Several months ago, I acquired the first of what I hope will be a small but colorful collection of tattoos. Although it was my first tattoo, I felt the irresistible urge to defy expectations and common practices and get a really big one. I already had in mind what I wanted, but after much inquiry and exploration of the parlor's templates, I remembered a tattoo idea from many years past that I had nearly forgotten.
Over time, I created new ideas for tattoos, such as a traditional Arabic phrase of peaceful welcoming, and serene buddhas and picturesque lotus flowers to represent my diverse cultural interests. There was no resident Middle Eastern on site, and alas, I had forgotten at home the inky plans that a friendly restaurant owner had generously drawn up for me. Perhaps serendipitously, I found a template of a giant bird with long feathers in blue and green. This drawing perfectly expressed my ideal tattoo of a phoenix, rising from the ashes in its promised and continual rebirth.
After a few adjustments, resizes (bigger!), and of course, a change of color from fairytale blues and greens to fiery reds and oranges, the tattoo was ready for its monumental application, to bless me with a lifetime of memories, attention, satisfaction, and inspiration. The pain itself was expected and just as I had imagined it to be; the years where I so deeply knew that I wanted a tattoo had prepared me for the ritual.
It was a spiritual experience through its pain and intense commitment, where I was forced to come face to face with my pain threshold, and the meaning and importance of such a tolerance and the moment's purpose were forged and tattooed upon my identity. Part of the experience was the exhilaration of the pain, also the excitement of the rebellion, and the serenity of my intention, and yet also the people that were there with me, bearing witness to a spiritual rite of passage, and otherwise an equally incredible event. My friends stuck it out with me, holding my hands and talking to me, entertaining me and supporting me. My artist, my savior, and my constant companion was also supportive and validating. His work is true art. And then there were those who were just passing through, people whose names I don't recall or never knew, who stopped to watch and ask me if I was sane or stupid.
The attention I got was a taste of what was to come, because of the novelty and impression of tattoos. Also, I don't think that people see me and consider that I'm the "type" of person to do such a thing, perhaps because some people think it's not a smart or healthy thing to do. But the whole experience of getting and bearing a tattoo is to express one's identity; and I believe that I have done that in the fullest, and best sense.
The tattoo itself is a representation of what I hope to be the happy core of my essence; redemption, peace, struggle, and strength, all symbolized by the eternal flame of the phoenix who is forever etched onto my shoulder blades, spine and pelvis, captured in her moment of truth, as she is reborn from the fire of her being and rises from the ashes of failure.