Even though I do most of my writing on a laptop (or, honestly, a phone), I love the look of the right kind of pen on the right kind of paper. The contrast of colors.
Ink on skin is the same (albeit, more permanent) deal.
It’s cathartic and symbolic in the same way, as well–writing and tattoos. And, like sentences and paragraphs and stories, some are better than others. Some mean a great deal at the time, then (literally and figuratively) fade. Some were an afterthought that, looking back at time and place and associated memories, now mean more.
Nine tattoos over 19 years. Not a single one that I regret.
That’s what I remember most vividly about getting my first one at 18, being constantly told that someday I’d regret it. I knew I wouldn’t. Not in a “I’m a senior in high school who thinks they’re cool and brilliant and is getting a tattoo to assert my independence” kind of way, but in that I always knew I wanted one and I was aware enough not to get anything ridiculous.
I have all five of my kids names on my body, and that tattoo–the word “RUN” on my right instep–is still my favorite. Without question. Because, from the word itself to the font to the “really, ‘run?’ Do you need a reminder or something?” pushback I received and ignored, it’s the best representation of who I was and, really, still am, if you strip away everything else, good and otherwise, that’s happened since I sat in that chair with $75 in my pocket and a couple of my best friends nearby.
It’s me. And I think that’s the whole point of tattoos, to tell your story.
Look me up and down (a process that, let’s be honest, was probably more appealing before I carried five tiny humans) and you’ll see I ran cross country and I was born with a last name I loved and took on another I love even more when I got married and I jumped on the Chinese symbol bandwagon in the late ’90s and picked the word “determination” out of a book and had it inked on the top of my foot because I was at what I thought was a pretty big low in my life, until I look back and remember that one of the people next to me that day would be gone at 38 from cancer and I realize that’s the sole reason I don’t loathe what was really my only semi-lame tattoo choice, because of who I was with and a memory that’s more valuable than a symbol on a piece of paper picked from a plastic binder in a Boulder, Colorado tattoo parlor.
And the kids? The kids are there as proof that, as much as I say they drive me to drink (coffee more than booze, because, well, caffeine) and I can’t wait until they pee without instinctively asking permission (Every. Single. Time.) and reach stuff without standing on counters (“At least take off your muddy shoes, guys!) and put on underwear without being told (or make the conscious, grown-up decision not to…just don’t tell me), I know and understand and am incredibly grateful for the fact that I wouldn’t be who I am without them.
My sentence structure and word choice and life story would be all out of whack. Let’s be real, after their dad, they’re my best plot twists. All day, every day.
Now that Roosevelt is set in ink, I told myself I’d wait until I turn 40 to get another. Not because that necessarily feels like a milestone that needs to be documented (half the time, I look to Brad for confirmation when people ask how old I am, so clearly age isn’t a thing I think about much) but because, with the baby years at a close and interests evolving and certain values and ideas about how we want to spend our days becoming increasingly clear, I feel like it might take that long to figure out what the next line in the book is.
I’m just not sure.
But I do know I’m definitely looking forward to figuring it out.