Tattoos can be a touchy subject at times. Will they hurt your chances of employment? How visible should you go? Is it too big? Is it too small? Should it mean something? What kind of person gets a tattoo- a criminal? A hooligan? Is it an art form on the canvas that is your skin or a desecration of the sacred temple that is your body?
I recently started child-minding as a second job to keep me afloat. During my interview, one of the things that put the new mother on edge with having me take care of her baby was that I have some very visible tattoos. Now, its not like I have anything inappropriate, but it just surprised me a bit at how quick people can be to judge someone without even knowing them.
My own opinion on tattoos is my opinion on basically every “taboo” matter: live and let live. To each their own. None-ya. If it isn’t directly harming anyone in any way, who cares what I do with my body and my life in my free time?
I could go on for ages, but for now I thought it’d be a cool idea to go through and map out the meaning behind all of my ink. Buckle up, we’re about to get real personal.
Where: Back of my neck
Visibility level: Visibility is optional. Easy to hide if you have medium/long hair.
Judgement level: Ex-boyfriend’s parents discovered this while I was washing dishes with hair up one night. Not a fan.
This was my first tattoo. I mean I literally went the day of my 18th birthday, first thing in the morning, The thing is though, I had thought about this tattoo for years before getting it. I drew it in class on my notes, I researched the history of the symbol, I even had my sister draw it in sharpie on different places on my body to figure out placement.
Long story short, this tattoo means a lot to me, even to this day. I got it before leaving for college to symbolize the three things that come together to give me inner strength, which for me are my mother, my sister and myself. My whole life, the three of us have shared an incredible bond. Leaving for college would be the first time that that bond would be (at least physically) broken. The three points of the symbol are connected by a circle, to symbolize the infinity of this power. I placed it on my neck to represent that although I may not always see them, they are always there, ready to have my back. Obviously, with the life I have chosen for myself after college, this tattoo still holds every bit of meaning as it did that day.
What: Om symbol
Where: Left inner wrist
Visibility level: Visible, but usually unnoticed (I’m a righty).
Judgement level: Honestly, non-existent. People quite like this one.
This was a spur of the moment decision. I was lying on the beach with two of my friends one day. We were bored and I said “I mean, we could all go get tattoos”. And so we did.
Regardless, this one still holds just as much meaning. I was never raised under any form of organized religion, however I was taught growing up to live by many different philosophies (yes, there is a difference). One of the ones that most rung true for me and I continue to hold very close to my heart even today is that of the buddhist philosophy. There is a lot to unpack within the philosophy, but I think the best way I can summarize it is this: everything is temporary. Attachment is the expression of a need for something that is innately temporary to be permanent. Because of this, any attachment, whether physical or mental, leads to suffering. Therefore, in order to live an enlightened life, you must live using the middle way of avoiding attachment, and simply experiencing everything for what it is.
Now, this is a very superficial explanation, but it will give you an idea of what this tattoo means. Basically, it’s my reminder to live and experience each moment. When things are good, I enjoy that moment, but I do not hold on to it, because everything in life comes in waves and this too shall pass. As will the bad moments. So essentially, I do my best to be the same person on my worst day as I am on my best.
Visibility level: Non existent, unless I’m at the beach but even then its usually covered by my bikini strap.
Judgement level: I’ve had ex boyfriends absolutely shit on me for how “basic” it is, but ah well. Thank u, next.
Okay, this one was another spur of the moment decision. And yes, its “basic”. But here’s the thing: I don’t care. The way I see it, it doesn’t matter how many people in the world have a similar tattoo, or even the same tattoo. What matters is what it means to you. How does this tattoo help you tell your story?
I got this tattoo the day that I changed my major in college. I know, not very deep. But trust, there’s more to it.
I changed my major from Forensic Science to Music Industry. Now, that’s a pretty serious change. No one who knew me was surprised. All of my high school career, I spent my time dividing myself as evenly as possible between the science department and the music department. I had two very strong passions and it seemed completely impossible to pick one.
So when the time came to pick a major, I chose science. Why? It was the most practical, the one that could make me the most money, the safest, and more importantly: the one that would make my family most proud. Ah, there it is. I’m not going to lie, for most of my life I was a huge people pleaser, especially when it came to my family. I always wanted the good grades, the impressive extracurriculars, the top of everything, so that I could come home and give my mother every reason to be proud of me. I was accepted to all 6 universities across the country that I applied for, all with impressive scholarships for their Forensic Science programs. I was set.
Well, it didn’t take long before I realized that pleasing others was not good enough. I had to please myself. I was doing well, grades were great, mom was very proud of her future doctor. But the thing is I would come back from class every day and sit at my piano. I would write music all night and join every open mic night that I could. Nothing made me happier than performing. And it was time I face that facts.
So after a semester, I decided to switch to Music Industry. I was the happiest I had ever been in my entire life. I knew I had chosen correctly. My mother? Not so happy. Actually furious. She wanted me to pull out of my university and go to a state university or community college. I can’t blame her, it was a very scary thing for her to see her kid with such a steady future laid out in front of her, switch to one riddled with debts that she wasn’t sure I would be able to afford on a musician’s salary (if I was lucky enough to have one). But with enough dedication to my field, I showed her I could make my dreams come true. Thus, the arrow: Aim, steady yourself, be sure of the path you want no matter how far back other’s are pulling you, and shoot forward.
What: Quote from John Green’s Looking for Alaska: “The only way out is through.”
Where: Inner Bicep, left arm
Visibility level: Easy to hide, easy to show.
Judgment level: Nada, just loads of curiosity on its meaning.
This one I never saw coming, but thought about it before getting it.
Ever since I read this book, I’ve been O B S E S S E D with it. There’s so many brilliant passages on the meaning of life, and how it is we might be able to escape this incredibly intricate “labyrinth of suffering”. Ultimately, the solution the characters in the book come to is that the only way out is by forgiveness, which I absolutely agree with. So why did I choose “the only way out is through”?
When I was diagnosed with lupus, I didn’t have a reaction. I just kind of sat there. They asked me if I had questions, if I wanted to read brochures about my illness, if I wanted to join a support group, etc. All I knew about the disease is that family members on my father’s side had died from it, that it was painful, and that everyone seemed to cry whenever I told them I had it. But me? I was just numb. All I said was “okay, what’s next?”. I didn’t want to know what could happen, only what was happening to me. And to this day, I continue with this mentality.
So when I reread this book, thats the line that stuck out to me: “The only way out is through.” My diagnosis was seriously just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amount of obstacles I have faced in my life from a very young age. As far as I see it, this is just one more thing I have to go through.
Where: My foot
Visibility level: Zero
Judgment level: None, actually, my mom’s favorite.
FAMMMMMMMMMM. Okay so first and foremost, let me just emphasize that if you’re going to get coordinates, triple check that they are correct (which I did).
These are the coordinates of my grandparent’s house in Uruguay. For those that don’t know, I spent my life moving around a lot. No, like for real, A L O T. we’re talking somewhere between 17-20 times. Yeah, there’s a range because me and my sister even lost count.
Any who, every time we moved, our home base was the same: this house in Uruguay. We would visit every last February, and even moved in for a few years. This house means everything to us because it holds all of our memories. It’s the only place that has been a constant, and continues to be now that my mother has moved back there. It was only fitting that I put it on my foot. These are my roots. Cantaltero keeps me grounded.
What: Roman numeral 22 (XXII)
Where: Side of wrist? I don’t know how else to explain it tbh
Visibility level: Very.
Judgment level: I mean, I get curious comments. But now that I’m 22, they consist of “Oh so are you going to change it every year?” *insert eye roll*
No, I didn’t get this for my age. But speaking of roots that keep me grounded, LET ME TELL YOU ‘BOUT MY BEST FRIEND!
Okay time to get mushy. My sister is my best friend in the whole wide world. But really, this girl is my everything- my soulmate, my best friend, my partner in crime, my child, my parent, my family, my storm rider. There’s nothing that we haven’t faced together, and every single time I could not imagine going through it without her. Our relationship is a bit unique in that I don’t see her as a “younger sister” anymore. Our age gap is small enough to where she’s my equal. There’s so much I learn from her every single day, and so much I love to teach her. She keeps me humble, keeps me strong, keeps me going.
I could go on for ages. But yes, we wanted to get matching tattoos. We knew we wanted something with a 22 given that we were both born on the 22nd (different months and years, but what are the odds?). This number has been so significant throughout our lives. Ultimately, she came up with the design and I loved it. The duality of it was so perfect given our own relationship. And so it stuck.
What: My bridges.
Where: Left Forearm
Visibility level: V-high, but can also be hidden
Judgment level: My most complemented piece.
This piece is actually one I am still building on. The idea first came about thanks to my good pal Lauren (WHATS GOOD HOMEGIRL!). We were chatting one day about how I wanted to get a travel tattoo without it being too cliché. We somehow got on the topic of how in each country I go to, I always seem to get this strange feeling of “belonging” or I guess realizing where I am whenever I cross an iconic bridge. So she came up with the idea of getting bridges for every country I go to.
I went to Melbourne for the first time with this idea. I had literally been in Melbourne for a week before making the declaration that I was definitely going to move there someday and deciding to get the pedestrian bridge as the third bridge of the piece (alongside tower bridge in London, and the Mt. Hope Bridge from my hometown in RI). Well, it’s a good thing I have impeccable follow-through.
Most recently, I added the Samuel Beckett Bridge to the piece. Dublin has officially left its mark on me.
What: “Caminando por la vida.” with a blue moon.
Where: Inner Left Ankle.
Visibility level: not too bad.
Judgement level: None, and with good reason.
This was another one that I knew for ages I would eventually get, but prayed that day would be far, far away.
My grandfather was the most important person in the whole world to me. He was my everything. To even try and explain our connection would never do it justice- it was something that had to be seen to be understood.
When it came to music, he was my number one fan. Right from when I was a little girl, he would prop me up on the coffee table in the living room and sing “Blue Moon” to me, which eventually turned into us singing it together, and finally, him asking me to sing it for him. He was always asking me to sing for him, or play him a new song on the piano. He never once complained about my having to start over because I messed up, or it being the billionth time I was playing a piece. Music was our connection. He shared different tangos with me, or classical pieces. Every morning we would wake up and sit together near his radio and just listen, with him tapping the rhythm on the arm of his chair.
But another way we connected was through him sharing his art with me. Among many things, he was a writer. And me? Well, I was his editor. I would read his pieces and correct his grammar, and type it up for him on the computer after he had spent days hand-writing everything. I learned to love the indecipherable scribbles, and see his calligraphy as an art-form. My favorite piece was one that he wrote about him and me. He wrote about a conversation him and I had while walking on the beach when I was younger, and all of my concerns about growing old. The last sentence of the story was him telling me that at the end of the day, we are all just walking through life, or “Caminando por la vida.”
I told him not too long ago about my plan for this tattoo. Although he didn’t love tattoos, he felt so honored that I would choose to have him forever on my body. When he passed last August, I was destroyed. His dream was to see me cross the stage at my University graduation. So the week before graduation, I got the tattoo right above where my shoe would be, so that when I did cross that stage he was right there with me.
What: “Be Kind”
Visibility level: SHE’S OUT THERE.
Judgement level: High key- mostly due to visibility.
Another spontaneous decision, but another thought out idea.
I knew for a long time that I wanted to get a tattoo for my mother. If you ask me about my childhood and about a major lesson I learned, I will tell you two words: “Be kind”. This was repeated to me incessantly by my mom.
I was not an easy child to raise. There was a lot of trauma in my early years (and later years, for that matter), that led to many behavioral issues at home. Not just that, but dealing with bullying , the hormones of adolescence, heart aches, disappointments, and just overall some mean people, and my mother’s response to every last one of those problems? “Be kind.”
I rolled my eyes at the time (and occasionally still do now), but I see now what a powerful lesson she was teaching me. While I was thinking that she was not listening to my complaints about the mean girls or the douche boyfriends that cheated on me, it turned out she was. She was teaching me to show up to every situation- good, bad, ugly, as the kindest person I could possibly be. And she was right. You will always regret being vengeful, or cruel, or mean-spirited. As good of an idea as it sounds in the moment, you will regret sub tweeting that girl, or egging that guy’s car. Because like I mentioned before: everything is temporary. There will come a day when you look back and that situation is meaningless to you. And then again, maybe there won’t. But regardless, you will never regret being kind, even to the most undeserving person. Because there will come a day when that person remembers how kind you were, and how cruel they were, and they will see what that says about who they were and who you are.
If you made it this far: THANK YOU! I guess what I am trying to say is that for me, tattoos are my way of telling my story. They are my way of putting my battle scars on my skin, because I’m proud of each and every one of them. They’ve made me who I am today.
But on that same note, they might not mean a single thing on someone else besides just being art! And that’s cool too! Because just as I’m sure that you learned from this post to not judge my tattoos for being visible and seeming meaningless, rebellious, young person shananigans, (clearly they’re much more than that), you shouldn’t judge anyone’s tattoos. The truth is, you don’t know why they got them, and who cares! The point is, that’s what they chose to do with their body, just like you chose to keep your canvas blank. To each their own.
I hope this inspired you to go get a head to toe piece and then tell your mom that I told you to do it (just kidding please don’t say that), or maybe just start a conversation about the next cool piece of art you see someone wearing.
Stay kind x