I have six tattoos. For some (for most) the idea of someone who looks like me having tattoos… let alone having SIX of them is often baffling. Most often, the first question I hear is: “Why are you mutilating your body?”. Being an English teacher and all… I love words. I love the power they have, and I love how they can mean so many different things to different people. I also love to point out the meaning behind words, so when I am asked that question I use good ol’ fashioned Websters to open up the conversation.
The word mutilation is a word that is undoubtedly negatively charged. We do not refer to things that are mutilated in a positive light. The negative connotation that I am inflicting serious damage onto my body is simply absurd. No more absurd than the people who are asking me about mutilation, when they in fact are “mutilating” themselves as well with their smoking, drinking, and poor eating habits. Let us call an ironic spade, a spade nonetheless.
At the risk of sounding horrifically cliched, I do believe that my body is a canvas given to me to create art as I see fit. My tattoos are not only an extension of who I am they are a visual expression of my human creativity and imagination. They serve as daily reminders that I am here, and they hold intense emotional power.
My Tattoo Story: The Truth Behind My Art
As I dismount from my “liberal high horse” I’m smiling an eerie fearful smile, because I’ve never really opened up in detail about what my tattoos really mean, and what they mean to me. I always get nervous sharing things about my actual real life, and ten times more nervous sharing it on the internet. So bare with me if I sound like I’m rambling… it’s just nerves.
1. MJB (October 2007) : This poorly done tattoo is not the fault of the artist, just my fault. I couldn’t explain what it is that I wanted because in all honesty I didn’t know what I wanted. It was my first tattoo, I wasn’t expecting to get it done that day, and I didn’t want to chicken out. So I went with something that I pseudo thought was deep and meaningful. I played piano for five years, I was falling in love with my initials and felt it was a good idea to connect my mother and I since we share the same initials. Fast forward 9 years later… and I pretty much forget that tattoo even exists until its time to shave, or someone points it out when I’m at the beach in a bikini. I don’t hate it… in fact I’ve grown to love it as a symbol of foolishness and impetuous decision making. Two traits I still very much possess now in my older age. It will always remind me that even though we are constantly changing, the basis of who we are will always be the same and thats a good thing.
2. VIII.IX.LXXXVIII (August 2009): I got this tattoo for my 21st birthday. Now it’s a creepy interesting conversation starter due to its location and people attempting to read the date. I was looking for a way to commemorate my big 21 and I couldn’t think of any other way than to put my D.O.B on my body permanently. My transition into the person I am today started when I turned 21. I wouldn’t know it at the time, but my 21st birthday became sort of a rebirth year, and tattooing my birthday in the year of my rebirth lined up pretty nicely.
3. Semper Fidelis (December 2010): Like I said before I have a love for language and learning what words mean and represent. I went to a Catholic School where alot of our prayers stemmed from Latin. Our motto was: Fidem Servavi which translates into “I have kept the faith”. My high school is a major part of the woman I am today. And I’ve always carried that motto with me through the darkest of times. I always remember, to keep my faith alive. In December 2010, my faith started to waiver, I started to lose hope in a lot of things and had a knee jerk reaction. My tattoos started becoming means of gaining control when things started spinning out of control. It became a way for me to control the pain that was happening to me. I wanted to come out on the other side swinging with my head unbowed. And I did… So I decided to get Semper Fidelis which translates into “Always faithful”. And if you know me at all… you know I am well known for saying “Everything is fine” or “Everything will be fine”. That is because in that moment I realized that I must always be faithful to myself and stressing everything to my breaking point would get me no where. So everything had to be fine, and if it wasn’t fine then it wasn’t everything.
4. Anchor (June 2013):This was one of two tattoos I got on the same day. This tattoo was two fold for me. The anchor serves as a constant reminder for me to stay grounded in reality and logic. I have a tendency of heading straight into dramatics, its a quality within myself I’m trying to keep at bay. I want to always have my two feet on the ground. Its a sign of strength for me that I can not be moved no matter what attempts to knock me over. It also helps to remind me not to be stubborn and to move myself when the time is right. That’s why I got it placed in that area. However the bigger meaning behind this tattoo again stems in my struggles with faith in every aspect of the word. The anchor was a former symbol used to represent people who often struggle with faith and belief in formalized religion. It was supposed to represent a “crooked or bent” cross/crucifix. I gravitated towards thats symbol because after going to Catholic school for 13 years of my life, I still wasn’t certain what I believed in. I was looking into various other religions that I thought matched who I was and it was frustrating. So the anchor played a part in helping me find my way. I wasn’t a straight forward cross bearing Christian. Instead I was a crooked confused sinner just finding my way and it helped me be okay with that.
5. “And In this Moment I Swear We Were Infinite” (June 2013): This was the second tattoo of the day, and it probably has one of the cheesiest/ corniest reasons behind it, but its absolutely one of my favorite tattoos. The quote that creates the infinity symbol is from one of my favorite books: “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower”. It is one of the most known quotes, and one of the most over done tattoos in history, but it means something to me. There was a boy while I was in college (there’s always a boy right…) who changed my life and changed how I viewed so many things without even trying. He was the flame that lit up some of my darkest times, and was also the cause of many dark times as well. Unknowingly he saved my life, because he taught me that I had to save myself. He taught me to create my own infinities. He was my fantasy, my reality, my adventure and my nightmare. So long after the dramatics ended, and I ran into this book it brought back a flood of memories that helped me realize something crucial. Things that we lose are never really lost, they live on infinitely. We always carry them with us somehow even if its buried deep down inside. This tattoo isn’t an “ode to a boy” and neither is this explanation. This tattoo is 100% about me and 100% about the world, and I love that. In its simplest form this tattoo connects me to my own immortality, and that will always be infinitely beautiful.
6. Philippians 4:13 (September 2016): This is my latest piece and it is probably my most visible tattoo for many reasons. My third tattoo I got when I felt like everything was spinning out of my control. My 6th tattoo has a similar yet more positive outlook. 2016 has been … an interesting year. Its opened so many doors for me, its closed some crucial doors as well. 2016 has placed me in a place that can go in many different directions in the years to come. It has been a turning point year for me and it felt amazing at so many points. I’ve personally grown, my business and my career are on a positive trajectory, and I’ve become softer (WHAT)! I’m in a positive headspace even with all of the crazy shit that is circulating, I feel at peace. And I realize its because 2013-2015 were so out of my control I was becoming a person I didn’t like and didn’t know. I was settling for things and accepting behaviors that just didn’t make sense. And I don’t think I could have gotten through without believing that there was force behind me pushing me to get through. Now I’m still not a super religious person (weird… I know) but I feel so connected to a higher being or force and my faith is stronger than its ever been. So it felt right to get the verse: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” because I can. And to different people that means different things, but I see my faith at play every day when I look in my friends and family’s eyes. When they talk to me, the way they love me… it feels like the most beautiful thing I’ve ever felt in my life. I am surrounded by strength and I can’t even explain what that does for me on daily basis. It is more than just religion, it is a spiritual connection to these beautiful souls I have in my life. And I needed to see that every day, so this tattoo helped me release pain and carry my friends and family with me on my body every day.
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Hey there! I’m Melissa, co-founder of Trials n Tresses, natural hair and beauty lover, binge tv watcher and lover of life. When I am not creating content for TNT, I’m busy teaching the future of society.