“Why didn’t you just use a Sharpie, Miss? They’re like, $15 for a pack of 10.”

Ah, children. During a discussion of what we did this weekend, he learned that I dropped a large amount of cash on my latest ink. He sounds quite innocent in the above quote, but had I written down the rest of his completed thought (something along the lines of ‘you could buy a lot of kush for that’), you wouldn’t be so concerned that I’m honest with my students about most of my life.

But even though he’s a jaded kiddo, he’s still a kid. And while only a teenager would say something like that to your face, they’re not the only ones who think it. And other people say that (or worse) to others, as well. I’m aware. Just like I’m more than aware that many people don’t understand why anyone would ever get a tattoo. That’s okay! I don’t understand why people do a lot of things – like wear Uggs with a miniskirt or become a televangelist.

For me, getting a tattoo is so much better than drawing on yourself with a Sharpie. I mean, sure, both are fun activities that I’ve engaged in multiple times, but they’re not the same. The difference? A tattoo is on your body forever.

I hear that a lot, actually, normally from people who are staring at me with horrified expressions after I tell them that I have tattoos…or that I’m getting a new one. And I know, right then, that I don’t have the same definition of a tattoo that they do.

Tattoo: noun. 1) A word, image, or combination of the two that is permanently inked in between the layers of a person’s skin. 2) A piece of artwork you carry with you. 3) An investment in yourself. 4) Awesome. 5) A part of me.

It’s that last one that’s really important to me. I see my tattoos as a visual representation of the best and most important parts of myself that’s always around, whether it’s me or someone else looking at it. I’ve always hated that the important parts of who people are stay buried underneath the skin. But with my tattoos, I’m literally wearing my heart on my sleeve (okay, so it’s on my leg or my back…and it’s not a graphic of a beating heart, but you get it).

Check it out.

August 2007
After being a camp counselor, but before starting my junior year of college, I finally got my first tattoo, at the ripe old age of 20.

You can actually see it starting to peel in this one, which I find highly amusing. It took me a few days to find a good angle on the side of my right thigh. Anyway. I say “finally” because I wanted this tattoo from the time that I was six years old. Not just a tattoo – this tattoo. Many people, when hearing this, ask me why I didn’t get it at 18. Simple. My dad told me I’d be paying tuition all on my lonesome. I figured I could wait four years to get something I’d have for the rest of my life, that is, if he didn’t cave. He caved, obviously. He even went with for the event.

When I was a kid, I lived in my imagination. Even to the extent of neglecting my real life. The books I read came to life inside my own head, and I would fall asleep creating new worlds or extending the stories I heard. As I got older, I developed my imagination even further. I began to write down the tales that drifted through my head and I began using my creativity as a tool to solve problems – both in school and in my personal life.

To this day, I believe that as long as you can imagine a solution to a problem or simply a problem-free possibility, it’s not impossible. Can I imagine a time when we all live together in peace and harmony? Of course I can. And so could John Lennon. But as far as I know, he never imagined a time when dogs could talk and were considered full members of society, so I’m one up on him there.

In  any case, I have faith in my own imagination and the power of imagination in general. Faith that reaches an almost religious-like height. So it’s a huge part of my life and who I am.

March 2009
My graduation from Mizzou with two bachelor’s degrees and a certificate marked an important achievement in my life, and I wanted to mark the occasion by giving myself a present.

As much as I loved my tattoo, I wished it was a little girlier, maybe even a little more complete-looking. So I decided to add a key on to my existing tattoo, to further symbolize how important imagination is in my life.

Gorgeous, right? My tattoo artist did an amazing job. The book was kind of a maybe-I-will, maybe-I-won’t addition that I thought looked good from the beginning, but I’ve had some doubts expressed to me. I like it, which is all that matters, really.

October 2010
I resisted as long as I could. Really, I did. I graduated, I left Mizzou (and Columbia), and I thought long and hard about what I wanted my next tattoo to be. I got this.

Mizzou is a huge part of who I am today. The people I met there, I love. The experiences I had there have helped shape the person I am now, as cliche as that is. Honestly, I knew from the moment I graduated that I would eventually sport some ink for my college, but it took me a while to decide exactly what that would look like. I played with a lot of ideas: Beetle Bailey, a scripted ‘Mizzou,’ a set of MIZ and ZOU lettering that when placed side-by-side like a ballerina would spell out the school and otherwise just inspire a cheer from fans once in a while…

I think I made the classy choice. Plus, it’s slightly ambiguous so I can play it off as something else if I accidentally fall in love with and subsequently marry a KU grad. They’d never figure it out, they’re not that smart.

March 2012
I suppose it’s time for the big reveal, eh? Most of my friends and family have seen me in person recently, and therefore have been able to take note of the impressive tattoo I added this past weekend. But the rest of you? Well. Here you are. The one I finally grew a pair and got after talking about it for over two years.

Obviously, this tattoo’s theme runs along the same lines as my “Imagine” tattoo. But it’s a little….less deep and more just plain beautiful. My storybook tattoo is a tribute to all of the books that taught me how to live. The fairytales that taught me to dream, the novels that taught me not to give up on myself or pretend to be someone I’m not, and the historical documentaries that reminded me to never forget the lessons of the past. It’s also a symbol for how real stories can be – how they can seem to spring from the pages, grab you and take you into their world. Plus, I’m just a sucker for a really good story.

I’m still struggling to find the correct words to describe my feelings on this tattoo. In the mall yesterday, when I fellow shopper asked me about the inspiration for my tattoo and paid me a compliment, all I could say was “I’m an English major.” Lame. I’m not too worried, though, the perfect words with come with time. For now, I’ll let this beauty speak for itself.

My tattoos help remind me to be myself, and to be proud of the person that I am. I keep these pieces of art out there on my skin, showing the whole world what a beautiful person I am. And they help me remember to be that girl in my actions as well.

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About Imagine Truth

We seek to learn, and when academics do not present the answers, we look inside our own beautiful imaginations for the key.

7 responses »

  1. Katy W. says:

    Erin, it’s beautiful. I tend to give lame responses when people ask about my tattoo as well. I know I won’t be able to explain what it means to me, so I end up giving a really lame answer.

  2. Meg says:

    One of the most ridiculous anti-tattoo “arguments” I hear all the time is, “Just think of how it will look when you’re old.”

    It’s not like I’m going to look that stellar when I’m 60 anyway, regardless of whether I have a tattoo or not.

  3. Pretzel says:

    YOU GOT IT!!! WHOOT WHOOT! So excited for you.

  4. Sarah Koci Scheilz says:

    Love it, Erin! So excited to see it! It’s you, perfectly.

  5. […] I have a sweeeeet new tattoo and only about 9 outfits that really show it off in all its […]

  6. […] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. My back tattoo is large for me, but not so huge compared to people who have sleeves…and definitely not compared to the artist who did my tattoo. But it’s beautiful and girly and everything that I could have hoped for, so I’m elated. I love permanency sometimes. […]

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