Facebook reminded me that three years ago last week, I was still full of optimism about the United States' presidential election and the future at-large. Which means three years ago this week, I made an appointment to get my first real tattoo.
Suddenly my world seemed to be burning around me. On election night, I joined thousands if not millions of sexual assault survivors who crumbled as we watched our country elect a proud sexual predator. I had a toxic job and was building up the courage to leave an increasingly toxic relationship. I had seldom felt such anger, fear, and confusion all at once — a privilege, I realize, allowed to me by my white skin, gender identity, socio-economic status, etc. etc. Still, I needed to do something with these feelings.
My tattoo artist probably hated me, because I presented a picture I'd found on Pinterest and said, "I want this." But she took it and made it her own, and it was so much better than I could have imagined. I chose a pinecone because they're nature's real phoenix. Certain kinds are evolutionarily adapted to open and spread their seeds during wildfires to allow new forests to grow. I needed a reminder that something beautiful and strong can grow from destruction.
It was such a small, selfish rebellion. I channeled my anger and fear into something that would only ever impact me. But I also look at that decision as one of the most autonomous I've ever made. I went to the appointment alone. I told some friends of my plan, but not for validation or approval. My mind was already made up.
I wish I knew who to credit for this thought, but I remember reading something on the internet from a woman expressing that tattoos were her way of decorating the only home she has to live in for the rest of her life. Like homeowners have the freedom to paint their walls, she has the freedom to paint her body as a reminder that it is hers. It struck a chord with my freshly-inked self. Getting a tattoo was bold, impulsive, and selfish. I had never been any of those things before. It was exactly what I needed.
Three years later, my pinecone is still my only real tattoo (I have a little stick-n-poke on my finger of the Venus symbol [for femininity/feminism/love], given to me by a friend). It's not in a spot I see every day. It's easy to forget what it meant at the time, what it still means. I left the toxic job and partner several states away and have built a new life back in my hometown. So much is still uncertain, but I have seen almost daily the seeds that we — women, mostly — are planting in the midst of this wildfire.
I'm planning my next tattoo. I don't know exactly what it will be yet, except completely, uniquely mine.