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Hilary Tran: Growing Through Art


This is a story of my younger self. It begins with a little girl who couldn’t draw hands and symmetrical faces, yet her dream was to become a “great” artist:

In City View Elementary School, she was known to be one of the best drawers. People would compliment her art. Once, she had to create an ink pattern design for her Art class; the ink curved out swirls and lines, revealing a red background. Her Art teacher and peers said: “That looks so good!” or “I like that!” This made her happy, plus it boosted her courage. Those compliments were one of the reasons why she enjoyed drawing, but mainly because she simply loved creating art.

Art was her hobby and passion. It was a safe space for her to let her imagination run wild. She would describe herself as artistic or creative.

In 2016, when middle school started, she didn’t expect the hardships she would be facing. Her middle school experience was already different than most students because the academy she was in started in 6th grade. Sullivan Middle School was a big contrast to her City View Elementary School experiences.

One day, she sat next to this boy to make friends with him. He was doodling an anime character on his worksheet. For the first time in her life up to that point, she saw someone she deemed “better” than her in art. Moreover, that person was in the same grade as her. She couldn’t help but be in awe of his ability to draw a realistic human body. It hurt her ego because she could only draw cartoon bodies. She felt as if she lost a part of herself because art was what made her special – what defines her. Losing her motivation to draw, but she still loves art because that is her passion and dream. Creating art is her joy.

Then high school starts. It was 2019. At that time, COVID struck, which led to remote learning. It impacted her sleep schedule. After COVID died down, her time management became an issue. The schedule was packed with AP classes and sports – cross country and Lion Dance (a cultural dance). With less time to draw, her passion slowly died.

That girl was a part of the younger me – my past. Let’s go back to the present: I still struggle to manage my time and there was a period of time when I thought I would stop creating art entirely, but my spark came back unexpectedly from a TikTok video. It was of a girl talking about the time and patience it takes to be good at art. There was a phrase that stuck with me:

We all have our own pace in life.

That one sentence changed my perspective of my own life – made me realize that I have been rushing myself to become a “great artist” too fast and I should slow down and process what I am doing. It motivated me to restart my art learning. I started to watch tutorial videos on YouTube to improve my anatomy and get a better understanding of art. Recently, I drew different hand poses on my iPad. Everyone has their own pace, so don’t rush it is what I remind myself. It may not be today…or tomorrow…but one day, until that day comes, I am content and confident with my art.

The young girl from City View Elementary School didn’t disappear: she just grew bigger and accepted that it takes time and patience to learn something you are passionate about. But she still has the same burning passion for art and the dream to be a great artist. It is a part of the process of learning, whether it is learning a new math theory or a new science principle. So don’t be afraid to slow down.

Here’s What Ms. Ledoux had to say about Hilary’s essay:

It is amazing to re-read this final version of Hilary’s essay, and to think about where it started! Hilary went through multiple drafts to produce this engaging, relatable essay.

When she first started drafting, Hilary wrote a very long essay detailing the history of her relationship with art. Unfortunately, the Common App requires a maximum word count of 650, so the first step was to cut the essay down. A wise first step she made was to identify the message she wanted to send about herself. Then, she could go back to the essay and identify the portions that best support the message, and cut other parts out. This was not easy, but is a productive writing process!  It is helpful to have a teacher or friend also read to give you advice on what should stay, and what should go.

The reason this essay works so well is because it covers a topic that readers can relate to – having a talent or hobby – but brings up really thoughtful, honest comments on what it means to be “good” and what happens when we compare ourselves to others. Also, Hilary tried out a third person perspective, which can be tricky – but with thoughtful revision, she made sure to bring in a personal, reflective first person voice by the end, and ultimately the narrative distance creates a nice buffer for a difficult realization that readers can perhaps relate to.

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