by Natalie Yuhas
“God bless the souls who shook up mine.” Milk Carton Kids, “Memphis”
Confession of a now English major: I never read the books for my high school senior year English class. By the time second semester rolled around, high school work seemed mundane compared to all the adventures I knew were waiting for me at Boston College. I tried the first couple pages of The Catcher in the Rye and hated it. Holden as a character was whiny and annoying, the plot was boring, and who really cares where the ducks go when it gets cold or that his sister is riding a carousel? As you may have guessed, the quiz on the book didn’t go so well, and not only because SparkNotes failed to fill me in on some of the finer details of the book and I claimed the teacher made the quiz too impossible for anyone to pass. (Sorry, Mrs. Kenny.) I had totally missed the point of the whole book.
A few months later, with a whole semester of college under my belt, I returned to The Catcher in the Rye and was determined to finish it this time. As Holden sat there in the
distance watching his sister go round and round on the carousel, I finally got it. Holden isn’t just a whiny, spoiled kid; he is absolutely tormented by his own loss of innocence as he
searches for anyone or anything genuine in a “phony” adult world, something that I was becoming all too aware of in my own life.
When I was done with The Catcher in the Rye, I felt a connection with Holden and his awareness of his changing world. Although part of it was comforting, the story left me unsettled more than anything, and made me think about my own struggles in this awkward limbo between childhood and adulthood. That is what makes it one of my favorite books to this day, because it forces me to think and feel.
We need to feel uncomfortable, see things that break our heart, read things that change the way we think, meet people and have moments that change us. It’s what makes us human. Jesus came for the very reason to make people uncomfortable, so much so that he was persecuted and sentenced to death for it. People at the time didn’t like his radical ideas because they were considered too dangerous. And in the end, those radical ideas ended up saving us.
It’s sometimes a little too easy for us to be complacent in our lives. I know that I am guilty of sticking to my normal routine, spending time only with my closest friends, and getting stuck in a comfortable, safe rut. When I do that, though, there is always a part of me that isn’t happy. The times I have found out most about myself and what makes me genuinely happy are when I push myself out of my comfort zone. One of the best decisions of my time at BC was taking a leap of faith and living with girls I didn’t really know my sophomore year. Although it had the potential to be a disaster, they ended up becoming my best friends I know I will have for the rest of my life. Whether it is going on a service or immersion trip, joining a different club, or just asking someone new to hang out, make yourself feel uncomfortable.
Since my first semester at Boston College, I have now read The Catcher in the Rye a few times, and each time I get something a little different out of it. I have gone on to read other authors who have challenged the way I see the world and the human condition. I’ve learned the power that words can have. They are an inspiration for me and, in a way, they save me.