Holden would not have written this essay
Superman taught me that I could, and would, win every battle. That is a liberating idea for a child. Without reference or knowledge of death and abject failure, I grew up self-assured, invincible, and infallible. My opinions were facts, fairy tales were truths, I knew everything and nothing would ever change. I was the hero of my own story. I never stopped to think that the world could not be made up entirely of Supermen.
So what happened when, brick by broken brick, this false foundation fell? I got scared. Superman never bled, or lost. My knee bled; my shoulder broke; my parents cried. How could any of this happen? Lies? I didn’t know what lies were.
I was suddenly sure I wasn’t a man of steel. I wasn’t the hero in the story of the world. What else could I be? A bystander? An extra? I had nothing else to be.
Holden Caulfield told me that I was fallible. He lined it out in black and white, slapped me across the face and told me to watch my nose bleed. He taught me that I wasn’t the only one either. All humans are flawed, but that is just fine.
Holden Caulfield was a lazy, whiny, quitter. He was, and is, my hero. Why? Because, like me, he bleeds, flails, spins and falls, like a real human being.
He is not an enabler: I don’t smoke just because he does; I don’t give up just because he does; I don’t break windows just because he does.
He doesn’t make failure fashionable either. Holden lives with the consequences of his mistakes, just like every human has to.
He messed up, that meant everyone, anyone, could, would, mess up. I have and will mess up. But that doesn’t mean I should curl up and die. I shouldn’t hold others to standards of perfection I’ll never achieve myself. I should accept the fact that we all fall, we don’t all save the day; that’s what makes us human. Holden taught me the importance of failure, and I’ve used that knowledge to keep my head above the waters of self-defeating doubt.
This is not an apology to mankind. I’m not begging for forgiveness from my imperfections. This is not a declaration of disinterest or degradation. This is a thank you letter to the one who taught me that I don’t have to be a man of steel.
Because of Holden I can, we all can, be human.