will be when I look those dreams in the eyes and ask them to become real.
So let me just remind you what my good friend (he just doesn’t know that yet) Paulo Coelho said:
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”
My loves, go be brave. Take risks. Allow yourself to try new things, to entertain new ideas, to be a little bit reckless. Find what you want, and go for it. If you have been on the fence about it, make the decision. Act on it. Once you do, take one look over the edge of that cliff, then leap. Don’t look back.
Take that leap, and you just might fly. Take that leap, and you can soar.