When I was 21, I went to school in London and lived in student housing somewhere in Victoria. I met some amazing people, and it was the first time I lived outside of my country (something that I would repeat three more times the next five years) which was quite scary for a girl like me.
Because the girl I was at that time – and let me stress the word ‘girl’ – was a person on the lookout for herself. I was pretty lost and I’d been lost for the first 20 years of my life. Was I going in the right direction? I guess. Was I there yet? Nowhere near.
London changed that for me.
I was a cripplingly shy girl, scared to death of strangers and though hungry for adventure, knowledge and recognition, was too frightened to step outside the circle I considered “safe.” Even though I knew “safe” was a bad place.
London was the turning point.
The day before I started university, I stood in front of the mirror (true story kids) and said to myself “you’re an outgoing, happy, likeable person. Things have to change. These people don’t know you. You can be a different person. Smile, no matter what, smile.”
At that time, it was the most life-changing experience I’d ever had. Diving into the world of university, head first and with no safety net; I was gonna meet people on my own, no support, nothing familiar to cling on to. I had to make it on my own.
I was excited and close to shitting myself like, all the time.
My first semester was an absolute disaster. In the second, I met two amazing girls who changed my life. Third semester, and I had finally found my path… and then came London.
Could my experience in London have been better? Of course. I was a dork. I was two different personalities, fighting for screen time, one desperately trying to blend in with the wall and avoid social interaction; the other desperately trying to make an impression, to explore new things (like outrageous clothing…) and “fit in.” It wasn’t easy and I would probably have had a much better time consistently, if I’d been less of a.. skitzo.
Why did I rant all that out? I’ll tell you why. All of this, the search for my place and my being, it all culminated when I had my first tattoo done. If you know me now, that isn’t such a far fetched idea – if you knew me back then, it was OUTRAGEOUS.
I had a verse from William Blake’s ‘The Tyger‘ sown into my skin. From “and what shoulder…” to “…what dread feet?” I’m not religious, but when I read this poem, it always gets me. The tiger has always been my favourite animal. I identify with it on some spiritual level I guess. So reading this poem, about its creation, its pre-determined nature, the inevitability of its “evil” and no less pride in its creation… it just made sense.
I was constantly searching for a meaning, but the Tyger – he was just made the way he is, good or bad, he had no say in it. We are who we are, and our nature is not for us to decide or change. Again, I’m not religious, but this was groundbreaking.
Having it on my body to remind me of my own inevitability.. that was a good decision.
I’m a massive tattoo snob; as much as I appreciate great craftsmanship, I despise the “fashion” in which decorating your body in ink finds itself at times. I think the number one reason why people regret tattoos is because they didn’t think about it. To me, it’s more important to be aware of what the piece represents to you, rather than what it looks like to others. Screw what other people think – why did YOU want THIS particular thing on your body?
Two years went by and I had my second tattoo done. I had my reasons and I’d found a picture I thought clearly represented the sentiment I needed to remind myself of.
The two fighting animals, the cat and the dog, were part of an ad for Parker Pens – made by no other than Tim Burton. It is to remind me of my sister and our difficult relationship.
Another two years went by and I realised I really needed to get a new tattoo done – it has been a difficult two years (actually, probably more like three) with a pointless relationship, unemployment, academic regret, large scale procrastination, self loathing… And then over the fall/winter period, it hit me: I’m still me. I just need to stop wasting myself. I’m smart and powerful and my own person. I have to stop forgetting it because it’s ridiculous to have to chase your ambition around like a dog and its tail. Dogs do stupid things. I’m a tiger.
So there you have it. I have friends who say that the reason why I keep getting tattoos is because “once you start, you become addicted..” but I disagree with that statement. I’ve only had something done when I’d spent a good amount of time considering it, and I’ve only considered it when I found that something in my life compelled me to make a… permanent note.
I hope that if you ever get inked, you know why you’re doing it and that the reason is all for you