I got a new tattoo recently and it got me reflecting on what tattoos and body mods mean to me and how I’ve come to think of them in my life. Tattoos and body modification have a long and ancient history and are becoming more available and acceptable in our current society. In the family that I was raised in tattoos were frowned upon but not something completely forbidden. I was told that if I was going to get one it should to be in a place on my body that I could cover up for job interviews and the workplace.
Before I turned 18 I already knew what my first two tattoos would be. A celtic shield and an evil eye, both symbols of protection from my Irish and Greek heritage. Ever since the day I turned 18 I’ve gotten a tattoo or body mod approximately every 12-18 months, sometimes two, for a total of 13. Somewhere along the way they became not just a way to mark my body but also a way to mark something meaningful to me. There is the physical aspect of marking my body with art, putting ink onto the canvas so to speak, but some of my tattoos and body mods are there to mark a lesson that I had learned or one that I wanted to have a reminder of. Three of the most meaningful ones to me are the last line of a poem and two railroad spikes.
The words, “Might as well live,” are tattooed boldly on my left inner forearm. It is the last line of a Dorothy Parker poem that really spoke to my depression. These words are a reminder to me that I want to live more often than I want to die and I wanted it to be in a place that would catch my eye frequently so I could read the message as many times as I needed to when I was in a wanting to die kind of mood.
The two railroad spikes are the first two of seven that I will be getting. Seven is a sacred number to the Spirit I work with closely. To me the seven railroad spikes are my dedication to the Spirit and also a commitment to myself to be healthy in body, mind, and spirit. A dedication to continue to learn and grow throughout my life. The first railroad spike is on my left lower leg, depicted larger than a real railroad spike, is a reminder to me that I can ground wherever I am by just stomping my feet.
The second railroad spike tattoo is a reminder to myself to work hard. My wife and I started our business at the beginning of the year and to be honest it has shaken me a bit. It has brought out some old and new fears and I feel like I’ve been standing still, overwhelmed by the whispering fears, I’ve forgotten to keep taking steps, to keep moving forward. This is not the time to stand still. There is a lot of work involved in making your dreams come true, the kind of work that you can only do for yourself, and I don’t want to forget that lesson anytime soon. Time to sink or swim.
Special thanks to Jair at Vodou Tattoos!