College is like early Monet paintings

By Emily Starr | Contributor

In one of the first art history classes I took, I wrote a paper on an early work by famous impressionist painter Claude Monet, called “La Pointe de la Hève at Low Tide.” Scholars previously included the piece in the pre-impressionist or realist movement. In my paper, I wrote that there are glimmers of his painterly glory that characterize his later impressionist style, evident in the details of the sky and sea.

What’s interesting about this piece compared to his other works is that art critics loved it, while a viewer today may not even recognize that it’s a painting by Monet.

Last weekend, I got to see another early Monet painting, and I only recognized it because I had studied “La Pointe de la Hève at Low Tide.” It reminded me of this project that I did what feels like ages ago, and how much my interests have changed since writing that paper.

The work we are doing in college is a little bit like an early Monet. There are glimmers of what we’ll be known for in our lives — our careers, our relationships, our values —, but we’re not quite recognizable as who we will eventually be, either. It’s evanescent. As a graduating senior with no concrete plans after May 18, I find that comforting.

Baylor has trained and shaped me, taught me to love so many new people and things, and I will leave here a different person than when I started. But I’ll also change for the rest of my life. The books I read, afternoons I spent in Armstrong Browning Library, wise people I learned from and answers I found here are the impressionistic details of Monet’s painting — indicators of the things I will continue to build on after I leave here. But the grades I made, rejections I received and areas where I feel like not enough are the things that will fade into the pre-impressionist background: not viable measurements of my worth or future life.

Even if you’re just finishing your first year of college, I think that’s hopeful for you. You are getting the tools you need to do the work you will do, and when you see the glimmers of things you want to be, hold onto those. Open yourself up to new experiences while you’re here because the trajectory you think you’re on, even if it’s a worthy and laudable one, may not be the place you end up, and there’s a lot of beauty in that development.

Monet’s painting demonstrates that, too. He eventually went on to paint the more characteristic impressionist paintings, like waterlilies and haystacks, but all of his paintings, even the early ones, aim to capture the ever-changing qualities of nature, like the sky and sea. “La Pointe de la Hève at Low Tide” exemplifies that he was always who he was meant to be.

Emily is a senior art history major from Tyler.