Dear Mr. Salinger,
One scorching, humid June day, just about the time in the afternoon when the beach-goers retreat from the fiery rays of the sun to seek shelter under the cool shadows of their umbrellas, I found The Catcher in the Rye in the corner of my dad's bookshelf. A small, creme-colored, unassuming book, I quickly thumbed through the pages, trying to judge its contents in just a few short seconds. After giving it a final glance-over, I finally plopped myself down on a comfortable chair and began to read.
I am extremely grateful that your book passed my short inspection that day. I shudder to think that if it had not piqued my interest, I might not have ever been introduced to one of my favorite literary characters, Holden Caulfield. The behaviors Holden displays during his aimless wanderings in New York City may have landed him in a psychiatric institution, but Holden's carefree spirit and self-confidence have influenced the way I look at my future plans.
I have to smile to myself when I read the high school goals that I had written in eighth grade. In typical teenage fashion, at just fourteen years old I thought I had everything figured out: what classes to sign up for, what trips to take, what extracurricular activities to get involved in -- with the ultimate goal of reaching the top of my class. While I had an end goal in mind, the specific steps that I had planned to take ended up leading me onto some completely different -- and in many cases, better -- paths than I had originally thought. For instance, nowhere in my eighth-grade goals list did it say to sign up for volleyball. Yet if I had never wavered from my plan, I never would have found myself marching into volleyball practice one sultry August day at the beginning of my sophomore year, and I never would have discovered by great passion for that sport. If I had not been brave enough to stray from my detail-specific plan, I never would have anticipated having the opportunity to travel to El Salvador and Chicago on missions trips. Holden Caulfield's spontaneous journey in New York City showed me that my life is better when I am open to new ideas and places.
At fourteen I could not accurately predict where I would be at eighteen, and I doubt that at eighteen I can accurately predict where I will be at twenty-two. Holden has influenced me to look at my life's big picture: Where I major in history or English, whether I study abroad in Peru or in France, or whether I sign up for intramural basketball or a new art class, I know that I am going to work my hardest to do my best -- without worrying about all of the little details in between. Like Holden declares at the end of the book: "I mean how do you know what you're going to do till you do it? The answer is, you don't."
Holden Caufield has taught me that life is not about having a step-by-step plan; life is about discovering and following new paths that will lead me to my goals. Yes, I might wind up at an occasional dead end, but through your book I have learned to let my passions guide me down new roads.