10.16.2009

The tattoo? It was for me, not you

Oh I just love disappointing people. I think I'm becoming quite good at it as I age. The thing is, I know who I am, and what I am not. Some people just see something different based on their own expectations, experiences and points of reference.

We all go through life with so many public personas but really they are all one in the same. When I became a reporter, one of my relatives said she was shocked because she always imagined I would become an English teacher. She always saw me as reserved and bookish (read: nerdy). I've met many other comments along the way in my life of not meeting others' expectations based on their perceptions of who I am, my likes, dislikes, values, priorities. These comments always take me by surprise, because I honestly try never to do anything I'm not comfortable with, or say anything I don't mean to say.

The societal mirror has never been held up to my face so much in recent years as it has in the last 24 hours. You see, I've wanted a tattoo since I was 15. I didn't want to get one until I was sure of the design, placement, and quite frankly, I was also afraid that once I started, I wouldn't stop. I tend to have that kind of personality. I turned 35 this year and decided it was time. So I got my first tattoo yesterday. I consider it a gift to myself, so Happy Bosses Day to me!

Now here's the thing I love: the diverse reactions from friends, family, colleagues. My inbox is flooded with such a range of reactions, I almost want to publish them in a book. Some people love it and are excited that I finally got what I wanted. Some people are shocked at the size, obviously assuming I would get something smaller. Some people are surprised (and a couple of folks absolutely, honestly, outspokenly horrified) that I got one at all, much less one of a noticeable size. And a few others (the few who know me really well) are surprised I am not yet sleeved at this point in my life.

I often wonder why people have such a hard time when others don't fit into their box of expectations. They act as though I have failed them somehow. Personally, I am not here to live up to anyone else's expectations but my own. Are you?

Someone asked me what I would tell my kids about the tattoo -- a bluebird with a banner that says "love," and a "c" and an "e" which are my kids' first initials. I've already told my son: it reminds me everyday of living a life of hope, optimism, happiness, which the bluebird symbolizes. I've told him it reminds me of who I am, that I am here to love, that I believe love can change the world, and that they --my kids-- are my greatest loves. I've told him that it reminds me that I am free --that we are all free-- to be exactly who we are, even though it may not always be who others want us to be; even though we may not fit into a convenient, neat little personality type box that they can easily understand.

This tattoo was for me, and no one else. My son loves it. I love it. It's part of who I am, have always been, and always will be.


PS: I realize that people may not vote for a presidential candidate with a big ol' bird tattoo. I'm ok with that because, you know, I wasn't planning on running. But thanks for pointing it out to me (you know who you are).