ARCHIVED POST: Illustrate(h)er

(This post is an archived post moved here from my old blog, originally published on 26th June 2011)

So it turns out it’s quite hard to get a picture of my tattoo – they warned me that a circle on my wrist would stretch, in time, and though it hasn’t warped into an oval yet it does tend to look that way when I stretch it around to take a photo of it.
It’s a year since I got it and I thought it a good time to write some thinky thoughts about it. I know this might sound stupid to people who have countless tattoos, but to me this was a very profound experience – and though I often wake up in the morning having dreamt of the crazy extensions that I’ve had tattooed around it (not sure what this signifies), it’s not an experience that I’m in a hurry to have again.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my tattoo. I’ve never regretted it, and I don’t think I ever will, precisely because it was the act of getting it done that means as much, if not more to me, than the mark itself.

Have you ever doodled something on the back of your hand to reming yourself – something that you need to pick up at the shops, or a doctors appointment maybe? My tattoo is a bit like that – which is one of the reasons why I wanted it somewhere as prominent and visible as my wrist. It’s to remind me, to make me think, about lots of things.

The design itself is a “koru”, a Maori symbol that I have a jade necklace of from New Zealand. It quickly became a sort of good-luck charm, and it made me feel safer and more confident to have it with me when I needed a bit of a boost. I like the cyclical, natural look to it. Some people have commented it looks like a shell, like a nautilus, or a ying and yang symbol, or…well, a foetus. Okay so the last one is a little weird (I can’t imagine who’d want that on their wrist) but it’s interesting that they all sort of represent the same thing. The design itself, and the Maori’s koru symbol is based on an unfurling silver fern. It represents new life, new beginnings, but also, ultimately, that life goes the way it is supposed to go, and the way it has done for millions of years. According to wikipedia: The circular shape of the koru helps to convey the idea of perpetual movement while the inner coil suggests a return to the point of origin.”

At the risk of sounding a bit of a hippie – I like this idea, and it comforts me. I want to look at my wrist every day and remind myself that I’m on the right path, that everything it as it is supposed to be and the little things that cause me pain, and anxiety now, are ultimately transient.

Every now and then I need to remind myself that I’m doing the right thing, that I’ve come a long way but there’s a whole life ahead of me. Also, anyone who has come into contact with me at all will probably realise that I the world’s biggest worrier – and I’m constantly battling with the niggling feeling that I don’t deserve such wonderful friends, such a great job, such a nice life. Not in the sense that I’m not good enough to deserve good things, in a moral sense, but that I’m not grown-up or worthy enough, somehow. That I’m running with the big kids and one day they’re going to notice that I shouldn’t be here. So koru is to remind me that, in the words of Desiderata:

You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

As I mentioned before, the act of getting it done was important. I had just passed the three year anniversary of my moving to London, which in itself was a big deal for me. This time last year I thought I was happy, but I was lonely, a bit lost, trying to find myself again, I think. So the act of getting it done, the permanence of it and the pain, is to prove to myself that I am an adult – I am capable, I am strong – I can deal with these things. I can make big decisions and I can deal with the consequences.

Which brings me on to my last reason: if any of you know me well enough to have heard me go off on one of my “the trouble with kids these days!” rants, you’ll know that I’m big on the responsibility of the individual – incidentally one of the reasons why the idea of organised religion has never sat well with me. Last year I was coming out of a place that had affected me deeply, and made me think deeply about my position in this world, the people around me and the way I want to go on with my life.

It basically boils down to this: shit happens. The world can be really fucking cruel sometimes. People can be horrible to you, or manipulative, or mean. Past relationships, friendships, childhood bullies, families. All of these people we come into contact with can leave marks on us, that affect us for a long time. But ultimately I believe you can’t let this affect the way you treat other people. I wanted to remind myself that I am the only person responsible for myself, and I should be the only person who can leave a mark on myself.

So. A little bit deep and thinky, maybe. But I suppose if you’re going to get a permanent picture drawn on you then it might as well be for a significant reason. So my tattoo is my lifelong “To Do” list: live well; remember I have a right to be here; be responsible; treat other people well – and you’ll get where you’re supposed to be.
Or, you know, something.

P.S. Lawks, this blog is getting far too serious! I’m going to have to counter this with something really stupid and frivolous. Go and check out “Condescending Lama” on for something light and fluffy and really quite funny.

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