Tattoosday 023: Equal


Content warning: The following story contains references to a person's coming out story, which may be triggering for some readers.

"Equal," Matt Carpenter

Sunday April 8, 2012. Denton, Texas.

I was about one month away from graduating from the University of Oklahoma with my Master’s degree. I traveled down to Texas because my parents had driven up from San Antonio to visit my brother while he went to school at the University of North Texas. I had just finished my comprehensive exams, and it was a good weekend to see the whole family before graduation weekend.

Two months prior to this, I came out to my fraternity brother, the first person to whom I ever said the words “I’m gay.” I had chickened out two weekends in a row prior to this, and it was distracting me at work, in classes, in every facet of my life. He was my roommate at the time, and it was one of the most terrifying and wonderful experiences of my life. He already knew, because my internet history and data management skills on a computer were less than stellar back in the day, but he never pushed me and possessed the grace that a true friend should have and let me get to coming out at my own time. I’ve since been his best man at his wedding, and he will be mine, but back to the story….

One month earlier, I spent one weekend of my Spring Break to drive down to Denton and come out to my brother. Like every other person I had come out to, the themes were the same. “I have something important to tell you; it’s been eating me up inside; I just really want to be truthful with you.” That weekend was one of the best weekends I ever had with my brother, because I finally felt I could be myself with him. We went out, I probably had a drink or two too many, and I probably told him things he never needed to know about me. And that was a freeing experience as well. 

But this Sunday was special. This was the only time I knew my family was going to be together prior to my graduation, and I knew I didn’t want to drop this on them during graduation. So this weekend would have to do. 

Did I forget to mention… this was Easter Sunday?

If there ever was an odd coming out story, it would be a family dressed in their Sunday best, after Easter Mass, having lunch at a Fuddrucker’s Hamburgers, with a very large (6’3”, 270 lbs.) man crying and barely muttering out words. Not my prettiest moment. But that day was the start of a new portion of my life.

I felt like I could be honest with my mother and father and not lie about who I was or was not dating. I could be honest to all my friends on a level that I had never done before, but that they all had done to me. I was able to actually share my personal life with others. 

Over the past five years since coming out, I have been lucky enough to find someone who is odd enough to say yes to spend the rest of his life with me. And while most would say, “Oh great, you got your storybook ending,” the coming out process has not ended.

I come out when I have to correct our vet when I take the dogs in for an exam because the bill is in my fiancé’s name. It happens when I get asked how close in age we are apart because we look remarkably similar for brothers. It happens every time people see my fiancé’s full name and use female pronouns. I never take it as an affront, but it’s just a reminder that a part of my identity can be easily ignored if I don’t have Mack right next to me with our engagement rings on.

In summer 2013, I walked in to Main Street Tattoos in Norman, OK to get my first tattoo. It was probably an impulse decision to get one, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I got an equal sign, the symbol of the Human Rights Campaign. My identity as a gay man was very important to me, and I wanted to put it out there for all to see. Unbeknownst to me, a week before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, it ended up being exactly one week before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. I have jokingly referred to it as my “gay barcode” for the government to track me, and one told a bunch of sixth graders that I got it because I “really like math.” But it means so much more to me as time passes.

My equal sign is my visible representation of my identity. While I cover it up at work due to its placement on my left calf, it’s visible most of the time. I don’t always think about it, but it’s always there. And that’s something that can’t be erased. 


About Tattoosday:

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!

CLICK HERE to share your Tattoo story!

Tattoosday 22: Super Ken & Emilio

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.


Thanks to Alex Rojas at Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Tattoo in Springfield, MA - I have my sidekick squirrel with me at all times.

Thanks to Alex Rojas at Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Tattoo in Springfield, MA - I have my sidekick squirrel with me at all times.



About Tattoosday:

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!

CLICK HERE to share your Tattoo story!

 

Tattoosday 21: Not A Cover Up


Content warning: The following story contains references to domestic, emotional, and physical abuse, which may be triggering for some readers.

"Not a Cover Up," Ariel Dickerson

I was 18. Just kidded out of my house for drinking and drugs and my grandfather had just passed away. As I lay on the floor of some strangers home all I could think about is how my family kicked me out in the most depressed state I have ever experienced. I was dating someone who was pulling me deeper and deeper into a very dark place and I needed was to be loved, but all I had was music.

Just like that I created my first tattoo.

It was to represent that all I had was my music to get me through a time when all I was searching for was the love of my family again. Luckily I grew further and further away from that dark place through a long journey of sobriety and forgiveness from my family.

Fast forward 7 years and I'm engaged and closer to my family than ever. One night I couldn't sleep and I laid in bed staring at this beautiful diamond my fiancé picked out for me and I couldn't help but reflect on the past 7 years.

Between the physical and mental abuse of others and my own abuse to myself and then to be where I am now. Happier than ever and I finally found what I was looking for. Love. From my family and my soon to be new family. That's when I decided that I had to get rid of the ink, but in a symbolic way.

So I covered it up, but ironically with the darkest lord of them all. Death Vader covering my tattoos helps remind me of the dark times, but also helps remind me of the love I have found. When I got home and showed my finance, now husband, my tattoo he mentioned how it really wasn't a cover up if you think about it, but more or a merging of two completely different times in my life to create a beautiful piece of art that I can show off for all to see!


About Tattoosday:

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!

CLICK HERE to share your Tattoo story!

Tattoosday 20: Pale Blue Dot


"Pale Blue Dot," Chandra Rapley

Last summer I got my smallest tattoo, a pale blue dot on the inside of my right wrist. Directly opposite the tattoo, on the top of my wrist, is a scar. The scar is from 3 years ago, when I was shot while driving on the 5 freeway in San Diego. This was one of several traumatic experiences that I experienced over the course of just a few years, and I have struggled to find a way to make sense of my survival through these seemingly random and chaotic acts of violence that surround me.

This tattoo, opposite my bullet scar, is Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot," the Earth as viewed from the Voyager 1 space probe. Sagan gave a brilliant speech on that image, and its cosmic significance has helped me find meaning where I thought there was none. The world is a chaotic place, but it is also so very fragile, and so very small.

Sagan says: "To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

It is a privilege to be here, on this pale blue dot, on this "mote of dust suspended on a sunbeam," and my survival means that I have another day to help make our home a more compassionate and kind place.


About Tattoosday:

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!

CLICK HERE to share your Tattoo story!

Tattoosday 19: Don't Cut the Butterfly


Content warning: The following story contains references to a survivor's experiences with suicidality and cutting, which may be triggering for some readers.

"Don't Cut the Butterfly," Kelly Campbell

When I was 13, I started cutting myself. I was in so much emotional pain because of what I went through when I was younger, & cutting myself was the only way to relieve the emotional pain. It helped me get away. Not only was I cutting myself, I was suicidal too.

For 5 years, I didn't want to see another birthday.
Believe me, I tried, but God had other plans!

When I was 15, my mom found out about my cutting. I told her about the butterfly project & how it helps me, so we went out of town to go shopping & basically have a girls day. She bought a whole pack of markers & drew the butterfly on my arm. (If you've never heard of the butterfly project, it's when you draw a butterfly where you cut & if you cut it dies, if you don't cut it lives.) my mom checked the butterfly everyday to make sure it wouldn't fade. It helped me so much.

I not only looked at it as killing the butterfly, I also looked at it as killing her a little on the inside. So, for my graduation present, we got matching tattoos of the butterfly, & it's helped me ever since. I'm thankful for a mother like mine.


About Tattoosday:

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!

CLICK HERE to share your Tattoo story!

Tattoosday 018: Trains & Sewing Machines


Content warning: The following ink story makes references to anxiety and depersonalization disorder, which may be triggering for some readers.

"Trains & Sewing Machines," Xavier Pastrano

Back in 2014, my wife and I had an amazing, music inspired opportunity: we would travel to London, England to meet Imogen Heap, in person, at her home/studio to receive a limited edition box set of her album Sparks. Let me back up a bit...

My wife and I both love music. It has served many purposes in our lives, both before we met and while married. My wife's all-time favorite artist is Imogen Heap, so when I saw that Imogen was releasing a limited edition box set of Sparks with a ticket to a release party at her home,I thought to myself, "When will this kind of opportunity ever present itself again? This needs to happen." So I pulled the trigger without hesitation, and surprised my wife with the news as an early birthday/anniversary gift. To say she was excited is an understatement. However, we were unaware at the time that my dormant, psychological disorder would rear it's ugly head during the trip.

Prior to leaving for London, I had been feeling "off." It was a sensation I had experienced numerous times before, but I never talked about it because I was afraid people would think I was crazy. When it happened, it felt like things weren't real; it was as if everything looked and felt like a dream. I tried to shove the thoughts and feelings out of my head, but that was easier said than done. So, I just tried my best to keep it together and off we went to London.

Despite some jet lag, I was okay the first day there. However, on the second day, I experienced a full blown panic attack while waiting for a train in the Underground. I saw a white male wearing a backpack on his stomach, actively "checking out" everyone around him, and making awkward comments to bystanders. I glanced over and we made eye contact. He then walked straight over to me and stood beside me. It was at that moment that I just couldn't take it. I told my wife, "We need to go...now." I was convinced that he was going to blow up the train or something. My wife kept her cool and walked me over to a nearby bench where we sat down and she talked me through my attack. Meanwhile, the passengers boarded the train and left...and we missed our train to see Stone Henge: something I had been dying to see since I was a kid.

The following days were absolute hell. I felt stranded and de-tethered, and the unfamiliarity of a foreign city only made things worse. The night before the party, I barely slept. I experienced one of the worst "dream-like" episodes I've ever had. I literally felt like I was losing my mind and about to derail. The only thing that kept me together was a phrase I kept repeating: "You're not alone. You're with you're wife and you're a team. You're a team."

The next day we went to the party and I was trying my best to keep my shit together. On the outside I was all smiles, but on the inside, I felt like a large, complex machine being held together by loose rubber bands and tooth picks. However, once my wife and I met some other fans from Wisconsin, things started to get better. My anxiety started to loosen it's grip and I was able to relax a bit. 

Once the party was over and we headed back to our hotel, my wife and I decided to go back to the states early. We changed our plane tickets and forfeited our opportunity to check out the Harry Potter Universal Studio Tour and a few other adventures, which I was really bummed about. Once we got back home, my wife just said, "I really think you would benefit from talking to somebody about what you experienced." I agreed, and a few weeks later I had my first meeting with my counselor/therapist. After several sessions and diagnostics, I was diagnosed with Anxiety and Depersonalization Disorder. *Oddly enough, when I explained how I felt during my "episodes", my counselor said it was incredibly similar to the list of side effects in the DSM-5, which I had never read before.

What was amazing was that by simply opening up and talking about what I was experiencing, the grip of my depersonalization began to loosen. Once I realized that it was a real thing, I felt utter relief. The talking helped a lot, but there was still a decent amount of work to be done. Upon our return to the states, I couldn't even go for a car ride by myself to a nearby city (25 miles) without nearly having an attack, so I took baby steps. Eventually, after 6-8 months, I was feeling like my old self again and doing things I never thought possible, like riding my bike as a means of transportation for a weekend in an unfamiliar city.

Eventually, I wanted to get a tattoo that spoke of my journey. Stylistically, I've always loved minimalist artwork and sketchy line drawings, so I opted for a train in this style. However, the train itself has a couple meanings: 1. It's a nod to the line "Trains and sewing machines" from Imogen Heap's song "Hide and Seek" and 2. It's a reminder of what my wife has done for me. She kept me "on track" during a time when I thought I was going to "derail." Without her, I honestly don't know what I would have done. She's my rock, and I love her dearly. 

It's been about three years since all of this has happened, and since then, I have taken on a much more vocal role in promoting the social acceptance of mental disorders and putting to rest societal stereotypes and misconceptions. It has been an incredible journey, and although it was insanely difficult at times, I wouldn't trade it for anything.


About Tattoosday:

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!

CLICK HERE to share your Tattoo story!

Tattoosday 017: Zeus & Hermes


Content warning: The following story makes reference to suicide, which may be triggering for some readers.

"Zeus & Hermes," Rosie Heller

Many people think this is a Harry Potter tattoo. Totally valid misconception, and it doesn't bother me when that's what people assume. This tattoo-my smallest and least flashy and visible, is my most important. It's for my Zeus. I'll explain that right now. 

When I was 11 years old I went to theater sleep away camp for the first time. I was cast in a stage adaptation of Disney's Hercules, for kids ages 7-11. Clearly this is where I peaked. I was cast as Hermes, the loyal attendant to the mighty Zeus, played by 10 year old, Andrew. We instantly connected, as two theater nerds do. We stayed friends, and we would always joke about when we were in our prime: Zeus and Hermes. 

Andrew was magical because no matter who he met they were instantly drawn in to his witty and playfully cheeky sense of humor. Everything he said there was a twinkle in his eye where he made you feel like the most important person in the room, even when he was making a joke about you.

One day around the age of 13, he decided, and proclaimed in front of all our friends, that we were going to get married. This was on his birthday, which was the 4th of July. He then asked me non stop for a birthday kiss. I rolled my eyes and joked that he was "such a baby" and our recurring playful exchange was born. Every year on his birthday he would ask again, and remind me about our upcoming marriage. "Zeus and Hermes are destined to be together!" He would shout across the dining hall. The day would end with fireworks and a teasing kiss on the cheek from me, his faithful Hermes. 

I had never heard a negative comment from him. He was funny, friendly, and committed to those he cared about and his passions. After graduating high school he went to a fantastic school in New York City and started working with organizations that helped the homeless, as well as continuing his passion of theater in college. 

We would text and see each other now and then, and one summer, while I was 20 and he was 19, I decided to visit him in the city. Our summer camp days were over, but I had missed our friendship. We saw an improv show, got dollar pizza (his favorite), and drank Long Island ice teas at a bar where he knew the bartender. We talked about our lives and how simple they used to be back at summer camp, but how the future was exciting and unknown. When walking him back to his place, maybe it was the nostalgia or maybe the alcohol, but I felt compelled to kiss him. We did. It was friendly and comfortable. He smiled and said to me, "but it's not even my birthday!" We laughed, hugged, and went our separate ways. 

A week later I got a call from a mutual friend that told me Andrew had committed suicide. Nobody had known, and it was sudden to everybody in his life. I was shocked and instantly began thinking about what I should have said or done when I saw him. Nobody knew he was struggling, but through his laughter and optimism he was hiding something from all of us. 

The lightening bolt is for my Zeus. To remind me to stay optimistic, laugh, and positively affect those around me, just how Andrew did. 

To Zeus, I miss you. I hope I'm making you proud. Love, your Hermes.


About Tattoosday:

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!

CLICK HERE to share your Tattoo story!

Tattoosday 015: Snowflake


"Snowflake," Nicole Mello

When I was born, on the first day of winter in 1995, it snowed, and my dad called me "Snowflake" ever since. It was just a little thing; he didn't call me that every single day, it wasn't a well-known nickname. But that was how he addressed cards to me, and it was the little drawings he did to make me feel better, and it was the ornament he gave me on my birthday every year. My dad was my first best friend, and still remains my best friend to this day. He is my first line of support and my favorite voice to hear in the mornings, since I still call him every day to talk to him.

My father and I share a lot of things - our Portuguese heritage, our love of writing, our excitement for holidays, our fascination with films, our compassion, and our mental illness. We share obsessive-compulsive disorder, an incredibly damaging disease that has haunted me since my childhood, and him for even longer. When I first started developing symptoms, I thought I was completely alone, until I was able to confide in my parents and my father understood what was happening to me. The partner in crime I had had since childhood then also became my confidant, my advisor, the one person in the world who really understood what I was going through. 

For my twentieth birthday, I got my second tattoo and my dad got his first. We drove out to Bondsville, Massachusetts and got matching snowflakes - meticulously drawn, to cater to our OCD. No two snowflakes are alike, but ours match identically. I am proud to call him my father and proud to call him my best friend, and proud to have this link that ties us together even when we are hours and miles apart.

I always have something that grounds me, something that reminds me that I am safe, and that I am loved, and that, even though it does not always feel that way, I will always be okay. This tattoo is my favorite of the ones I have, a talisman against the world, against my illness. No matter what you fear, there is someone who is your protector, someone who is your best friend, who loves you through your darkness. For me, that person has always been my father.


About Tattoosday:

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!

CLICK HERE to share your Tattoo story!

Tattoosday 014: For the Love of All that is Mighty and Good, Please Be Kind


Content Warning: The following story contains mention of sexual and emotional abuse, which may be triggering for some readers


"For the Love of All that is Mighty and Good, Please Be Kind," Ali Russo 

Kindness has always been the trait I value the most. It’s the first thing I look for when forming relationships with people; I like to watch the way they fold their hands and speak out of the corners of their mouths, holding doors with the tips of their fingers and rocking on their heels. I try to take all opportunities of kindness the universe has to offer, not for any other reason except the satisfaction in that helping someone else has made their day a little lighter. If I want to believe that the world can be kind, I need to be so, too. 

Conversely, this is much harder to apply to yourself—or, at least in my own personal experiences. Growing up with severe, undiagnosed anxiety, I became my own, worst, inner-critic. I believed that nobody would like me, including myself, if I did not bend to all of the requests, favors, and needs of the people I cared for in my life; I wanted them to undoubtedly know, throughout all the lengths of time, that I would love them and be there when they asked.

At the time, I couldn’t understand the damage this ideology would do to me, and certainly didn’t grasp that a healthy relationship should not leave one feeling as fatigued as I was. But this was my kindness. This was how I liked to show it. 

The first semester of my freshman year, I got out of a two-year relationship that was both emotionally and sexually abusive. I broke up with him over a phone call, and subsequently, he had to leave work because of the emotional distress I had caused. Over the course of the weeks, trailing my soles across the carpet of my therapist’s office, I expressed how the failure of our relationship, including the abuse and the break-up, was my fault. I remember clasping my hands between my knees, my shoulders hunched as I spoke to my therapist. “The way I broke up with him, the way I left him feeling—those are the cruelest things I’ve ever done.”
“Those are the kindest things you’ve ever done.” She corrected.

I remember feeling dumbfounded at her opposition, gaping at the confidence in which her ponytail swayed from both shoulders while she shook her head. “Whether you recognized it consciously or not, you knew you had to get out of that situation. You knew you needed a change, and to be kinder to yourself.”

Four years later, if you asked me the name of the college counselor who sat opposite of me in that tiny, warm room on campus, I couldn’t tell you. But I could tell you about the way her fingers wove into their own as she said this, the sporadic, faint spots on the back of her hands like prayer beads I could count with comfort. I could tell you about the eruption that followed, the flood that heaved; the collapse of comprehension at the ludicrous idea that I was just as important as those who held precedence over me—that I should hold precedence over me. 

I got my “be kind.” tattoo the following semester, squeezing my best friend’s hand as the ink settled into a reminder that remained forever. Now, in the year 2016 I am desperately trying to remind myself again, and again, and again, that being kind is always worth it, being kind is a reciprocal pleasure—it is the tangible mark of our humanity. We must never, ever lose it. 


About Tattoosday:

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!

CLICK HERE to share your Tattoo story!

Tattoosday 013: Love Life


"Love Life," Jessica Barrows

This tattoo is a 2-part piece, as the "Love Life" was done at 18 - an awful addition was done the following year (Note: Don't ever get tattooed in unprofessionally!) The roses were done as a cover up last year by an amazing artist. 

The "Love Life" was done as a simple reminder to do just that. Stemming from the Atmosphere song of the same title, this tattoo reminds me to love life, and all that it has to offer, the "beauty as well as the flaws."

Prior to age 18, life had ups and downs, and surely more of the latter. I found it important to look at every flaw as a lesson learned and an opportunity for better. This tattoo reminds me to do that when I let my mind get the best of me - though I'll admit, after 18 life has had a hell of a lot of ups. 

The initial tattoo was a bird on each shoulder, one representing an angel and one representing a devil. The idea behind it being that both are always an option and are always present - decisions are good or bad and it is a struggle to make the right one. 

The roses were done as a cover-up at the suggestion of the artist, who said this design would best cover everything. However, roses are said to symbolize balance, and I believe I finally have mine. I no longer need to choose between good or bad. Decisions are not absolute and do not define a person. I'm somewhere balanced in between and as long as I strive to be better, that's all that matters.


About Tattoosday:

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!

CLICK HERE to share your Tattoo story!

Tattoosday 012: Fight & Win


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.


About Tattoosday:

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!

CLICK HERE to share your Tattoo story!

Tattoosday 011: Over the Hill


Content warning: The following story references eating disorders and anxiety, which may be triggering for some readers.

"Over the Hill," Shannon Reed

What really urged me to get this tattoo, was hitting a point in my life where I felt I had successfully reached a healthier and more balanced lifestyle. It was in a way, a gift to myself– somewhat of an incentive and reminder that I had made it over the hill and that I could express my triumph through the beautiful words of Rupi Kaur. What stuck out to me was her ability to capture my life mantra in a way that I never could. Her poem resonated with me on so many levels, as I firmly believe that things happen for a reason and everything in life has a purpose – even if we don’t always understand why.
 
Having her poem permanently become a part of my body was a way for me to physically and consciously put effort into finding a healthy balance every day. Not many people may know this or have realized, but I have been living with a stress-induced eating disorder for many years now. It took a long time for me to realize and even admit that I wasn’t okay. I needed to seriously reevaluate the priorities of my day-to-day life because I couldn’t see past the stresses and responsibilities I had to take care of myself, everything else always came first and I thought that was normal.
 
This realization and the observation that many other people put themselves last in their own day-to-day responsibilities lead me to start a thesis called “The Starving Artist Project.” My experience and the experience of others pushed me to gather research and focus specifically on the college artist and how their eating habits affect their creativity, productivity, and overall health. I would not have been able to do this project without realizing that I wasn’t okay, and that maybe by speaking up and opening up the conversation I could possibly help someone else.
 
That project was and still is my reason. I have come a long way from when I first admitted I wasn’t healthy and when I got this tattoo I had thought I had gotten over the hill…but I soon realized that life is made of many hills and all we can do is keep climbing and know that tomorrow is a new day to try again. So instead of a lasting triumph, my tattoo has now served as a reminder that finding a balance, no matter how small, is the first step in recovery– and so is acknowledging the journey you have already been on.


TATOOSDAY POST.jpg

About Tattoosday:

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!

CLICK HERE to share your Tattoo story!

Tattoosday 010: Breathe. That's all. Just Breathe.


Content warning: The following story contains references to drug use and anxiety, which may be triggering for some readers.

"Breathe. That's all. Just Breathe." Jessica Barrows

I had finally ended a relationship that let's be honest, hadn't been working from the start. Although I was sure I wanted this relationship to end, my now ex-girlfriend still didn’t have a place to stay, and I still had a heart so I wanted her to be able to sort out her living situation before asking her to leave. I was gearing up for my transition from county college to a 4-year-school, and as a high school drop out this was going to be a huge change for me.

I was in the scheme of things, recently off of heroin, and still adapting to getting through life without an easy coping mechanism. I had also moved away from my friends a couple of years back, and as an introvert, was still trying to find my way and find people near me that I could connect with. Life was changing, and I was happy about that, but my anxiety was at an all time high. I remember this point in my life as the time I was most anxious, and remember even getting physically sick as a result.

My ex-girlfriend living with me was extremely anxiety-provoking and I tried to avoid home as much as possible. There I would go for a drive just to get out. I was in therapy, and this helped immensely. We would discuss anxiety reducing techniques, but for me, none of them ever stuck. Self-talk, while helpful, was never something I in-the-moment would actually do. I began using breathing as a simple tool to calm myself down, and found it to be the most effective thing I have done to date. 

I decided to get “Breathe” tattooed on my wrist as a simple and everyday reminder to do so. Breathe. That’s all. Just breathe. It’s a simple word, but at times can be difficult to do. I get overwhelmed easily, and struggle with making decisions at times. In such a difficult transition period for myself, I found difficulty in doing the simplest of things.

Before everything, breathe. Before deciding, breathe. 

While life is not nearly as chaotic, and I have grown so much, I know that anxiety will always be something I struggle with. This tattoo continues to serve as a reminder to always just breathe.


About Tattoosday:

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!

CLICK HERE to share your Tattoo story!

Tattoosday 009: Keep You


Content warning: The following story contains references to the loss of a father to cancer, which may be triggering to some readers.

"Keep You," Craig Bidiman

My dad died one year ago today.

Exactly one year ago yesterday, I was in Portland, Oregon, digging through records at Everyday Music and Music Millennium because that morning, my father, Wayne Bidiman, told me to go have some fun on my last day in Oregon.

See, I had just flown out to Oregon from Boston a week earlier because my mom told me that dad's health had taken a turn for the worst. I was unemployed, depressed, and struggling to find work. So I didn't have the money to drop on a cross country plane ticket to get home. Luckily, I have some amazing friends and family members who fronted the money for me.

The trip was weird. I hadn’t been home in 10 months, so to go home with the purpose of saying goodbye to my father felt odd. I showed up, he seemed fine, and we laughed a lot.

He still felt immortal to me.

For those who don’t know my father, he was a train of a man. Wayne the Train—that’s what me and some of my friends call him. He survived lung cancer two times before this, 4 heart attacks, a stroke (or two?), diastolic heart failure, deep vein thrombosis in his legs, sleep apnea, diabetes, and whatever else was thrown his way.

I actually have no real memories of my father being healthy.

But the dude never complained. Not that I ever heard.

I would ask him, “how you doing today, Wayne?”
He’d often respond, “I’m surviving.”

So that’s how I respond to people when they ask me how I’m doing.
It’s something that has stuck with me over the years.

He never complained but we could tell he was in pain.

As the days went by, I watched him slowly deteriorate. I would spend chunks of the day asking him about mortality, and what it felt like to be on the way out. And he was very honest with me. Then again, that was never anything new. He was a quiet man, but when he spoke, we listened.

He told me, "don't worry about death, sweetheart. Worry about living a good life." Dude lived a good life—he was on the cusp of his 74th birthday, and had no regrets.

We tried to keep him comfortable, but as a large man with weak legs, it was hard for him to get around those final days. He kept telling me I didn’t need to worry about him—which was ridiculous. But I always listened to my father, so I tried my best not to worry.

But those final days were definitely filled with doubt about how long he’d truly be around.

Music has always been present in my family—granted, it wasn’t necessarily the punk, hardcore, post-rock, etc. that I listen to today. BUT I was exposed to a lot of Beach Boys, Elvis, Conway Twitty, and my dad’s favorite, Marty Robbins.

Dad used to spin his old records when I was growing up, but that’d before I really cared about vinyl or really knew what they meant. Yet, for the last three years or so, I’ve become quite the vinyl collector. One of my dad’s favorite records is Gunfight Ballads, by Marty Robbins. It’s an old one—somewhat uncommon in the used shops, where most of the Marty Robbins pieces are those missing his crowning accomplishment, “El Paso.” But Gunfighter Ballads is full of songs that I remember because dad always played the album for me and used to tell me the stories behind all of the songs.

I grew up listening to Marty Robbins. He was a storyteller in his music. And I am also a storyteller in my music. Strange how that works!

So, back my last day in Oregon during that final week with my dad when he told me to go have some fun with my friends. So I went up to Portland and had brunch with a few friends and went record shopping at Music Millennium and Everyday Music. In a stroke of brilliant serendipity, I came across a used copy of Gunfighter Ballads for $1. I was stoked! I knew this would put a smile on dad’s face on my last day with him.

I also came across the album, Destrier, by Agent Fresco—which was one of my favorite albums of last year, and it is actually album about losing someone—so stumbling upon it was pretty cool, and it’s still the ONLY TIME I have ever seen it in the wild. So I bought it as well.

And as I left Music Millennium, where I apparently had no cell phone reception, I was flooded with text messages and missed calls from my siblings.

I knew what they were going to say without even checking them.
So I immediately drove back to Salem to be with the family.

When I got back home, I walked in with the records in my hand and showed the Marty Robbins piece to my dad—he was pretty lethargic at this point, but when he saw the cover, he immediately knew what it was. I saw a smile form on his mouth and he told me it was “a good one.” Always one to downplay how he really felt.

After that, he didn’t say much for the rest of the night. Just a few nods. Some creaky smiles. And eventually, he quietly, and without complaint, passed away.

Now, to the tattoo—I got this specific picture of my dad tattooed (in neo-traditional style) on my calf because it is an image of my father that was always on our wall when I was growing up.

The image is of my father’s 1959 Army enlistment photo. It’s old. Dude was old.

This is the image that my tattoo is based on. The image of the tattoo was taken a week after getting the tattoo. The one you see in the main image was taken yesterday, nearly two years since i got the tattoo.

This is the image that my tattoo is based on. The image of the tattoo was taken a week after getting the tattoo. The one you see in the main image was taken yesterday, nearly two years since i got the tattoo.

It’s one of those images that has been cemented in my brain since childhood. So I wanted to immortalize this on my skin. I got the tattoo while in Massachusetts almost a year before he died, so he was able to see it the couple times I flew home before he died.

He said it was his favorite tattoo of mine. I have many of them. And clearly he was biased!

The banner reads, “KEEP YOU,” which is an homage to the Pianos Become the Teeth album of the same name. The album is the third in a trilogy of the band’s lead singer processing the loss of his own father. Keep You is the absolution from the loss. A light at the end of the grief experience.

This album features a track titled, “Repine” (video above). And in the song, there is a line that repeats, “Your wick won’t burn away, your wick won’t burn away.” This line has stuck with me ever since I first heard it. And at this point, my partner has even gotten sick of me singing it.

But the line is so important to me. It’s the idea that the memory of my father’s life will never fade away. No matter how much I grow up now that he’s gone, he will always live on with me and I will continue to burn on in his memory.

Check out the original version of the song, "Farewell, My Father" by clicking this image of my first album,  Into the Fire.

Check out the original version of the song, "Farewell, My Father" by clicking this image of my first album, Into the Fire.

Music has always given me a release. I'm a pretty outgoing and fun-loving guy, but my music is where things get a little more serious, real, and sad. But I need that release.

Six years ago, I wrote a song for my dad. It is called, “Farewell, My Father.” It’s an instrumental song. For someone that loves words and uses LOTS of them, I had no words for this song. I wrote it shortly after dad’s lung cancer appeared the second time and I had no idea what to write. So I kept it void of words. Ever since writing the song, it became one of my favorites to start off my live sets.

The song structure mirrors the progression of my emotions regarding the news of my dad’s condition. Give it a listen above!

I titled it, “Farewell, My Father” all those years ago because it felt like my farewell to him—even though he was still there with me. But over all the years he struggled with his health, I felt like I was slowly losing him and this song was there with me to keep me somewhat comforted in those fleeting times.

It wasn’t until that final week with my dad that I finally had to say farewell to my father.

The album art for my new EP,  Farewell . Photo: Katy Weaver. Art direction: Nevan Doyle

The album art for my new EP, Farewell.
Photo: Katy Weaver. Art direction: Nevan Doyle

So, I’ve written an EP for my father.
It is called, Farewell.

Farewell was successfully crowdfunded by over 150 people and we raised over $6,000 to make sure that we could press this album on vinyl, which has sort of been a dream of mine.

The overwhelming support has made me feel pretty great about releasing this new project as an homage to his memory. This will be another form of creating a permanent fixture of my memory of my father. The music will live on even after I’ve died. Weird to think about, but valid and somewhat enlivening.

Farewell will feature five tracks.

It will include the first song I was able to write about my father that actually contained words. This song is called, "Active Ghosts," (you can see a live video of me performing it above), and it focuses on my regrets with my relationship with my father. It also centers on his strength as a man who never gave up, and what I learned from being around that strength.

There is also a pretty personal spoken word piece that focuses on a number of aspects of my relationship with my father. I wrote it rather quickly, but made some edits along the way, and it serves to connect all of the other songs together.

Another song encompasses my struggles with depression and suicidality, explicitly through the lens of dealing with the loss of my father. This song serves as an interlude for the EP, in which I ask the listener to be proud of your survival in life. A lyric in this song is represented on the shirt you can snag!

The final track on the album will be a remake of “Farewell, My Father,” which I’m simply retitling, “Farewell,” for this release. I always had the vision that this song would be bigger and more expansive. But I never had the abilities or wherewithal until now. Adding multiple elements to the song has made it completely come alive to me. And I am so glad that we decided to end the EP with it.

The Farewell EP actually features a spoken word cover of “Enamor Me,” by Pianos Become the Teeth. I am covering this track because it is the track on the Keep You album that most reminds me of my relationship with my father. It's full of minor details that fill up memories, many that I try to reflect in my own writing. It also carries a weight of reflection that feels both jovial and tragic.

The repetition of the line, “I don’t feel any closer to you here,” stands out to me so much because it’s a tragic line—it’s a line that reminds me that even though I continue to live with the memories of my father, I will never be any closer to him. I may be able to feel his existence in my life, but I will never see him again.

Losing someone is never easy and it feels even harder when it's someone that has given you a home and a family and brought you into the world. Granted, I am adopted, but my father never treated me like anything less than his own son and for that, I am eternally grateful.

All in all, music has been an integral part of how I process grief, and tattoos are how I mark that grief into permanence. Tattoos are essential to my identity. They tell my story, and I love sharing these stories with people because why else would I put them into my skin? If you aren’t willing to share your ink stories, then why do you have them?

At least, that’s my perspective. I know some people are much more reserved than me when it comes to sharing personal information, but I figure if I’m willing to share, perhaps more people will be willing to do so in the future.

I’m in a much different place than I was a year ago when my dad was deteriorating. I am no longer unemployed. My depression still comes and goes, but it’s incredibly manageable—especially because of the artistic ventures I’ve been busy with lately. The music helps, the painting helps. Work helps. It’s helped me pass the time.

While I haven’t been back home since dad died, there are moments when I deeply miss him. And I’m genuinely unsure what it will be like when I go home for the first time. But I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. Chances are, I will struggle with the true reality of him being gone. But through this tattoo, and through my music, I can keep him as close to me as possible.

Thanks for reading, friends.


About Tattoosday:

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!

CLICK HERE to share your Tattoo story!

Tattoosday 008: What I Needed to Get this Far


"What I needed to get this far…" Jason Krok

seaway-tattoo.jpg

This is a testament to my perseverance through anything that life can throw at me. Specifically, the current three years that I have been attending college at Lesley university. 

I always wanted to be a designer. I showed my parents through high school that this is what I wanted to do with my life. My passions all wrapped into one could be seen in my artwork. They were so proud of me. I was hopeful that they could see my potential as an artist. 

They gave me that chance to prove to myself and to them that I could make it. I was accepted into the best art school I could find, The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University(AIB). The first year, represented by one of the perfect arrows, was difficult. I struggled with drawing because I had never actually had any practice drawing with pencils and actual paper before. I was nervous but I ended up passing the class and making a lot of progress at the school. I had even my name on the dean’s list to prove it.  

I brought it back home to my parents. They were so proud of me. I could see they finally saw the potential in me to make it as an artist. I felt on top of the world. I could do anything…. 

The second year of school was around the corner. I was getting ready for another successful year at school when I found out the possibility of my progress at school could be halted or even terminated. My parents were struggling, we couldn’t afford the money needed to pay for the year. I tried to convince my parents to go through with it but it was ultimately up to them.  

At the last possible moment, they told me I couldn’t go back to AIB.  I felt crushed, defeated, and I had this underlying feeling that I had let my parents down. I understood the situation the best I could but I still felt crushed. This year was hard for me. Represented by the broken arrow, the year was full of doubt in my ability and my confidence sank. I would ask myself is it even worth it anymore. 

But over that year my doubt quickly became the fire that fueled me to work my way back to a better education and making my family proud. I took all of the classes I could, worked full time, and dedicated myself to my art. Represented by the middle arrow, that year became my rebound.  The year that I felt so down and out actually fueled me to get back up and continue to follow my dream as a designer. I came back that following year to AIB, now called LUCAD, with a better sense of what I needed to do to stay where I was before. 

This tattoo reminds me of what I had to go through to get to where I am now. The arrows themselves symbolize this perseverance. An arrow needs to be pulled back in order to move forward. And the quote “What I needed to get this far…”, lyrics from “Alberta” by Seaway, wraps the ideas behind my three years in school. 

“No matter what happens to you in life, stay strong. Take a deep breath, and think to yourself… This is what I needed to get this far."


About Tattoosday:

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!

CLICK HERE to share your Tattoo story!