Paulo Coehlo quote from The Alchemist
Paulo Coehlo quote from The Alchemist

After falling in love with every Paulo Coelho quote I ever saw, I decided I needed to read a book by this prophetic man. Naturally I picked up The Alchemist, one of the world’s best-selling books, published in over 56 languages. Over Memorial Day weekend I read the story on a train to Chicago, and was reminded again of my travels last fall and how inspiring being in the road was for me.

The story follows the life of Santiago, a young shepherd from Spain who journeys to Egypt after having a recurring dream of finding treasure there. With the main theme about finding one’s “destiny” or “Life Path,” with the repeated line being, “When you really want something to happen, the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true,” it dawned on me once again that I truly have a calling on this planet, as do all people.

A year ago—June 5, 2012—I launched my blog Our Stories Untold, a site created as a safe and open space to discuss sexualized violence within Christianity (and specifically, the Mennonite Church). In the year since the launch, the site has been filled with personal and political stories, including a recent piece reflecting on the project so far.

Rachel Halder celebrating the 1-year anniversary of her blog, Our Stories Untold
Rachel Halder celebrating the 1-year anniversary of her blog, Our Stories Untold

The site has been cathartic for the telling of my own story and healing, as well as a place for women to collectively tell of their abuses through a shared synergy. The energy that comes from it and the feedback I receive consistently propels me forward, helping me acknowledge what a needed and valuable project it is.

While traveling through California last November, I had a vision for a future of Our Stories Untold: to become a traveling speaker on topics of sexualized violence and abuse within Christian circles, in addition to creating healing spirituality workshops for groups of women. Through accessing my own vulnerability and truth-telling, I knew that I could make a large difference by confronting the truth that these abuses exist and absolutely must be dealt with.

No more denial. No more cover-ups. No more victim-blaming, shaming, and secret keeping. These stories must come out in the open, and I realized I could be (and already am) at the fore-front of that work.

Yet fear, as always, started to creep into my being. I took a hiatus from traveling in February for a 3-month temp job in Iowa, and I slowly became embedded in the life of a non-vagabond. I honestly forgot how good it was to wake up in the same bed consistently, not to mention how much my neck appreciated not sleeping on a bus at least once a week!

But after reading The Alchemist, I was reminded again of my “Life Destiny.” And so here I am, one year later, preparing to start traveling again. This time though I’ve got it better, so what’s there to fear?  With a 1995 Honda Accord Station Wagon, twice the amount of money in my bank account, and a re-discovered passion and direction for my life, I’m going to hit the roads of the United States.

But I can’t do it alone, and therefore need your help to follow my heart! Gas prices are expensive, and I need a starter fund to get me started. I have a “donate” tab on the upper right-hand corner of my site, and I would appreciate if you felt compelled to share your love with this project.  

And if you don’t have any money to give? That’s fine. You’re still welcome to share your story and love through verbally supporting Our Stories Untold. I would love to hear from you regardless.

Overall, I want to leave you with a challenge: What’s in your heart?

As Santiago asks in The Alchemist, “Why do we have to listen to our hearts?”

The answer? “Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you will find your treasure.”

I think I’m onto where my treasure is located… where is yours?