“I woke up and the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was – I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen…and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds.” (Kerouac 15)
Sal, the narrator of On the Road has found himself traveling West for the first time in his young life. His journey, while it is indeed a physical journey to be with friends, is essentially one of self discovery. He claimed that as a writer, he “needed new experiences” and that “life hanging around the campus had reached the completion of its cycle” (Kerouac 7). The narrator has recognized the end of one portion of his life and has begun the search for the next chapter, the next thing that will define him. He knows he wishes to be a writer, but he has yet to understand what and who he wishes to write about. His journey then is a search for that subject matter that will decide the remainder of his life.
As a senior in college I (and much of the rest of the class) am at a similar point in my live (sorry folks). Like Sal, we have all come to the point in our lives where a cycle is ending and are searching for the next thing to define us. We are hunting for jobs, graduate schools, new places to live, and new people who are going to dominate the next years of our lives. As with any new beginning, this is going to be extremely frightening. But I think that we can learn a lot from Kerouac and his narrator’s take on his journey of self-discovery. Fist of all, we must recognize that the decision must be our own. Sal notes that his aunt warned him against traveling West with Dean, yet he still went because he “could hear a new call and see a new horizon” (Kerouac 8). As students about to enter a new portion in our lives we must take up opportunities when we see a new horizon. The best thing to do is to dive into a new opportunity head first, without fear and with firm resolve. Sal’s journey is not an easy one, but he takes it up without question that it is something that he must do. And there are times of doubt, and as seen in the opening quote, there were times when he was unsure of whom he was. But that is only natural when a new chapter is opening in our lives. We are changing, we are growing, we are becoming new people. The strange time for Sal only lasted about fifteen strange seconds, but it was enough to wake him up to the stark realities of the difference between his past and his future. He wasn’t shook and he wasn’t discouraged, he merely took it as a sign to “get going and stop moaning” (Kerouac 15). This is an attitude that we all must take up when entering into a new journey of our lives. We may change and we may be afraid of getting lost in the world of change, but we will always find ourselves once again. So don’t be daunted by the next challenge that you must face. Merely take it up will a strong will, and when it becomes difficult, just use that as motivation to work harder and keep traveling.