Although he seemed to be scared, confused, unsure of himself, and sometimes a plain mess, Kerouac was sure that he did not want a mainstream, normal life. On the Road represents a type of freedom that most people will never experience, and this dedication to making his own way is admirable.
On the Road embodies the anti-American Dream: no roots, no structure, no worrying about retirement or the distant future. On the Road focuses on today, this moment, right now and demands that you start soaking up your life in the same way and take those big adventures and risks or you will exist unfulfilled and unsatisfied.
I read On the Road when I was working for a tyrant of a boss and at many stopping points in my reading I thought about just walking out--life was too precious to waste working for a complete chauvinistic, disrespectful pig of a man. This book made me want to revolt against my own life, and several months later, I did, vowing to never work for a horrible person again (or, at least promising myself I would get out sooner if I discovered I was working for a horrible person).
The energy, mania, and completely uninterested attitude of the characters in what society expected of them wanted me to make my own way, too. I wanted to stay up all night drinking and diving into all-important philosophical questions and try to solve all the world's problems. I wanted to jump in a car and drive across the country. I wanted to have a complete disregard for what other's thought and do what felt right for me.
Although I didn't immediately do any of these things, On the Road has stayed with me and has served as a whispering reminder to take risks, jump at opportunities, and attack the day with eyes and heart wide open. Although the characters in On the Road definitely lack direction and purpose at times, their obsession with creativity, living in the moment, and disregarding expectations remain the takeaways.
I am eagerly awaiting the latest movie adaptation of the On the Road movie, due for release in 2012.