Last week, I was working from one of many of my “coffices” here in Denver. I struck up a conversation with a random woman at the next table who had commented on a visible portion of my latest foray into more extensive inking (to the right). She mentioned something to the effect of how she loved tattoos but would never have the guts to get one. “Do you ever wonder what people think when they see them? I mean, yours are pretty visible” she said. I paused for a moment, squishing her words around in my mind like grapes from the vine. Here was my reply:
Everyone has stories that make up who they are. I just choose to wear some of mine in places where everyone can see. It’s not that I put them there so others could judge – it’s because that’s where my heart told me they belong.
And so I sit down today to write a post that’s been nagging at me for about a week, as we’re all “inked” in some way or another. Some of us just have stories that are more visible than others.
What Are You Wearing?
There’s a reason you run your business the way you do. You can replace the word business with life, love, relationships, friendships, morning ablutions, pet shelter – any myriad of words can be dropped in its place. Whatever your noun of choice, there’s a reason behind how you go about it. We all have a story, history, memories, love, experiences, successes, hurt, complete failures and things that run the gamut in between. Those things are what we wear. The things we carry from the moment we wake up in the morning until we fall asleep at night. They stay with us through our dreams and nightmares and when we wake, we’re reminded throughout the day that they’re the things who make us who we are.
Isn’t that the beauty of the human machine? We all share so many similarities yet we’re startlingly (and occasionally annoyingly) different. That’s emotional ink. We can’t undo what’s been done to us. What we can do, however, is choose how we’ll tell (and complete) the story.
Owning Your Ink
I look back on the 17 years of my life that I spent doing what I was supposed to be doing. This ranged from getting married to working for corporation after corporation, buying a house and, well, working through the seemingly interminable pile of bullshit I’d accumulated over the years. I kept doing shit to avoid digging into the real shit that made me who I am. Maybe there’s some uncomfortably familiar truth in my process that some of you recognize. Regardless, that’s my ink. I still carry all of that with me today, but I’m comfortable wearing it. As I’ve grown older, I even come to like the way it looks on me. Regardless of the fact that I have 6 tattoos (and soon to be a half sleeve), I think that an imperative part of the process of finding yourself comes through owning your ink – physical, emotional and all the iterations in between.
Maybe you refer to your ink as baggage. Semantics. Whatever you call it, just think of the incredible power it gives you. You own a human experience unlike any other. And when we start viewing our ink as a collection of human experiences that give us power (instead of making us weak, unexceptional and worth less than we truly are), we place ourselves in a position to do some truly amazing things.
The Inherent Power of Ink
Who we are makes it possible for us to do everything we do. The flip side to that is acknowledging that everyone we come across in our lives has their own ink. Granted, some personalities won’t always mix (case in point, you won’t see me mingling with this inky nightmare), but it doesn’t lessen the need to respect others on some level for what they bring to the table. And yeah, some people might not bring anything to your table, but they bring something to someone’s. And the cool part of that? The same goes for you. Screw the people who don’t like your ink – that’s their ink talking. Learn to wear yours, as it’s the reason you can stand in front of the people you love…and have them love you back.
And there’s something especially bomb-diggity about our ink: while it’s with us for life in some form or another, it can morph into something different if we let it.
The Mutability of Ink
The week I turned 18, I took a few friends with me and headed to the tattoo parlor in Houston, Texas to get my first tattoo. Winnie the Pooh, a lifelong pal of mine, found his way onto my left shoulder blade. If you have a closer look under my new koi fish’s tail, you’ll see the faintest remnants of Pooh Bear. He’s morphed, become something new. We used what he gave me all those years, bold lines and his big, silly belly, and created something that’s becoming.
This isn’t a principle that just applies to ink the physical sense – we can do this with every bit of our ink. Morph it into something that carries us forward. Why do we let our ink hold us back? We try to hide things that we feel people won’t accept and love, whether in business or our personal lives. I say to hell with it. Take the ink that no longer suits you and create the next stage of your life. Then again, that’s only something that can happen if you’re willing to let it. Some people dig their ink and that’s fine. I’m pretty good with mine. Add to it, make it into something new, embrace it. It’s yours, and that means you can do with it whatever the hell you please.
Who Cares if it Shows?
Your ink – in whatever form it takes in your life – is yours. Who cares if it shows? The biggest hindrance we have in life is making ourselves subject to the opinions of other. Like assholes, everyone has one. Why not make yourself subject to you? I’m a 38-year-old woman who loves live action comic book flicks, uses the f-bomb like it’s a comma, product of a single-parent household with two dogs, two cats, and 4.35 bikes who lost the man she loved on October 31 of last year. I love my friends, family and business and after watching the movie “Easy A” this morning while on the bike trainer, think it’s possible that I love Penn Badgley as well. (Yes, I know he’s 25. Shut up. A girl can drool at impossibility.) I’ve made a go at everlasting love a few times, but it hasn’t worked out. And that’s okay – because it got me to the life I love living today. Anyone who doesn’t like it (my emotional ink) or my tattoos can go dry hump Sarah Palin on a block of ice surrounded by polar bears.
I wear them all proudly – my stories. Took me 38 years to get here (trudging through a load of shit, joy and assorted tribulations along the way), so who am I to tell any one of my 38 years worth of stories that they’re not worth my attention? Attention is due, so I wear them and could give a frog’s fine ass hair who sees what. You do business with me, love me, are my friend – you love them, too. I finally decided to follow my heart and my heart has never…ever…led me awry. While it doesn’t take the smoothest of paved roads each time, I’ve never not valued the scenery its shown me along the way.