I believe in commemorating the stages of my life through symbolic medium. This isn’t a new idea; human beings have documented their lives with symbols since ancient times. I wanted a symbol to capture my current stage in life, so a couple of weeks before my 30th birthday, I got my first tattoo: a rowing icon incased in a maple leaf, all in black with extensive shading.
Some don’t understand why I did it. “Because that’s what all the cool 30-year-olds are doing,” I tell them. Tattoos were trendy when I was in high school. Now that body art is becoming mainstream, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m trying to be fashionable. This dilemma caused another: where should I locate my permanent ink so it doesn’t look like a trendy endeavor? After all, my tattoo is something symbolic for me, not a fashion accessory. I was nearly ready to march into the tattoo parlor and tell the artist, “Place this design on my left butt-cheek, please. I want to keep this to myself.”
And then I started thinking. My Canadian heritage is important to me, and so is rowing. And both represent who I am today: a Canadian living in America because of rowing. But other aspects of my current life are also important. For many years, I never felt like a participant in my own life. I observed everything going on around me instead of being part of the action. Sure, I did things, but I did them in a very introverted way. Wow… have I ever changed.
Today I don’t sit back and observe my life; I dive in head first and actively orchestrate, rather than passively flow with, the action. I’m not afraid to speak up. I make jokes and laugh really loud and am not sensitive to others hearing my ideas, my humor, my boisterous trilling. I am living my life out loud. Hiding a tattoo on my derrière would be a step in the wrong direction, would be reverting to living in hushed whispers.
My ink is so much more than a tattoo to me – it’s my hieroglyph, a chapter in the sacred text of my life. My hieroglyph sits on my right shoulder, loud and visible, shouting to the world that this Canadian, this rower will not fade into the background, but will always be out there.