Vincent Van Gogh took to wandering the streets barely clothed, barely fed, sleeping outdoors and muttering incoherently to himself like a vagabond for a year. He so upset everyone around him with his wayward behavior that his family decided to have him committed to an asylum where he could be hidden.
He resisted the asylum, yet complained of gnawing disappointment with himself for failing to meet his father’s expectations. He felt so low he wrote that if he ceased to be it would be best for all, yet he defended his actions as a man of passions, and claimed that his hands were tied, and that he was maddened by pain, unable to free himself as if he were a captive bird.
He wrote that ‘one does not always know what he can do’. Under all this he instinctively felt that he was good for something. He asked, “How can I be of use? How can I be of service? There is something inside me but what can it be?”
Silly me. I am still waiting for my path and Vincent’s to diverge before we both go crazy. I have not literally stripped myself and wandered aimlessly, but I have felt gnawing disappointment for failing to meet my father’s expectations. I have wondered what it would be like to just not be, and I have felt unable to free myself as if a captive bird. I am aware that I do not always know what I can do. And I instinctively know that I am good for something.
But now I see that it is here when Vincent starts drawing carefully and methodically, with great passion, that we head our separate ways. Already he is much more possessed than I. He cannot see beyond his own pain to meet with another and form a family, or quiet himself to hold a job, or rest enough to consider anything but the driving forces that push him. He is tortured to the point that by the age of twenty-seven Vincent can accomplish little besides scratching out pictures of everything he sees with dark pencils. Me, at twenty-seven, I was married and working. My feelings might have been similar but my actions were quite different.
This leads me to wonder whether if I’d just kept indulging in my true passion at the time, baking, maybe by this point in my life, like Vincent, I too would have created a masterpiece.