Future, Fate, and Paint

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You could say I’m an artist. My brushes and canvases give me joy like nothing else in my life can. When I pick up my brush everything goes away and I’m in the present. When I look out the window of my room I see possible masterpieces everywhere; the way the neighbor’s cars line up, the sunset behind the suburban homes, the juxtaposition of sparse nature and development. I’m truly inspired by Monet and Van Gogh. The way Monet combines swirling colors to form beautiful images in the mind moves me. I keep a copy of Starry Night in my wallet so I’ll always have it. This painting proves to me that one image can make you feel a thousand things at once.
I’m in love with art, but I wish my parents felt the same way. They tell me that art is a waste of time; I could never support myself and live the life I was born to. My parents are Mark and Bonnie Craft and we live just outside Columbus, Ohio. Craft Construction has been passed down through four generations of Crafts and sadly I’m an only child. It was assumed from the day I was born that I would someday run Craft Construction. It’s quite ironic that God gave the Craft’s someone like me. I’m against construction in general because it’s wiping out the beautiful nature around us and killing our Earth. It means less nature to paint and share with the world. When I was in eighth grade I told my parents I wanted to be a painter. The response: “Emily, don’t be silly. Why would you throw away your life to paint when you have the world at your feet with Craft Construction? This discussion is over.” Ever since that day I’ve had to hide canvases in my closet.
Finally I’m a senior at St. Mary’s School for Girls, Columbus Campus. I can’t wait to get away from my parents after this year. Along with the construction business it’s assumed that I’m going to Ohio State next year; four generations of Crafts have done that too. Last week secretly I filled out an application to attend the Rhode Island School for Design as an option. I probably won’t get in, but maybe I will. I’ve quietly dreamed about going to Rhode Island since the eighth grade and I had to try. It’s one of the most well-respected art institutions in the country and Rhode Island is a good distance from Ohio. The next day I filled out my Ohio State application with the help of Mark and Bonnie, I might as well humor them.
I’ve survived most of my senior year and it’s now April. To my absolute delight I found I’ve been admitted to the Rhode Island School of Design. I hurried home everyday to beat my parents to the mailbox. When I saw the letter in the mailbox one Tuesday I grabbed it, ran upstairs, and ripped the envelope to shreds. It read: “Dear Ms. Emily Craft, Congratulations! You have been accepted to the Rhode Island School of Design as a Painting Major. We look forward to seeing you in the fall!” I could feel my heart racing and my hands shaking so much that I’m surprised I was able to read the letter. The next day I got my acceptance to Ohio State.
Now is the moment of truth. Do I follow my dreams or do I compromise them to make my parents proud? Am I being selfish or is meant to be? They might not give me any money to go to RISD. We’d be a closer family if I went to Ohio State. Whenever I have this kind of problem I turn to my painting. So, I set up my canvas in my room and start painting whatever comes into my mind. I am overcome with the feeling of serenity and peace. I close my eyes and envision a quaint little town in the middle of nowhere, where everyone knows each other and all support each other. I pick up my brush and suddenly a knock on my door. What are they doing home so early? “Emily, it’s your mother. We all need to talk.” How did they find out? They couldn’t possibly know about Rhode Island!
I walk downstairs with fear in my eyes and in my heart. I turn the corner and I see them sitting at our dining room table, one parent at each end, disconnected from each other like I am to them. I sit between them at the big table like I’m being interrogated by the police. “I found this when I was checking your e-mail for your Ohio State acceptance. Rhode Island Emily? What are you thinking? You’ve wanted to go to Ohio State forever. How could you do this and not ask us first? We thought you had stopped painting years ago.” Bonnie’s face is accusing, while Mark simply sits in silence. She had some good questions, and I definitely had some answers. “I’ve never wanted to go to Ohio State. Why would I want to stay here? You have never supported my dreams, only yours. I didn’t tell you because you wouldn’t have let me apply. Do you know what this means? I am one of the most talented painters in this country and you don’t care. I am not going to settle for Craft Construction when that’s not my fate. I’m going to Rhode Island with or without your help.” I never expected those words to escape my lips. My non-confrontational attitude has been pushed to it’s limit and it’s my time to take charge.
Tears form in my eyes as I escape from the table. I open the front door without looking back and take my first step into controlling my own destiny. I start walking down Oakwood Road. The road ends with a forest that Craft Construction is cutting down next week. I step off of the concrete onto the soil and the past is behind me. All of the facades of suburbia are wiped from my mind. I saunter down a path that has been formed by me coming there for years. I approach a rock in the middle of my path; this rock is subject of my first painting, stored in the back of my closet. I come here whenever I really need to get away from my life. I close my eyes and smell the forest around me. Spring is in the air. The animals are finally back where they belong, and so am I.
It’s becoming dark and Mark and Bonnie are probably freaking out. I don’t hate my parents, but I definitely don’t love them. I step back onto Oakwood Road and reality slaps me in the face. I reluctantly open the front door to my house. Shock takes over my face as I see all of my paintings from my closet hung on the clean white walls. Above the fireplace is my rock painting, to my left is the sunset over the lake, and to my right is the abandoned farm a few miles from here. I have made my decision about my future and it’s apparent my parents have too.
I walk into the family room and I see them sitting by the fireplace and my rock painting. “Thanks Mom and Dad.” They both look at me with hesitant smiles, still trying to convince themselves that this is alright. Neither of them says a word, but it’s probably best. Their silence makes me think that they feel the same about me; neither hate nor love. This is as much as I can ask from them and I’ll take it. At least I can go to bed with a smile tonight.
Now I’ve been at RISD for a semester and it’s the Freshman Showcase for all of the parents to come see. I’m not expecting Mark and Bonnie to come so I’m not disappointed. I would like them to see the painting I did of our home in Columbus but I’d get over it.
I walk around the gallery and I’m having fun with my new friends who truly understand me. It’s sad that I’ve known these kids for five months and they know me better than my own parents. My mouth drops as I see them walk into the gallery. They must have gotten an invitation from the school. I meet them at my painting and I see tears in my mother’s eyes. “We’re very proud of you Emily. This painting is absolutely breathtaking.” Her sincerity overwhelms me and tears flood my eyes. “Thanks Mom. I love you.”





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