The Alchemist: An Essay by Natalie Desantiago


The Alchemist

I arrived home from school, threw myself onto the couch, and switched on the television to my favorite anime show. This was my way of hiding from reality. I chose to be a recluse in my home and live in the world of fantasy. Through books and anime I could live lives I could never possibly achieve in reality. So I lied there; inside my home, but essentially I was traveling with the Elric brothers on their adventure. They are characters from the anime show I was watching. The two brothers were alchemists and attempted to bring their mother back to life through alchemy, but failed and ended up losing more than just their mother. One brother had lost his entire body while the other lost his leg and arm. They accepted their fate and they did not grovel in despair. Instead they moved onward and were on their way to restore their bodies even though they knew suffering was waiting for them. At one point one of the brothers had told me, “you’ve got a good strong pair of legs, I suggest you use them.” I realized that I had to stop hiding and I had to move forward. Even if that meant I would fail. I wanted to be like the Elric brothers, I wanted to be able to carry onward regardless the obstacles I encounter.

Pain is inevitable. Life does not always grant our wishes but it is the blessings in life that drive us to bear our sufferings. These blessings are sudden gifts, so we cannot expect too much.  If we create high expectations they will lead to disappointment. On the contrary, appreciating what you already have can grant someone satisfaction. People can survive the most unpleasant situations as long as they have a small ounce of hope for the future.

People have the choice to view themselves as a victim or to look past their sufferings and look forward toward the future. Viktor Frankl, a victim of the holocaust, chose the latter and he “succeeded somehow in rising above, above the sufferings of the moment, and [he] observed them as if they were already the past” (117). Frankl saw the unpleasant present as the past, a past he did not dwell on and instead he welcomed the future with open arms.  Because he embraced the future, he was able to survive the concentration camps. On the other hand, “The prisoner who had lost faith in the future – his future – was doomed” (117). This prisoner believed a future was not waiting for him beyond the concentration camps. He had given up hope. Since he believed the future was nonexistent, he knew he could not move forward into the future and therefore, death greeted him. Death was either the physical force that left the prisoner’s body immobile or death took place inside the prisoner’s soul and resulted in a walking corpse.

The future is a garden and what will blossom are the unknown blessings people receive. Sometimes, weeds will sprout, they are stubborn and sprout out whenever they desire and we must pluck those weeds in order for the flowers to bloom. Those weeds represent unavoidable adversities and we must remove them in order for flowers to bloom. We must move forward and not fear the days which will bring pain because, there will also be days that will bring happiness.

Thorny weeds infested my garden and I was afraid to pluck them because once I did, the thorns would paint scars onto my bare skin. I was unaware that all I had to do was pluck from the root which was free from the thorns. Because of my ignorance, the weeds had trapped me and I was unable to move forward.  My weeds grew because I victimized myself. I thought to myself how can I possibly accomplish anything. I am one person, and an ungifted one at that.

I faced the world despite my fear because I wanted to achieve my dream. Dreams are the treasures that we hope to proclaim, but life does not always grant us our dreams. A favorite director of mine, Park Chan-Wook, had once said, “I’ve always tried not to fall for the lies that say things like ‘you’re the only one who can carve out your own life.’… [because] life doesn’t go your own way.” We do not always have the ability to control what happens in life, such as the death of loved ones, but we do have the ability to accept and move forward. Maybe I cannot achieve my dreams, but moving toward my dream is enough. Life in itself is enough. We may continue to search for the chest filled with golden amulets, beaded pearls and silk embroidered with our desires and we also have the choice to realize that what we already have are the hidden treasures we have been searching for.

The Elric brother’s adventure was coming to an end. They were unable to completely restore their bodies, but they were still content. Even if fate did not want to completely give them what they wanted, they would continue to find a way to achieve their dream. They would search even if there was a possibility they would never achieve it. They continued to move forward no matter what. I took their advice; I began to use my legs. With my legs I treaded toward the weeds and ripped them out from the ground.  I wanted blue bells, poppies, and cherry blossoms to ripen in my garden. I have realized that I will never know whether or not I can achieve my dreams unless I continue to move forward. Like the Elric brothers, I have become an alchemist; an alchemist is someone who creates gold out of ordinary substances. I am an alchemist who is transmuting every moment, even the difficult ones, into a moment of great value; these moments are necessary so I can move forward on my path toward my goal. Whether or not I achieve my goal, by the time I lay on my deathbed, I will know that I have planted an abundant garden.


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