Well, never have I ever, put my tattoos up on social media and all of them are completely hidden by my clothing unless I’m wearing a bathing suit so I figured the blog would be the best place to share about them. The stigma that goes along with tattoos still continues even though most in their 20s, like myself, have one if not many more. I guess my goal here is to talk about the meaning behind my tattoos and help people understand why someone like myself chooses to put ink under my skin.

I remember the first time I thought about getting a tattoo in my Junior year of college. It was one of the WORST years of my life and I think many of my friends who were in the Teacher’s Education Program and chose to leave that major by May will agree with me wholeheartedly.

I really, really wanted to get a tree because I had a close relationship with a mentor in high school whom my friend and I called “Big Tree” and I referred to myself as little tree. I never ended up getting a tree tattoo until years later, however, my first tattoo is the swallow shown up above.

I was on my own after college and living with my very close cousin and her husband in Oregon. It was October and I was just itching to do something very irrational and independent. After scouring Pinterest with my cousin for hours and hours I decided upon a very simple swallow tattoo. At this time I was still going to church, reading my bible, and being a Christian (at this point I am not doing all these things but I do have a belief in a Higher Power) and the swallow reminded me of the bible verse Matthew 6:26 ”
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”. I wanted to look in the mirror every day and be reminded that I did not have to be anxious about all the unknowns in my life, I just had to trust God because, hell, the birds are still doing okay. This was my first tattoo and it was EXHILARATING.

My second tattoo came several years later and this time I got it done with a friend. My very close friend from high school moved to North Carolina after she graduated college and we did not see much of each other unless she came home to New York. A few weeks before she was going to come home she texted me and asked if I would go with her while she got her first tattoo and that I should get one too. I was scared, because I remembered the pain and the permanency of it all, not to mention I had not thought about getting another tattoo, however, I agreed. I knew it would mean so much to her if we got them together and her first tattoo was for her dog that passed away who was her very best friend; I could not abandon her in this adventure. I chose the bundle of roses because they are my favorite flower but also I chose to put them directly on my breast bone, slightly underneath my breasts. I chose this spot because I wanted to look in the mirror when I was naked and remember that, like the roses, I am beautiful, despite how much fat is on my body.

My third tattoo, as I look in retrospect, was a tattoo of recovery. I am a recovering alcoholic and have been sober for a year and a little over three months. The first time I made the appointment to get a third tattoo, all hell was breaking loose in my relationship with my significant other (on that very day) due to both of us drinking and my anxiety so I had put it in my mind that I wouldn’t worry about if he was dead or alive and I would get a tattoo. When I found out that he really needed me (and I needed him) I cancelled the appointment and a bunch of things happened…for the better. We both decided to stop drinking within a few days and have been sober since. In the beginning of my recovery I was very anxious, depressed, and just unhappy in general…those of you who know what it’s like to just quit drinking and socializing in bars that became your safe place will understand how difficult it is. At this time, I was beating myself up for not being able to pull it together, to get in control of my anxiety about my relationship and my life and for not being perfect. I can tell you, when I saw the picture of the lotus flower on Pinterest I was not thinking of it’s deeper meaning, I just thought it was simple, delicate, and pretty. Upon closer inspection of the symbol I found something I needed. The lotus flower, according to Buddhism (and I suppose true to life), grows in muddy water and then rises to the surface to bloom. It symbolizes the purity of the enlightened mind arising amidst the suffering of samsara (the cycle of death and birth aka life). The lotus flower was me and continues to symbolize my life in recovery and in my mental health. There are parts of our lives that are muddy and gross but that’s okay…it’s okay because we all are imperfect and will eventually rise to the surface and bloom and be just fine! Even more than fine…maybe even happy.

My last tattoo (so far) ended up bringing us full circle back to the tree. This one honestly was purely out of “let’s just do this we’re in Oregon again”. My cousins cousin and I went to visit my cousin and her husband and their new baby this summer. My cousins cousin has WAY more tattoos than I do and she was like, “let’s get one together” and I was all like, “Oh my God I’m scared let’s do it!”. After searching Pinterest once more we found our matching tattoo; what I would call an Oregon pine because my God they are everywhere in the mountains and on the side of the highway.

So, there you have it, the story of my four tattoos. Oh by the way my mom does not like them, ha, ha, ha, and my sister hates the roses. But guess what? It doesn’t really matter what others think sometimes, does it?

As always, thanks for reading,

xoxo Rachael

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