*NYU Gallatin Scholarship Essay 2013 (Scholarship Received)

In the midst of a playdate, when the thought of gooey dripping paint staining my fingertips lured me into the amateur freedom of tie-dying, I naturally found myself asking my friend’s mom for “crveno”. She starred at me with wide eyes, with the bemused look of a person who had just encountered her first bilingual four year old. Distracted by her curiosity, I dropped my paint, syrupy colors oozing everywhere. Hot tears began violating my face, at the realization of just how messy, different, and inferior my shirt now was from my friend’s.

The process of tie-dying is simple: Find a blank article of clothing, twist it any which way, tie it with rubber bands to allow for a pattern, and splash it with an array of color. I felt I failed miserably and threw the shirt away. My friend’s mother said I did it wrong. That’s also what they told Jackson Pollack.

In high school, I already had many marks to myself, being a world traveler and growing up in a multi-cultural household, with a conservative Bosnian mom, and a loud, Italian dad. A clash of cultures lead to disagreements rooted from language barriers, amongst other things, twisting me in every which way. At the news of my parent’s divorce, the first rubber band snapped. It was time for the Bosnian-Italian alliance to end, creating a section in my life adulterated with colors of anguish, guilt, and confusion. The lack of control I had over the direction of my life scared me. I wanted to have normal parents, to live the typical American life my friends did. I felt my experienced were foreign, and that I, was an alien of sorts, belonging to no place, and now, no cohesive home.

Over time, however, healing began. Raw feelings allowed me to accept life’s blemishes, brighter colors of maturity covering some scars. Already a mess of bleeding colors, growth entered into the clutter, as I was exposed to artistic expression, specifically acting. I was invited to perform in actor’s showcases in New York City, using my unique color palette as a way to set myself a part, and my alien experiences as motivators for heavier pieces. Imperfection leads to creation, and had I had a typical upbringing, I would not have been able to produce my own voice. Let’s face it, life is messy, but it’s what you do with that mess that defines you.

As I begin my next journey, I can cut off my rubber bands, unfold my twists, and reveal the seeping mess of colors that is me. I no longer look for blank t-shirts to tie-dye, but rather shirts with marks and bruises, and snap my rubber bands in such a rule-breaking and wrong way, that it gives me a method more right than any my friend’s mother could have taught me. Entering the next part of my life as a tabula rasa, a t-shirt rasa, I am ready to twist, tie, and splash my next cloth. I am the wrong and wasted t-shirts in every child’s trash, waiting for them return and realize that these unconventional failures are the most beautiful of them all.