My Tattoos, My Story
This post was pulled from my old blog - Love a Latte (8/3/2014). While this post has been slightly updated to reflect the current date and time (and addition of quite a few tats), please feel free to check out the original posting.
“My body is my journal, and my tattoos are my story.” –Johnny Depp
I have 5 tattoos. I got my first in 2012 – the summer after my freshman year of college. I got 2 more two years later, and I've gotten 2 more in 2016. All 5 are fairly well concealed (eh, except one), though I like to show them off. I have five tattoos, and I do not care who knows or what anyone thinks.
I decided to get my first tattoo after years of thinking about what I wanted inked on me. After finally deciding and taking the plunge, I got a lot of praise, but I also received just about the same amount of criticism, if not more. What about a job? It’s on my stomach–I don’t plan on being topless 24/7. What about when you have a baby? That’s really far ahead, and not really on my mind. Plus, that’s my own business. That’s a dumb tattoo–why did you get it? It has a meaning that is personal to me–that’s for me to judge. Why is it so big? I wanted it to be! The criticism didn’t phase me that much–people are strongly opinionated regarding tattoos, so I expected it.
However, the next four tattoos got similar responses. A lot of people commented how cute they were, but a lot of people called me cliche and girly. I got similar questions regarding jobs and the meaning. At this point, people knew I already had a first tattoo, so I don’t know why it was surprising I added more ink to myself.
So, in response to the criticism and in response to all the questions, here is the story of my tattoos.
Firstly, it is my body and my decision. The ink is permanently on my body–not anyone else’s. Secondly, I have them covered up for jobs. They’re all in places that can be disguised for job interviews. My shirts cover up one, a watch covers up the next, and my hair covers the last. Moreover, I don’t plan on working in a formal environment where having a tattoo would be looked down upon. I have thought of all of these things.
All of my tattoos have very significant and personal value for me. The elephant signifies a lot for me. I grew up being called Emily Elephant because of the alliteration (no relation to size intended..or so I hope)…and because elephants are my favorite animal. Elephants signify gentleness and kindness–qualities I strive for. Furthermore, elephants symbolized my desire to travel (fitting that I went to Africa my first time out of the country). The waves on the back of my neck signify my love of saltwater. I always need a reminder of where I came from, essentially being raised at the beach. Furthermore, ocean waves are always a constant–beating against the shore endlessly. In a life full of change, I need a constant. The birds on my wrist are a tattoo that are reminiscent for me of the past few years – a journey to be free and fly away from my negativity, my depression, and my past. Plus, it’s a symbol of me leaving and traveling to new places. The "inhale, exhale" is a mantra I've repeated for years when my anxiety has flared up and the E.E. Cummings poem on my ribs is a reminder to carry on the legacy of the friends I've lost in the last few years and to recognize how they've shaped my personality and place in life. Plus, it's been my favorite poem for as long as I can remember.
I cherish each of these tattoos and each of their unique meanings to me. They are permanent daily reminders of things and values that I find important in my life (though it is difficult to see the one on the back of my neck).
Furthermore, not only are the meanings important to me, the process of getting a tattoo has shown me a few things. First, tattoos are painful and uncomfortable. A needle is being shoved into you and drawn across your skin – it’s not pleasant and yes, you do bleed. Yes, you can scab. I have about zero pain tolerance; I’m a self-proclaimed wuss. However, getting a tattoo was my own choice and has shown me that pain and the bad parts in life are temporary and only bring about beautiful things later on. Secondly, it has taught me to be a little more patient. Things that are great take time – my first tattoo was an hour of pain. But (eventually) I sucked it up and learned to wait to see the result. Lastly, getting a tattoo has made me a little more decisive. I’m terrible at making decisions…even about arbitrary things. But, I have had to decide what to permanently mark on my body–kind of a big decision that I’ve been able to make five different times.
Tattoos seemingly have a stigma in our current society – either I’m a hardcore druggie, an irresponsible teen (even though I am almost 23...), someone who doesn’t think of the future, or a band member. I am none of these things, I assure you. I like having my tattoos for my own reason. I like seeing the ink on myself. I really don’t care about your opinion or your stereotype-driven perception of me. My tattoos are for myself – they are not for anyone else. I’m not saying every tattoo is great (these are particularly bad), but I happen to love mine. And that’s all that matters.
So, there’s the story on my tattoos. I know I asked to get a lot of questions and criticism…it doesn’t bother me a ton. However, it is my choice and it is my OWN body, and this is my story.
If you are ever in Southern California, please stop by any of these shops. Nothing but praises to sing: