What My Tattoos Mean To Me (And Why They Don’t Need To Mean Anything To You)


I got my first tattoo the day I turned 18. Walking into the shop filled with the tattooed, heavy metal blaring, and the annoyed glare from the front desk assistance after I nervously asked “Can I get one tattoo please?”, I felt a bit over my head.

I chose something small for my first, three sparrows on my right hip, just low enough to be hidden from the parents that would most certainly disapprove. I expected pain, torture, screaming, the works. But about 25 minutes after, with my mini piece of body art complete, I was hooked.

I knew this wouldn’t be my last, and I immediately began looking for inspiration for my next piece. One turned to two, two turned to three, and three into eight. The “hidden” factor was out the window after piece number four, so I quickly had to adjust to this new lifestyle where people stared and poked and asked questions like “Won’t you regret that?” (Eh maybe, but when I’m a skeleton I don’t think I will) or “What’s the meaning behind that?” (What’s the meaning behind your haircut? Oh, you don’t have one? Weird).

For me, my tattoos mean a lot of things. My elephant is for good luck. My birds change meaning depending on what I want them to mean that day, but overall they were my first tattoo, so that’s enough meaning for me. A compass on my arm reminds me of the travels that helped me grow up. They also remind me of the experience of getting a tattoo in a country where no one spoke my language. My moon was my first “ballsy” piece, located right smack dab on my forearm, for the whole world to see. My dagger reminds me to be strong, and the rose on the top of my hand is there because I want it to be.

They remind me of places I’ve been, who I’ve wanted to become.

The process of getting a tattoo is a fabulous one. Choosing what you want, working with the artist, sitting through the pain while sharing a totally incredible bonding experience with the artist who is responsible for your permanant art, and, finally, getting to adore the finished product. It’s addicting.

Some tattoos were impulsive. Some could look better, or be in a better place. They were expensive, and yes, they hurt. But they are a part of me (apparently forever), and I wouldn’t change one of them.

They don’t mean I’m irresponsible. They don’t mean I’m going to steal your wallet, or do a worse job than the non-­tattooed person. They also don’t mean that I needed some crazy experience or dead relative to get them, the “meaning” part is no one’s business but my own.

I have no advice for potential tattoo customers, other than don’t listen to advice, with the exception of: get whatever the hell you want, make sure the shop is clean, and have no regrets.