Starry Night

I am a bit behind because of travel but I promise blog posts are coming. In lieu of a “new” post, I was cleaning out my Google Drive today and found this. This was my college admissions essay from way back in 2002. I always love going back and looking at old writing of mine and this is still one of my favorite pieces. Enjoy!

Starry Night. Vincent Van Gogh.

The Starry Night. Vincent Van Gogh. 1889. Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York.

Swirling stars…an eternal battle in the sky. I understood that battle well from the moment I set eyes on ‘Starry Night’, Van Gogh’s masterpiece. In the middle of a battle myself simply called ‘the art project’ by Madame, The chaotic swirls and menacing colors seemed my approaching doom…I might fail.

Failure, you must understand, was something I had dreaded my entire school career and something that had become a very real presence in Madame’s French class of my junior year. I’d fought to find my bearings in the class from day one yet I’d eventually found a comfortable stride and was doing fine with the grammar and verb exercises. Maybe that should have been a clue to me that there was trouble on the horizon.

Then came the Art Unit. Never underestimate the fear and awe I now hold in that one word…art. The Art Unit was the pride and joy of Madame who, using the masterpieces of Manet, Renoir, and Degas, taught her students an appreciation of art as well as the subjunctive tense. Within the unit itself was a mammoth project that took over every one of Madame’s students’ lives once we received our artist and mission. Mine was Vincent Van Gogh, the tortured artist who was doomed to be a failure in his own day. I knew little about Van Gogh when I began, knew more about myself…or so I’d thought. As I began the research for the project, my routine in French was broken, both at home and school. I felt like I was being stretched to my limit. Madame was asking me to interpret, see things that weren’t there, and understand the truths of life that the long dead painters were still saying through their masterpieces.

At first, I failed to understand how the truths of Monet were mine but gradually, I began to understand and see. The French painters were all about light, beauty, color…life. And life was all about falling down before walking for the first time. It was a concept that scared me when I first thought of it. I need to fail in order to succeed? The answer was no, I didn’t need to fail but I needed to understand that I was going to make mistakes along the way. My first mistake had been in thinking a mistake was a failure. Looking at the rough sketches of Van Gogh’s masterpiece, I saw the mistakes that he’d made. Yet, he learned from those mistakes and, in the end, created a piece of artwork that is still held in awe today.

I did not fail on the Art Unit but I made plenty of mistakes along the way, mistakes I now understood I should celebrate instead of mourn. The mistakes were not always trivial such as an etre verb always needs agreement or that beaucoup is always followed by de. Some taught me about my own virtues and vices such as patience and procrastination. From my own mistakes and those I saw in the masters, I ultimately realized that the French painters had their own mistakes to teach me and, if I just looked between the swirls and starbursts, I would see the success within the mistakes. Not only in a Van Gogh, but in my own masterpieces as well.

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One thought on “Starry Night

  1. Pingback: The Class I’ll Never Forget | Krystalized

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