Content warning: The following story contains references to losing a loved one to a drunk driver, which may be triggering for some readers.
"Super Ken & Emilio," Katy Hamm
I met my best friend Emily Kidwell in high school.
We both played percussion in the school band. We both loved pop-punk and metal music - attending every local show we could get ourselves to. We got our noses pierced together, and frequently drew up ideas for our future tattoos while ogling over members of My Chemical Romance. We both had the strange sense of humor that would lead us to inside jokes about the movie Muppets in Space and "beasts in stairwells." She was Emilio, and I was Ken.
Instead of writing notes to each other, we used to draw these tiny comic books of all the adventures we dreamed of going on as a duo, and occasionally with friends. From Warped Tour escapades, to escaping a R.O.U.S. at school, to traveling to the movie theatre with our friends from youth group - we battled everything as a super hero duo. I was Super Ken, a stick figure with a cape; and she was my sidekick squirrel Emilio... also with a cape.
I still have every single comic we made for each other, including one that we turned in as an assignment for our French class which I can no longer read without looking up the translation. So many memories and those hurt-your-gut laughs attached to those tiny pieces of paper.
Even with her weird and sometimes dark sense of humor, Emily was one of the most genuinely accepting and loving human beings I have ever met. She was the first person who ever talked to me about being accepting of people of all races, sexualities, gender identities, physical and mental ability, weights, mental health status, and more. I owe a chunk of my drive for social justice and advocacy to her steering me in that direction years ago.
In 2008, Emily was killed by a drunk driver.
I remember receiving the phone call from one of our mutual friends. I remember slowing falling to my knees in my grandmothers living room, feeling like I should be crying and also not being able to. It didn't feel real. How could she be gone just like that?
Losing my best friend, and the only person I ever felt truly understood me at that point, was soul crushing. I consistently had nightmares about her crash, and the funeral following. I imagined all the things that could have saved her, and all the things that happened when they didn't.
Shortly after losing Emily, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. This affected everything in my life, but especially school. I was going into my second year of college, and as a first-gen student, I really needed extra help surviving. My mother pushed me into counseling, and it was one of the best things I ever did for myself.
I was able to channel my energy into planning local concerts with my school's programming board - where I found my home at UW Oshkosh. I was able to bring the love and drive Emily and I had for local music to new relationships with new friends. I was finding bits of Emily in new people, and it always made me smile.
I was extremely lucky to have Emily's older sister, Amanda, become a big part of my life during this time as well. Although this didn't happen immediately after losing Emily, when it did happen - it happened fast. We connected on such a deep level on so many things. She has been my shining light through all the rough patches, and I hope I have been the same for her. Amanda and Emily called each other "Skister," a name that Amanda and I have now adopted for our friendship.
In June, we decided to get a "Skister" tattoo together. We had a goofy inside joke about hedgehogs, so we went on got ourselves each a cute little hedgehog. Hers, looking like it was throwing serious shade, fit her very well. Mine, on my left arm, serving as a constant reminder of one of the rocks in my life. Someone who inspires me daily. One of the most fierce and resilient humans I know. Someone I look up to.
Since losing Emily, I had spent years trying to figure out a way to keep her with me forever through a tattoo. I cycled through ideas, but nothing seemed right until this past July when I came up with the idea to get a squirrel. My sidekick squirrel, Emilio. Always right there on my arm when I need her.
One month later, my little furry super-friend has been inked into my skin. I smile every time I look at it, and it makes me especially happy that it is near the hedgehog I got with her sister. I know Emily would love it, and I am so thankful to have her by my side for the rest of my life.
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!