Content warning: The following story contains references to suicidality and mental health, which may be triggering for some readers.
"Fight & Win," Sylvester Gaskin
For most of my life, I’ve always felt out of place. I’ve never really felt like I had a community to connect with. I moved around a lot as a kid, so it was hard to keep friends. I’m a multiracial dude with a bad anxiety disorder, so trying to talk about both wasn’t a great conversation starter. However, the one thing that made me feel like I had a place in this world was with the faithful of the Seattle Sounders FC.
I heard about the Emerald City Supporters during one of my cohort meetings for my Doctorate program in Seattle. A colleague of mine went to a match, was warmly welcomed by the ECS, and told me “go…just do it and you won’t regret it”. So, during my last cohort weekend, I got two tickets for my old roommate and went to a match. Seattle vs. Portland. MLS Playoffs. I marched with the crowd from Occidental Park to CenturyLink Field, bought my first scarf, learned the chants, and just enjoyed the whole experience.
The one chant that stuck in my mind was “COME ON SEATTLE! FIGHT AND WIN!” For some reason, “fight and win” moved me. Maybe it was because I was struggling with my program and wondering if I could actually earn my degree. Or it was because my anxiety disorder had taken over my life and I was questioning my existence. Earlier that week I had contemplated suicide, however the thought of attending my first Sounders match gave me the strength to keep moving forward.
Once I sat with the Royal Brougham Faithful and felt like I had a family. I didn’t know any of the chants but some ECS members taught me. They were jazzed that a guy from Iowa would come all the way to the Pacific Northwest to drink Hefeweizen and take part in an amazing sports experience. Pretty soon after we scored our first goal, I’m high-fiving people, drinking beer and screaming at the top of my lungs. I felt at home.
Last summer, I was left in charge of my office during our busy season. I had little support from my superiors and was told by colleagues that they didn’t care for my opinions or ideas because I was just filling a seat until someone else took over. I was doing whatever I could to maintain a high standard of work and I was struggling. I had never felt so alone and my suicidal thoughts came roaring back with a vengeance. However, I took a trip to see Seattle play New York City FC in the Bronx with my partner. Once again, I was with my ECS family. I was a member of the faithful, yelling, cheering, singing “Roll on Columbia” and having a great time watching us win. That victory had me on a high for the rest of the summer. And I kept telling myself “fight and win” through that busy time.
I told myself that I was going to get “fight and win” on my arm so I could look at it and remind myself that I’ve got the inner strength to fight whatever anxious or suicidal thoughts come into my head. I purposely asked the tattoo artist to get as close to the blue and rave green of the team colors. I also had the semicolons replace the “I” in both words to represent the fact that I can keep going. I can honestly tell everyone that since I got the tattoo it’s saved me many times from all the negative thoughts that run through my mind. I stare at it at the gym when I need motivation to lift more and get my body right. I rub it before meetings where I know I’m going to be ignored. I read it before I sit down to my thesis and I prepare to defend my proposal and submit my research paperwork.
I can’t wait to go to my next match. It will be another chance to sing, to drink, to feel like I’m a part of something, and to yell “FIGHT AND WIN!” at the top of my lungs with so much meaning.
Tattoosday is way to demonstrate the storytelling quality of tattoos as well as the healing quality of tattoos.
If you would like to share the stories behind your ink, send us a picture of a tattoo or tattoos that have a significant story tied to your survival in life. Then write at least 400 words (you can write as many as you'd like) about the tattoo, it's meaning, and what it means to you today.
These stories will all run on Tuesdays!
One per week! So you have plenty of time to submit them to us!
The caveat with TATTOOSDAY is that we will not be making you a free piece of art, instead, your ink IS the art we will share with the story—which makes the most sense. BUT we will send you some stickers for sharing your story with us!