The writer J.D. Salinger died Thursday at 91. Stephanie Lee, a senior at Alhambra High and writer for the Youth Feed, reflects on how she identifies with Salinger’s most famous character, Holden Caulfield from “Catcher in the Rye,” first published in 1951.
I was driving home from LAX after picking up my dad who had just arrived from Taiwan, when I carelessly exited the 101 Freeway. Suddenly, I found myself in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, in awe as I wove between the tall buildings thinking, how exciting would it be to work in one of those, there’s always something new happening, I bet! Though technically I was “lost,” I was secretly amused by all of the hidden possibilities the city fostered. Unknowingly, in my search for the freeway entrance, I had employed the perspective I gained from Holden Caulfield of “Catcher in the Rye.”Upon first impression, Holden Caulfield and I are very different. I live in Southern California, and my parents, who reside on almost opposite sides of the planet, are not wealthy; we live comfortably with occasional financial strains. Holden lives in privilege on the East Coast, as evident by the many expensive preparatory schools from which he is kicked out. He thinks he is tough, independent, and has the only moral compass that still functions in all of society. However, in spite of what seems to be his arrogance, Holden’s receptive and persistent mentality in finding what he seeks resonates with me.
I was always caught between two—two places to be, two people to meet, or even two philosophies to live by; there was hardly a definitive answer. Eventually, my indecision turned into a proactive outlook. I was determined to find my path and harness the experiences that would come. Unlike Holden, my immediate goal is not to salvage the innocence lost as one transforms from a child to an adult; but even so, I can clearly trace his influence in the chase of my own dreams.
Inherently, I am daunted by the prospect of straying from my “comfort zone,” but following Holden’s example, I left it. Los Angeles is a lot like New York City. Both hold so many possible paths and different perspectives that Holden and I can share similarities. As I drove around L.A. that afternoon, I was itching to explore the museums and hole-in-the-wall shops that I had not seen before. I was physically lost in Los Angeles, Holden was emotionally lost in New York City—although, I too, do not have my future figured out as a teenager, the end result of my life is not my only focus. I truly value to what Holden has enlightened me: I will always search in the direction of what I want while remaining open to what may come.