What All of My Tattoos Mean
I have 10 tattoos. They are all pretty unique & have a story behind them. In chronological order, here are all my tattoos & the story behind them.
kairos logo, the Jerusalem cross (left achilles tendon)
My first tattoo. I knew I always wanted one. And when I was ready to get one at 19, the only meaningful and positive experience in my life at that time was my Kairos retreat in high school.
If you went to a Jesuit high school, chances are you went on this retreat too. If you’re not familiar, it’s a spiritual retreat for high school seniors, shrouded in secrecy. It’s mostly about love and connection. Not super religious, more spiritual. And definitely not a heavy Catholic focus. But it was the first time I had a real profound experience and I wanted to get it inked on me. It’s not my favorite tattoo but I’m so grateful I didn’t get a rose or a heart.
Goose Lake Music Festival Logo (Right ribs)
I got this not long after meeting my maternal grandpa for the second time. The first time being when I was 6 years old. At 20 years old, I saw him again when visiting his home in Arizona with my mom after they had reconnected. The trip was uneventful. I’m not close with the man. But he did do something really cool.
In 1970, inspired by Woodstock, he put on a music festival on a piece of land he owned in Michigan - the Goose Lake Music Festival. It’s a pretty interesting story. Acts included: Rod Stewart (with Faces), Jethro Tull, Chicago.
I got it because it was a cool piece of family history that today I’m ambivalent about. But it’s a cool story.
scout, from the newest edition of To Kill A Mockingbird by harper lee (left lower back)
I got this when I was 22 years old, in 2011. This image is taken from the cover from the latest edition of To Kill A Mockingbird. To Kill A Mockingbird is my favorite book. I’ve read it every summer for the last five or six years. I’ve read it a total of like ten times. I never see this tattoo. In fact, it doesn’t show up in any of my boudoir photographs because I’m always wearing body suits or high waisted panties. So, first, it was kind of hard to take this photograph. Second, I was so surprised/sad to see how faded it is due to all my pants wearing.
I’m not sure why I have this obsession with To Kill a Mockingbird. But I think it is the perfect book. I love how Harper Lee writes about childhood, the South, courage, growing up, the legal system, losing innocence, justice, and racism. I fucking love Scout. I think she is the smartest, most brilliant character ever written. But I think what I always get out of this novel, and why I re read it every summer, I am reminded of how to be a good person. I get something out of it every time I read it.
“restless for change”, from marcus buckingham’s book The one thing you need to know (right forearm)
I didn’t read this book. I read a book about Steve Job’s presentation style that quoted Marcus Buckingham. Here is the full quote:
“Leaders are fascinated by future. You are a leader if and only if, you are restless for change, impatient for progress and deeply dissatisfied with status quo. Because in your head, you can see a better future. The friction between 'what is' and 'what could be' burns you, stirs you up, propels you. This is leadership.”
Reading that, way back in 2010, was one of the first times my adult self had felt seen. Everything about that described how I feel everyday. I am all over the place and always thought it was a bad thing, but this was the first time I heard that this energy could actually be my strongest asset.
I wanted it to be (almost) illegible script and facing me. I love the location on my arm. When I worked in corporate, I could easily cover it
“Born not belonging”, quote from the Salman Rushdie novel, From the Ground Beneath Her Feet” (right forearm)
I got “Restless for Change” and “Born not Belonging” at the same session, in 2014. I wanted them together because I wanted “Born Not Belonging”, but thought that was too sad to just have on my arm and I wanted a few words to balance it out.
Again, I didn’t read this book, but it is quoted, heavily, in a book I did read, The Daily Coyote by Shreve Stockton. And again, this quote made shook me. It made my heart hurt. It described me exactly.
This is the much longer sentence it’s buried in. But it’s a part of a much longer, very powerful passage you can find here.
“For a long while I have believed that in every generation there are a few souls, call them lucky or cursed, who are simply born not belonging, who come into the world semi-detached, if you like, without strong affiliation to family or location or nation or race; that there may even be millions, billions of such souls, as many non-belongers as belongers.
I’ve always felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. I’ve always said I don’t have a hometown. Throughout my life, I have moved around a lot (like 25 times). I never went to school with the same group of kids for more than four years. My college, DePaul University, isn’t known for its pride or athletics, and I certainly don’t identify much with it. I don’t have a sorority, a society, or a club. I like the Cubs, but I’m not a dedicated fan. I’m not religious. Like I’m an atheist. There’s a million other ways I don’t have a people or a community.
I wrote more about this on a blog post you can find here.
I just don’t belong. And I think that’s okay.
daphne, from greek mythology (left ribs)
I named my dog Daphne, because I thought it was a cute name. When I had her for a few months, I googled “daphne” and found the Greek mythology story of Daphne.
I read “she became the unwilling object of the infatuation of Apollo, who chased her against his wish. Just before being overtaken by him, Daphne pleaded to her rivergod father for help, who transformed her into a laurel tree, thus foiling Apollo.”
I was struck by how she’d rather be a tree that submit to a man she doesn’t love. It was such an inspiring and beautiful story, and the imagery of Daphne compelled me to get it as a tattoo. I got this tattoo in 2015, when I was 26.
Daphne reminded me a little bit of myself. I would like to think I am that badass. But she reminded me A LOT of my dog, Daphne, who if you don’t know her, is the wildest and freest spirit. She loves everyone and goes nuts when they come over. But she loves to run free. And when she runs free she DOES NOT listen to me. It’s so hard to get her to pay attention to me whenever she is doing her thing. She is independent and also really brave.
“Still I rise”, Maya Angelou (left inner bicep)
When Trump was elected, I was depressed. I cried every day for a week. Then I went into denial. I was a mess, for months. But there was a few things that I did that gave me hope. One of those things was listening to Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise, on repeat. Or reading it over and over again. It is such a powerful poem. It made me feel like I could get through anything. So I wanted to get it inked on me.
I got the waves above it for 2 reasons: 1) my late Aunt Suzanne loved the water, specifically oceans and I always wanted to get a water tattoo for her. 2) Dr Angelou writes in the poem, “With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I’ll rise.”
Read the full poem here. It is fucking amazing.
coat hanger (under right breast)
Got this February 14th, with the Maya Angelou quote, just three weeks after Trump was inaugurated.
I always wanted a hanger tattoo as a tribute to abortion access. If you’re not familiar, before abortion was legal, or where abortion is still not legal/accessible, it was very common for women to use coat hangers to try and terminate their pregnancy themselves. Many, many women died using this method and the coat hanger has become a symbol for reproductive rights and abortion access.
It is a reminder to me that I am so incredibly lucky to have access to abortion and so many women do not. And that it is my responsibility to fight for a woman’s right to safe, legal, and affordable abortions.
I shared my experience of having an abortion here.
The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, Shel Silverstein (right, inner bicep)
If you haven’t read this book, it’s about a little piece, who is looking for an O that is missing a piece. But it’s not working out. Eventually, the little dude finds a WHOLE piece (the O), and they realize that you don’t need someone to complete you.
I loved this story and the imagery because I have been chasing happiness my whole life. And most of the time that looked like chasing a man to love me to make me feel better. This is a constant reminder that love is not an act of completion. More importantly, I do not need anyone to complete me.
spade, left forearm
My most recent tattoo. I wrote a whole blog post about why I chose to get a spade tattoo in November of 2018, that you can read all about here.
Long story short: I was devastated by the death of Kate Spade. It also came at a time in my life that I did not have much self love or purpose, and I thought I didn’t have a reason to live. For several months, I thought about ending my life. I made it out of that depression, because of some amazing friends and my incredibly loving brother, and a lot of hard work I put in.
I chose to get the spade tattoo as a constant reminder that I have a reason to live, and that reason is - I am loved. And this spade tattoo reminds me every day that I am loved. And it motivates me to keep going.