I believe I may have always been attracted to and interested in tattoos, so after my biological dad passed away I was compelled to get one. However, I decided to first see if I could handle getting one, thus I got a simple Capricorn symbol with my birthday centered on my upper back. Ironically, my first tattoo coincided with my epic, life changing decision to relocate to Chicago and the rest is history.
Within a month later, obviously able to handle the pain lol, I acquired my second tattoo. On my back right shoulder are four birds on a branch with the words “build your wings on the way down” inscribed around them, taken from a Ray Bradbury quote that was shared with me. That quote, “Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down”, definitely motivated me to leave Atlanta. I did not have a plan or a job awaiting me, but I knew I wanted to move to Chicago. This tattoo signified figuring it out in motion with my two sisters and two brothers having my back every step of the way. Since then it has definitely motivated many a decision to take leaps.
About a year later, a proud first time passport recipient bitten by the travel bug, I decided on tattoo three during a return visit back to Atlanta. A compass with the word wanderlust on my right shoulder. Discovering tattoo artists in Chicago necessitated tattoos four and five. In another attempt to see if I could handle it, I decided on a side rib tattoo. Ladybird, a given nickname (and I do not do nicknames) when I worked in a kitchen under a female head chef, written in my mother’s handwriting. Needless to say, I could barely handle it and do not foresee any sidepiece tattoos in my near future.
Next, inside my inner arm just above the elbow, “take every chance, drop every fear”. This one was my first debate with the tattoo artist about orientation. He made me sign a waiver because I wanted it “upside down” – people would not be able to read it. I explained to him that this tattoo was not for anybody else, it was for me as a reminder and encouragement, especially when jumping off cliffs lol.
A couple of quiet years later, an unexpected trip to New Zealand provoked me to start collecting tattoos on my travels (which was an ideal choice since I did not get a passport stamp in New Zealand #sideeye). Researching and contacting studios before I left, I had an appointment booked for the second day of my trip. Desiring a traditional Maori design without cultural appropriating, I chose a kiwi filled with Maori inspired symbols. I now knew the process of insuring I collected travel tattoos planfully.
Obviously relocating to South Korea opened pandora’s tattoo box since I am traveling Asia extensively. Too (re)laxed to even bother in Thailand and knowing it would be a repeater anyway, I have time to think about that one. After Taiwan, I returned with the Taiwanese tiger god and two days ago I finally got my first South Korean tattoo. Since I reside on Jeju Island, I wanted something water related. After first considering fish or octopus, I decided on a haenyeo inspired one. The haenyeo are women divers who collect various sea life creatures without underwater equipment. Armed with only goggles, a tube for balance, and a basket or net, they are truly badass. During my recent trip to Busan, I was introduced to a Japanese tattoo artist who created a beautiful mermaid like representation of the haenyeo for me.
It has been said that tattoos can be addictive; four years and eight tattoos later, perhaps. A late bloomer at 38, I like to think there is meaning and significance to each and every one, for a reason. Tattoos teach me that pain is temporary. Literally just hours after, you can forget it is even there. Moreover, the healing process illustrates how sometimes things have to get real, real ugly and uncomfortable to undercover the beauty and artistry underneath it all. Like sometime you gotta go through shit, literally shovel through manure, to reap the harvest.
Though still undecided about the dad tattoo, I have plenty of other ideas occupying my mind. Like since I have focused completely on the right side, heavily on the arm, do I complete my sleeve before I start on other areas? Will I ever get tattoos on my legs? Will I ever press through the pain and get a tattoo where I already know it will be excruciating painful? What other significant people or things in my life need to be documented, on my body . . .