I’m going to try my best to write the story of this tattoo, and I already know I am going to fail.
This isn’t a pessimistic statement, only one I already know to be true. Nothing I can put into words will fully explain to anyone why I got this particular piece embedded in my skin. But I know that there are friends of mine—and even people I might not know—who will take something away from my story, and so I’m going to do my best.
I also need to take a second and thank my friends Kallen and Cati for literally giving me money towards this piece. It would not have happened without you.
Four years ago, my best friend, my brother, his friends, and I went to our first Fair to Midland show at Station 4 in Minneapolis, MN.
A year after that, I cut myself for the last time.
Two and a half years after that (six months ago), my little brother’s band opened for Fair to Midland. It was my eighth time seeing them. When Fair to Midland took the stage, I stood there with Emily and Nick by my side, and as the shutter of my camera clicked over and over in my hands, I gave myself up to the music, the crowd, and the experience in a way I can only do when I see them, and as they played Walls of Jericho, I knew for sure I needed a part of them tattooed on me.
Another tomorrow, shedding the shade we made yesterday. Disguised as the lightning, dissolving all of the thunder, then appeasing our monsters under the acrylic skies. Another tomorrow.
When I sat—when I still sit—with Emily in the middle of my worst nights, when I contemplate breaking three years of struggle and triumph, it’s easy for me to forget why I put so much effort into staying cut-free. Then the clock will roll over to 12:00 a.m., and Emily will tell me Happy tomorrow, and I can make myself hold on for one more night.
The arrow/anchor symbol doesn’t just stand for a band and their album, either. It’s an homage to the artist who designed the symbol, Isaac Flores, who does the kind of thing with his life and his art that I hope to do someday.
It stands for what the title Arrows & Anchors means to their author, FtM frontman Darroh Sudderth. Arrows, flying, to represent hope; anchors, sinking, to represent the things weighing us down and holding us back. The combination of the two is for balance, to recognize both things in my life. (I promise to link this interview when I find it!)
The latin, eo ire itum, loosely translates to “go on, go on, go on.” Along with “another tomorrow,” this is my reminder to keep going. Go on. Earlier this year, when Fair to Midland was in the process of switching members and their fan-base was in an uproar, afraid that our favorite band was dying, the guitarist, Cliff Campbell, ended his statement of assurance that Fair to Midland would live to play another day (I’m paraphrasing xD) with those words.
So, life sucks. So something hurts. So what? Go on. Go on. Go on. If you don;t, you never have the chance of seeing things get better.
While I was laying on my side, Keith Hiserich's needle putting ink into my skin, Emily holding my hand for when it hurt, I thought of all of this.
I also thought about the skin beneath the ink—the skin of my hip that was the last place I let myself take a razor to, three years ago. I thought about the way the needle bit into my skin, and for a crazy second, I thought I had made a mistake—why was I letting myself be hurt for something that was partially to celebrate not hurting myself anymore?
But then the answer came to me. The difference between my self-harm and my tattoo is a simple one, but an important one—my self harm was pain regardless of the result. Pain was its purpose and the marks and scars were a side effect. For my tattoo, the pain was the side effect. The mark was the result, and because of that, the pain only had to happen once.
The pain of the tattoo will heal, just like the pain and the scars from my self-harming have. But the tattoo will stay, unlike the old scars, as a reminder. To say, Look at this. Remember how much it fucking hurt. You don’t have to hurt yourself anymore.
I said this in an earlier post, before the actual tattoo was done, but it bears repeating: I decided on my FtM tat as my first one is because I’m sure I want it and I’m sure it will always be relevant to me. Even when I’m 50 or 60 or 70 or 100, and fat and wrinkly, and the ink is faded.
Because this ink represents one of the reasons I made it to be old and wrinkled. Because one day I won’t have Emily wishing me a happy tomorrow, or my good friends telling me go on, go on, go on.
I also won’t have that front-row spot for my favorite band in the world, screaming their lyrics with my very best friends at my sides. I won’t have the crush of the crowd at my back and the shutter of the camera firing under my fingers. I won’t have the aura of the entire venue rising like heat waves, sweat coursing down the lines of our spines in the middle of winter or the hottest part of the summer. I won’t have the way my ears ring and my neck hurts the next day, remnants of just letting everything go.
So I want it on me, so that I can never, ever forget. Because these are the things that keep me alive, and I want a way to look at myself and remember that part of what makes all of that beautiful is a part of me, as well.
These are the things I live for, and they are beautiful, and having them be a part of me that I cannot lose reminds me that I am beautiful too—with them, beside them, because of them.
And it is my job to go on, go on, go on.