Stolen Candy, Second Chances

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What if your beautiful sweet moment was chased away by trying to be perfect. No way! Let’s stop that and make art instead!

Thoughts for today’s teens, and anyone needing fresh perspective.

The first day of acrylic painting instructions in high school, someone ate my main project. No joking.

We showed up with large canvasses, wide as I could stretch my arms. A 3×5 index card. And piles of very colorful salt-water taffy in wax-paper wrappers.

Then the assignment: don’t eat the sweets, blow them up huge on the canvass! First, we glued them to the cards and made notes of the lighting so we could work on it for a few weeks. Then we carefully watched proportion and sketched the lines, shadows, crevasses, and contours onto the canvas. I decided to highlight one huge candy with two right behind it. Awesome! Who wouldn’t want to fall into that picture?

Next, sketching with a first layer of paint. Then it had to dry overnight.

The following day I returned and all my supplies were on hand. Large canvass, check. The 3×5 card, check. Paints and supplies, check. Candy wrappers, check. But the candy itself was gone! The rest of the class laughed. Someone had eaten my final project.

Ever feel that way?

Everything’s so not okay. On the outside, you make it look like you’re cruising along, meeting your deadlines, playing sports, hanging out with friends. But inside, there’s a gnawing feeling that just won’t go away.

A raw spot that needs more. More out of life. More honesty and less lying. More sense out of the crazy jumbled up feelings erupting like Mt. Vesuvius inside of you. Less how life “should” be and more how to deal with what really is. Imperfect parents. Teachers with agendas. Friends that waffle in their loyalty more often than your shoes come untied. No one will talk about something because it’s just easier to keep busy than deal with THAT topic.

Yet the pain is real. The fringes of those thoughts or memories dance like constant paper cuts on your fingertips.

Or like someone had eaten your final project.


I understand the constant call of perfection’s tune. And how deeply impossible it is to ever be answered consistently. Like having a pet piranha. Always hungry.

I know the feeling of being stuck in others’ choices or poor ones of my own. The worst. Like being behind a tar truck on the freeway with all the fumes pouring inside your car. Cough. Hack.

Cut back to the candy. So how did I end up with an A in the class, a great painting, and being in the yearbook with it?

I improvised. I borrowed others’ candy and made due. My painting was a bit more impressionistic, but the colors and feeling were vibrant. We all laughed at the drama of the missing candy in the end.

My point is that sometimes the process is more important than anything else. It’s a season in life, not the entirety of it. Don’t fall prey to others’ idealism that says you have to be perfect now. Really, no one can.

Only One did, and it’s almost His birthday next month, too. He’s a great one to search out for answers that bring constancy and depth to life’s ups and downs.

And don’t forget to grab your paintbrush and keep pressing on, knowing it’s all art in the end.


Elizabeth Van Tassel, resiliency expert and fantasy writer, has really lived a life with diamonds, wildfires, and miracles. A wildfire survivor and gemologist, she winds tales of wondrous gems and destructive loss into fantastic fantasy for the next generation and beyond. She also speaks, gives classes, and blogs weekly for adults and kids about living a resilient life. You can catch up with her favorite gems and daily insights on Facebook.

Image courtesy of antpkr at



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