Today, Vincent van Gogh is considered a world-renowned painter and artistic genius. This was not always the case.

Van Gogh lived in poverty and anonymity for most of his life.

He was born on March 30, 1853, one year to the day after his parents' first child (also named Vincent) arrived stillborn. He grew up poor and left school to help support his family. He worked in galleries and with art dealers but had a habit of falling in love with women who didn't love him back. After his first heartbreak, he became a teacher and religious evangelist. But when his contract at the church wasn't renewed, van Gogh turned to painting.


Though clearly talented, van Gogh didn't achieve fame or wealth for his work while he as alive. He suffered from mental illness and eventually checked himself into a hospital where he completed some of his most seminal works, including "Starry Night" and "Irises."

"Starry Night" and "Irises."

But while his genius and talent were second to none, there was one way Van Gogh was just like the rest of us.

He wrote more than 900 letters to his younger brother Theo, a lifelong companion and confidant. Even as his work matured and his talent took shape, Vincent van Gogh's letters revealed he still felt overwhelmed, inadequate, and anxious, especially when beginning a new piece. That fear is something we're all familiar with.

But even in his darkest hours, van Gogh fought that fear in order to create.

"You don’t know how paralyzing it is, that stare from a blank canvas that says to the painter you can't do anything," Vincent wrote to his brother.

"Life itself likewise always turns towards one an infinitely meaningless, discouraging, dispiriting blank side on which there is nothing, any more than on a blank canvas. But however meaningless and vain, however dead life appears, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth, and who knows something, doesn’t let himself be fobbed off like that. He steps in and does something, and hangs on to that."

Cartoonist Gavin Aung Than of Zen Pencils adapted van Gogh's letter to Theo into a comic story that feels as relevant today as it did in the 1880s.

Comic by Gavin Aung Than, used with permission.

Like van Gogh, most of us will struggle with feelings of inadequacy and fear at some point.

That's when we need to step up for ourselves the most.

Whether you're stressed about work, creative pursuits, or trying something new, it may help to find an accountability partner. That's someone you know and trust who you can share your goals and fears with, and vice versa. Exchanging hundreds of letters back and forth was van Gogh's style, but a quick coffee or text of support and encouragement may be just the boost you both need to get started.

Self-care and positive affirmations can also be useful when you need a little push. A study from Carnegie Mellon University confirms self-affirmations can improve problem-solving abilities and protect against stress. So in moments of doubt, extend yourself a little grace and remind yourself just how awesome you are. You don't have to be perfect. But if it's something you want, give it your best shot.

​Epilogue: So just how and when did van Gogh find success?

In his lifetime, van Gogh completed thousands of sketches, drawings, and watercolor and oil paintings. After his death at the age of 37 and Theo's death six months later, van Gogh's sister-in-law Johanna put his artwork on display in Paris. There, his popularity grew, and van Gogh was eventually celebrated as a pioneering painter and eminent Dutch artist.

Happy ending? Not quite. But an ending that wouldn't be possible if van Gogh hadn't "stepped in and done something." And we can hang on to that.

Joy

Man uses TikTok to offer 'dinner with dad' to any kid that needs one, even adult ones

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud.

Come for the food, stay for the wholesomeness.

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud. His TikTok channel is dedicated to giving people intimate conversations they might long to have with their own father, but can’t. The most popular is his “Dinner With Dad” segment.

The concept is simple: Clayton, aka Dad, always sets down two plates of food. He always tells you what’s for dinner. He always blesses the food. He always checks in with how you’re doing.

I stress the stability here, because as someone who grew up with a less-than-stable relationship with their parents, it stood out immediately. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief at Clayton’s consistency. I also noticed the immediate emotional connection created just by being asked, “How was your day?” According to relationship coach and couples counselor Don Olund, these two elements—stability and connection—are fundamental cravings that children have of their parents. Perhaps we never really stop needing it from them.


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Joy

Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

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TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

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