I hated it, really.
It was the summer between my Junior and Senior year of high school. Like any abnormal soon to be Senior, I was spending the summer chipping away at my AP English reading list, and writing essay’s as maniacally as I could. I can hardly remember a majority of the novels on the list, but I remember one. I remember the reading experience vividly.
It was Catcher in the Rye.
I hated it. I really hated it. I cringed my way through it. I wanted to curse J.D. Salinger. I wanted to Sparknote my way to understanding it. The last thing I wanted to do was write the essay. Truthfully, I love writing essays. I was the only kid in my class that looked forward to doing it. Not this one though. How was I expected to analyze Holden Caulfield? A self-important, pessimistic, “rain on your parade” kind of kid. I did it though. Six pages later, and I was finished with that kid… that is, until I realized that I had developed some sort of fondness for him. Somewhere between loathing him and analyzing him (something I do to myself quite regularly), I found the sympathetic understanding I needed to not only type each word, but I found a sincere kinship with his experiences and his understanding of the world. With this being said, I still hated it. I hated it with a passion.
Holden was just a kid. A kid without parents to rely on. A world that seemed too big for him to find reality in. He didn’t have any adults to trust, so he didn’t trust anyone. For him, the world was phony, people were phony, expectations and beliefs were phony. He was a pessimist with a cause, and that cause was self-preservation. He was unlikable. I say was, and I mean was, because he is unlikable until you realize that he is just a kid. He is just a kid without anyone to trust, without anyone to guide him, but the hope that someone will. Even more, the hope that maybe he can save a younger, more innocent child, from becoming the skeptical skeleton that he is.I found myself in this. In the raw, daringly annoying, absurdly honest lines of his fictitious life.
It was my pride, you see, that would not allow me to see the likenesses between he and I. I wanted to believe that I was not one of the affected, that I had made it out unscathed. I wanted to believe that I wanted to help people because I was kind, not because I was one that had received no help. I wanted to believe that I was stronger than his blatant fragility, because I chose optimism and openness, but I was merely choosing the approach to seem “unaffected” and “smarter than the world.” We were the same, but different. We were both just skinny orphans in a sense, wishing we could save others in the way that we could not save ourselves. He was brutally honest, and sarcastic, and real in a way that I was not quite ready to face. I still find him just as abrasive, but I also find him wildly charming and refreshing.
I have been contemplating his character at various times recently, most likely because I am in a state of transition and change, and I am unsure as to whether I feel melancholy, angst, or… If I feel anything really. I put so many limits and pressures on myself. I have all these goals, and desires that I want to reach, but I always just leave them as thoughts. Recently, this Holden quote has been stuck in my brain;
“I think that one of these days, you’re going to have to find out where you want to go. And then you’ve got to start going there.”
I know where I want to go, and what I want to do, and who I want to be, but I’m faking myself out by saying I’m going to reach it If I can’t even make the first step. What a phony, I know. Even more than this quote, I find myself internally repeating this one:
“Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody”
I often don’t put myself out there, not because I’m afraid rejection, but because I don’t want to inconvenience anybody else. I wouldn’t want flowers when I’m dead because I wouldn’t want someone to go out of the way to get them, to grow them, to bring them… to remember me. It’s so self-deprecating, isn’t it?
To take it one step further, there’s this:
“I was trying to feel some kind of good-bye. I mean I’ve left schools and places I didn’t even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I don’t care if it’s a sad good-bye, or a bad good-bye, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it. If you don’t you feel even worse”
I have such a hard time moving forward because I hold onto the past so tightly. If I’m not ready to move on from something, if I wasn’t prepared to say goodbye, and especially if I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye, my nostalgic, overthinking self struggles to gain closure. I am not a hopeless romantic, but I am a hopeless hopeful, and if I see a glimmer of how something could be different, I’ll hold onto hope thinking that eventually it might be. Again, I think this is where Holden and I are similar – we didn’t have much to hold onto, so when we find something that we want to keep, it’s hard to say goodbye, but we prefer to say goodbye so we can also know that it was real.
I’m getting better at goodbye, to the point to where I’m even initiating some of these goodbyes. I am getting better at moving on, and moving forward. I am even getting better at putting myself in positions that I actually want to be in. Sometimes we need to see our weaknesses in someone else to spark the inspiration to be stronger, and to grow. Weaknesses are strengths too, it just takes an insane amount of honesty to turn them into something to build upon.