I adorn my body with the art of memory and experience. My flesh a canvas for the words of my soul. Art and words intertwine to form an outward telling of my story. Each tattoo contains history and meaning, small vignettes of my life painted upon skin.

Today, I start to tell their stories, my stories. This post is the first in a series that will feature each of my tattoos and the meaning behind them.

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It makes sense to start from the beginning, so the above picture is of my very first tattoo which I got about 7 years ago. As it was my first tattoo, I tried to pack as much meaning as I could into one tattoo because I wasn’t sure I would be getting anymore (I laugh at that though now). So let’s break it down.

I had wanted a tattoo for a very long time. Throughout high school, I would look for pictures of things I would want as tattoos and had several planned out. I assumed that I would get one once I got to college and was free to do so. Unfortunately, I was still in a relationship with my first boyfriend from college (one that I came to realize was abusive). He was adamantly against the idea of me getting a tattoo and so that plan got put on hold for the sake of our relationship.

(Side note to anyone reading: If your partner tries to tell you what you are and aren’t allowed to do with your body that is a red flag, a big red flag. Your partner should not be trying to control you)

After I realized that the relationship I was in was abusive (thank you college dorm bathroom poster!), I left him and started to rebuild my life outside of the relationship I had been in for three years. Thankfully I had made some great friends (including the man who is now my husband) who were there for me and helped me rebuild.

Then, over the summer, while I was home with my family away from all my friends, I received a phone call that seemed to stop time. One of my friends had died. I shattered, my heart broken into a million pieces. She had been almost like a mother to me in the ways that she cared for me and looked out for me. I had spent long nights chatting with her about everything from breakfast foods to the afterlife and the universe.

Her death shook me to the core. It was a turning point for me that seemed to change everything. Not long after her death, I began planning my first tattoo, a memorial to her. I started with the image of a tree because trees had a special meaning for us and really represented our friendship in ways that can’t truly be explained.

From there, I decided that I wanted it to be a tree of life. I had recently studied up on Yggdrasil and found the concept beautiful and fitting. Yggdrasil, the tree that connects the nine realms, would connect us even in her death. Within the roots of the tree I designed a Celtic knot for protection so that she would always be there watching over me as she had been in life.

Within the roots of the tree, I hid a treble clef in the center. Music has always been a large part of my life. I sang in choirs from the time I was three through college. I learned several instruments throughout youth. More importantly, however, was the meaning music held for me. Music has always been an escape for me. Music is how I process my emotions and my life. Music brings my soul to life and keeps me going. So, of course, I had to include a tribute to this.

Surrounding the tree is a crescent moon and three stars. Before she died, she, two of our friends, and I used to spend nights out in the moonlight staring up at the stars. The fields around campus became familiar tromping grounds for us graced by starlight. Thus, she became the moon and the three of us that remained are the stars. Forever we remain joined, not just by our love and connection but through ink upon skin.

This tattoo, my first tattoo, may not look like much, but it is so full of meaning and emotion for me. As I’ve written this, I have had to pause as memories and emotions came flooding back. To me, that is a beautiful thing; the way we can capture so much emotion and memories within a few strokes of ink carved into flesh.