The Story Behind My First Tattoo

I was attending college for Graphic Design in 2007 and had been getting back into drawing. As my friends will tell you I was nicknamed “Mr. Hot N Now” as I would always wear my work shirt to school and well… was one of the few people who actually worked there.

A friend of mine and my boss at the time Jeremy had just gotten another tattoo and after spending years of drawing all over my arms; all of which against my parents wishes; I finally cracked.

I spent several months drawing out pieces of a tattoo I had in my mind. Different concepts. As I was only 18, I was always a lover, always desiring to be a real man. I wanted to tell people who I was with just one piece of art. Who I wanted to be. Who I was afraid of becoming.

Then one cold March night I did it.

I took all of my drawings into work and had Jeremy call up a guy I will forever only know as “Tatt”. As we got the work done I was nervous.

But what did this whole thing mean to me Tatt asked. And I described the whole thing to him. And it goes like this.

The Sword
A sword is strong, dangerous. Not to be played with. To only be handled by those who care about them. They come in different forms; shapes, sizes, hilts. Some, while thin can cut through the wind with little effort while those that are with a wider blade take more effort. However, no matter the make, they all get damaged with every strike. With every touch against another. Sometimes they break. I was afraid of being someone who hurt others or was used to hurt. At the base of the hilt there is a skull.

Some people don’t believe me when I say this; in fact I’ve been scoffed at several times for this. But to me, beauty is only skin deep. I truly believe that we have to find out who people are and only by removing the first barrier we see can we expose that. I’ve said it to hundreds of people, but one of the things I can attest to is the sheer ignorance; the ability to quickly misjudge and be belligerent; of others. I get asked for my heritage, lineage, nationality, ethnicity and everything else all the time and as soon as people ask me that the first thing I ask them is what do they think I am. It might be a curious question but I feel I get the same answer and reaction when I give them the answer. So to me, the skull is a single symbol of understanding that people are not who you immediately think they are.

firsttattoo

To the hilt, an odd vertebra lines up to a “S” representing me. My views. To the left and right are bones; almost representing arms, one holding up a star and the other a heart.

I can only describe this as my first realization of wanting to be a husband, a father. My dad was almost all of my life a husband. He was also of course my father. He tried his best to provide for me and my siblings. At the time of the divorce, I was crushed. I didn’t know how hard things were for him because I was so young. But he worked a lot, and went to school. Though Michigan was a lot different from Louisiana with his long term journeys, I still knew that he was giving it everything. And respectfully my mom did too. And when Debbie and Jessica came in to our lives, I think the man I grew up to be was greatly shaped by them. Now, I’ll take this opportunity to say I am still far from the man I want to be, but I also know that I can only become a better one.

The heart represented family; love. The star represented power; work; money. I never wanted to be driven away from my family for more than I needed but I also wanted to support my family. I envisioned a teeter totter, a scale, balancing both parts, family and work.

Unfortunately, I haven’t fully realized that dream. But I am fortunate that I can and do pay child support for Chloe, along with other things. I see her every week and make sure that we have special moments every chance we can. But it’s not easy. I don’t like only seeing her for the time I do; but until everything shifts into full gear where I don’t have to work as much as I do I don’t know that I will ever get there.

The heart represented family; love. The star represented power; work; money.

As we go down to the blade, we see it has a dark and light side. As I saw it and still do, we all have good and bad parts to us. We all have to determine how to be the best people we possibly can. The dark side of all of our souls are parts of ghosts, resonating memories that keep to their clutch.

The sword represented who I wanted to be, who I didn’t want to be; all in one. All in all, I never wanted to be the source of someone else’s pain.

But the tree, the tree represented so much too.

A tree grows up, gets bigger with age and eventually dies. The problem with trees… well, they don’t go anywhere. They live one life. Feet planted in and only hope to be cared for by those who need it. But trees not going anywhere is also a promise to those I love. That I won’t go anywhere. That I will always be there and that they will always be able to find me.

As with swords being different sizes, shapes; trees come in a slew of types. Some being so thin that with just enough wind they will snap in a storm and fall apart. Or the bigger trees that get split in half with a strike of lightning. I never want to fall apart; I said when I was eighteen. But I have. Almost once a year at this rate. And somehow it is ironic that it takes me a few months before I am back to who I was every time. Much like the trees.

On one branch, there is a snake. On the other is a heart. The snake is looking forward. To leave the past behind and continue to live the way it always has. But the snake also represents the evil I am afraid of. I try to be the best person I can be and that was something I put into the thought behind having a snake on the branch. And the heart. The heart is there to represent my desire again to be loved. I put my heart out there on the line for anyone who isn’t afraid of the past, who isn’t afraid of the fact that we are all imperfect. And in thought that if someone came along and took my heart with them it would be forever theirs to have.

And the knot that has hollowed out represents my desire to always be see through, to let people always know the real me.

And as I described all of this to him with less reminiscing, less experience, he referenced my drawings and free handed what became my first tattoo. My personal symbol of who I wanted to be.

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