Creating is my own small ruin
Looking at my own creation was supposed to be cathartic, but I only felt disappointed when it stared back.
The painting knew too much about me and felt no shame in sharing. There was so much of myself engrained in it that the experience was akin to looking straight at a mirror. It’s vulnerable, too emotional, and would probably kill itself if given a chance. Making art was the one thing that never failed to make me feel better. Who knew it would one day be the architect of my own personal hell? Where the mind presses autopilot as it oscillates between one self-destructive thought and another.
It’s basic. It’s lifeless. It’s ugly.
The header was clear: “ASPIRING CREATIVE DEAD BY LACK OF IMAGINATION.” Zip. Nada. Gone. My creativity finally died. With it, my childhood dreams of being an artist. There was a funeral inside me, and with each mental jab I gave myself, they lowered the casket. Six feet. Five feet. Later, inches apart. When it reached the surface, my heart finally sank. I had just finished applying for art school, and the results were coming up, which seemed like opportunity not only knocking but playing a cruel joke. I’ve wanted to study art for so long, and the minute I got close to reaching that goal, I felt like giving up.
Monday came dashing in. I was tired, starved of sleep, and probably had too much coffee. My eyes were fixated on the glowing screen, staring at my inbox. The e-mail included the words “congratulations” and “welcome.”
I GOT INTO ART SCHOOL.
It all felt unreal. But a keen sense of regret dawned on me as my former self was still six feet on the ground. A surge of unwanted tears revealed themselves—my constant blinking would fail to keep them at bay. I don’t understand. It was his tears. He was dead and he was crying. The buried creative was scratching the casket as if to say, “I’m here! I’m still alive!” I could hear his nudging, and I just about considered digging him out of the grave. As I took a deep breath and closed my laptop shut, I knew one thing: I still want this.
Moments passed. The moon showed up just in time to witness my heart shatter. My parents got home, and I was eager to tell them the good news. I patiently waited for a brief interlude in our regularly scheduled program. Amidst the clanking silverware, I proudly announced my most recent triumph. “I got accepted to college,” I said. “Application results just came in.”
The words came out quietly and were met with the usual round of praise, congratulatory remarks, and applause of small volume. Not sure what I was expecting, but after all the “college is hard” speeches they gave me, I would’ve thought there was something more than smiles and pats on the back. That sounds selfish. Maybe it was a desperate attempt to get their approval—to show that I’m worthy of their love. Their time. Their attention. That I’m worth something. But that proved to be a mild irritation after what shortly followed.
Mom turned to me. “So, are you going to become a doctor now? You applied for a medical course, right?” She wasn’t asking me if I took a program in medicine as much as she was suggesting I should’ve. “No,” I replied. “I applied for fine arts.” Three whole seconds of silence ensued and felt like an eternity. Mom was about to object but seemed to be signaled by Dad that she should let it rest, and continued to silently consume her cooking.
Walking back to my room wasn’t supposed to be this difficult. But doing any small task with a heavy heart is never easy. Art has been the one thing I knew how to do. The thought of not doing it terrifies me. I hadn’t dared to create art after pouring my soul into that painting. That damn painting. I started it about a year ago. Since then, my life centered around trying to finish the whole thing. I intended to get it done in a span of three months. Yet, over a year later, I’m still working on it. Perhaps, working isn’t the right term, more like staring. I find myself unable to move on from its grip. It’s honest. It’s floundering. And it’s true. There was too much me in it that the emotional experience wasn’t dissimilar to separating the body from all the internal mess of life. It was me. The thing it was reflecting was me. Giving up on it meant I was giving up on myself. And I couldn’t shake the feeling of being abandoned. Left in a distant corner, somewhere. Collecting dust. Incomplete. Untouched. Unloved.
But I ended up hating it anyway. The depths of my existential fears fully realized. Gazing upon it now with that introspection—perhaps I need to be kinder to myself. To allow myself to make mistakes. To be able to forgive myself when I make them. The artist need not be dead. Just forgiven. Accepted as imperfect. Seen as human. The painting reflected that truth. Reflected me.
So, how can I not look at the painting?
How can I not look at myself, and love him too?
Tristan Talon, 19, is an aspiring visual artist hoping to capitalize on his existential dread. When he’s not obsessing over art, he can be seen staring at a blank wall, watching gruesome crime documentaries, or annoying his cat.
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