Posted: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 2:06:18 AM
Last year, author Jack Kerouac, through the character of Sal Paradise, took me into a world of adventure, excitement and...bitter discontentment when I read On The Road for a research paper in English class.
I found myself relating to Sal, who goes everywhere on a spur-of-the-moment, looking-for-something-cool kick. My own sense of adventure has taken me into all kinds of strange activities similarly to Sal.
Kerouac’s crazy adventures are at first thrilling, but consistently disappoint him after a while. “I felt like a speck on the surface of the sad red earth,” Kerouac writes. Though I’ve never felt quite so alone, I understood well that feeling of insignificance and discontentment with my life. Often I try new and different kinds of things, hoping that they will turn out to be incredible, only to find myself unhappy that I am really terrible at these things.
A few weeks ago I started to take a volunteer course at the Northern Illinois Raptor Center. I was ecstatic to be doing something so odd and quirky and new, something my friends would never think of. After sitting through weeks of lectures and practice with the owls and hawks, I thought I was ready to help. One day a family walked by while I was holding one of the birds, and one of the coordinators asked me to speak about the bird as practice for doing programs with it. I opened my mouth and nothing came out. I couldn’t remember anything. It wasn’t that I was nervous; I was just really bad at remembering the information. She pried at me with all kinds of easy questions I could answer for them, but I just stood there open-mouthed. I left that day with my sense of adventure crushed. How could I be so foolish to think I could start something new and exciting and actually be good at it?
By the end of the On The Road, Sal has faced numerous disappointments. At this point he discovers something powerful: the ability to let it be. I, too, realized that I letting my initial failures and disappointments be and instead focusing on improving the present was the key to leading a happier life. I could go on countless adventures like Sal did but I wouldn't experience that immediate adventurous thrill forever. Only by hard work (for me, studying the different types of raptors), I could produce something fruitful from my labors.
I have always wished to be one of those people that is “mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn...” After reading On The Road, I finally found solace in someone else who felt the same way.