Tattoos, scars and the meaning of life
(Forward: This is kind of heavy. I delve into cutting, emotions and the darker side of life. I make no excuses for this, because this is who I was once in my life. I’m also photographed while wearing a running bra. And for the record, photographing yourself isn’t an easy task. Especially when you’re trying to get your back.
That said, don’t judge.)
When I was 18, I thought I knew everything. I had, after all, already been through basic training for the Army, I had moved more times that I care to remember, I had four dads, I was very independent and didn’t need anyone looking after me. So of course, I was just fine. I figured I was too mature for high school, too. So I went out, got myself a ridiculously smart college student boyfriend, spent all my free time in Pittsburgh, cashed in my V-card and got a tattoo.
I have six tattoos.
I got my first tattoo when I turned 18. I planned on what I wanted while I was at Ft. Leonard Wood. During fire guard, I’d sit in the hallway with my little note pad and Buddhist chant book and free handed the symbols that meant the most to me: a prayer for peace in the world.
I quickly realized that this wasn’t going to be my last tattoo. I am an individual, and while I have the same hair color as someone else, or the same color eyes, I can pretty much bet my life that no one has the exact same tattoos as me, thus making me unique.
I also liked the pain.
I got my second tattoo before I graduated high school. It’s on my lower back and translates to: “Patience, Cat,” with Cat being a nickname of mine.
The tattoo artist had a very heavy hand and because of this, it’s still raised as if freshly done. When I get pissed off or frustrated, Matt tells me to rub my lower back because I can feel it.
Along with tattoos, I have scars all over my body. Having spent a good 6 years as a cutter will do that to you. (And to my credit, I wasn’t whoring myself out, doing illicit drugs or drinking excessively.) I have some on my forearm that have faded over the years, several on my inner thighs that I masked as stretch marks, some on my ankle and a few on the tops of my quads. However, of all my scars, the ones on my arm are the most note-worthy. And of course, they have a story.
The top three horizontal scars are from when I wanted to stop cutting. Like an alcoholic says, “This is my last drink,” I said, “This is my last cut.”
Of course they weren’t, but that’s what I told myself. Just one more cut and all the pain of the world will be gone. Each one happened at different times. They are on my right arm. I’m a righty. So of course, to someone who knows only that, they figure it must have been an accident. Cat scratches or something of the like. But for someone who really knows me, they know that I’m slightly ambidextrous. And smart.
Every time the cut would start to heal, I’d peel it open, determined to make it scar. I did this because I was 18, and I knew everything. I figured that I was going to appreciate it later on in life.
The vertical scar is a burn from a personal attempt at branding. Wire coat hanger, gas stove burner, you can fill in the blanks. A lot of pain during and after. I remember clearly that it took forever to heal.
Now, as a 26 year old mother of three, I realize what an idiot I was. But it was who I was and I don’t shy away from it. I’m human.
My third and fourth tattoos came as a gift to myself. I began cutting shortly after my best friend was killed in a car wreck. Because I was so young and frustrated, I didn’t know any other way of letting my feelings out. I didn’t know who to talk to or how I was supposed to act and when you feel physical pain, your body tries to remedy the horrible feeling with endorphins. The first time I ever cut, I was sitting in front of my computer holding my pair of yellow Saucony shoes. Tony had picked them out for me and I still couldn’t grasp the fact that he was gone. Tearfully, I broke a CD and cut my forearm.
I still own those shoes today.
Years later, I sat on a reclining chair having a bald-headed guy write Erindre Alltid on my wrists. It’s Norwegian for Remember Always. What I’m remembering is Tony and the fact that my life changed completely when he died. And now, for me, I’m remembering who I was and how I never want to feel that way ever again.
My fifth tattoo came when I got out of work early. I was contemplating breaking up with said brilliant college student and felt I needed a juju to be able to conquer the world on my own.
I have been described as: a pistol, a firecracker, a free spirit and someone who marches to the beat of their own drum.
What guy would want that? So frankly, I was scared.
A nice guy name Tony Capone was happy to oblige. I said I needed something that would make me feel free and he drew up a dragonfly and said, “Let’s give you wings.”
My sixth and final tattoo is the symbol of Zen, which freely translates to live life by the fullest. One thing I successfully do.
I am me. I make no excuses for that. We all have a past, mine is just a little rough around the edges. But who I am is a good person. A very good person.
“Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinion drowned your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs