I first read Kerouac in high school when a friend handed me On the Road on a school field trip and told me I “had to read this.”
Even though I grew up middle-class and my only real problems were whether the guy I was crushing on liked me, I always felt trapped in high school.
Like I was meant for more, and here I was, stuck in this school, with these people, with this version of myself I had to pretend to be in order to fit in.
I wrote fantasy novels in the quiet hours of the night because it felt like the only way to escape from a life I was unhappy with (I know, I know, classic teenage angst).
So, when I read On the Road, I felt like I’d found freedom in Kerouac’s own ventures away from reality. The rhythm of his prose felt like his words were bursting out at me from the page, and I remember thinking to myself, these are the kind of people I want to be around and this is the kind of life I want to be living—and I swore I would live my own version of it someday.
Since then, I have had many of my own adventures in these short, 27 years, but every now and then, I find myself caught up in monotony, in similar feelings to when I was in high school—trapped—and like it’d be easier to simply try and fit in and be someone who others like.
I sometimes feel like an outsider. Someone who will never be one of the “popular kids” even now in adulthood. Someone who will never be able to quite conform to society’s rules and expectations, and then it makes me feel like there might be something wrong with me.
Wouldn’t it be easier if I could just cruise by through life, accepted, liked, relatively unnoticed?
The other day, I was chatting with a friend who said something that reminded me of that same moment as when I was handed On the Road in high school. He said, nothing matters. When you live your life the way you want to and don’t give a f*ck what anyone else thinks, you are free. And that’s actually the most attractive quality in a person (or something along those lines).
I’m tired of caring about what others think of me, and I’m tired of trying to be someone who is “pleasant” because it’s easier for other people.
As Kerouac famously said:
“The only people for me are the mad ones,
the ones who are mad to live,
mad to talk,
mad to be saved…
the ones who never yawn
or say a commonplace thing,
but burn, burn, burn,
like fabulous yellow roman candles
exploding like spiders across the stars.”
~ Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Those are my people. No matter how many times our light gets dimmed, we keep on burnin’.
That’s the kind of life I want to live.
And there’s a whole road out there that still needs exploring.
And a bonus quote, just because:
“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” ~ Maya Angelou