Day 7 is a long one…

Day 7 – What tattoos you have and if they have meaning

HAHA Well… Grab some popcorn and a comfy chair because we’re going to be here for a while.

The thing is I love to talk about my tattoos. But I’m pretty sure after a couple sentences most people stop listening. Or wish they hadn’t asked in the first place. I have 10 and all of them have some level of personal meaning. I have one I want that I really only want because it’s pretty and it has no deep personal meaning which is probably why I’m having so much trouble imagining how it should look.

I guess I’ll start with the first one I got and work from there…

1. My first tattoo ever was a flash tattoo I picked off the wall. I was in my first year of college, away from home and wanted to get a tattoo because I’d wanted one since I was like 5 (okay, maybe 13 or 14). I spent way too much for what it was and eventually added more to it but my very first tattoo was a blue flower. Non-descript, something similar to a forget-me-not or cornflower, and about the size of a nickel. A year or so later, I added an elf. I had a friend at the time who was heavily into fantasy and fantasy role playing games and was convinced that I was a real life elf. Still is. So much so that he convinced me. So, I took that little flower and drew a little elf around it.

2. Between my shoulders is a purple Celtic knot wrapped around the Scorpio M rune symbol thing in green and orange because purple is my favorite color and green, white, and orange are the colors of the Irish flag for my Irish heritage. Celtic knots are never ending, representing the tradition of storytelling; which is fitting because I am a storyteller.

3. On my right hip is the first band tribute tattoo I ever got. AFI’s Decemberunderground album centered around an image of three rabbits in a circle. For the most part they were black but every so often you would find the rabbits in white. My idea was to create something that both honored AFI but also closed a painful and destructive chapter of my life. It sounds kind of trivial when I say it out loud, because I am blessed with the unique problem of hearing my own words from the perspective of whomever might be listening, but I was engaged and he called it off and I couldn’t distinguish up from down.

When I finally made the decision to move on and leave him behind, I put together a tattoo design to remind myself of everything – the good and the bad – that he had been to me. It is just as much a reminder of how good things had been as it is of the way it ended.  I did a lot of research and eventually found a Latin American folklore (he’s second generation Mexican-American) claiming that seeing a white rabbit means a girl has met her soul mate. He and I had always – almost from the first weekend we met – felt like we were two halves of the same soul that had been one whole person in a previous life but somehow got divided in reincarnation.

A black rabbit, in animal magick, represents lies and things left unsaid. And there was a lot of that. At least the latter. I’m not sure about lies because of the things left unsaid but there were definitely things left unsaid. The rabbits are positioned around the Pisces symbol (which looks a little like an H) with the words “Through our bleeding, we are one” written below the whole scene.

4. On my right calf is another band tribute. Kill Hannah’s primary logo is a heart centered in a rifle sight (deemed a “sniper heart”). One of my favorite songs of theirs is Crazy Angel. This tattoo is an illustration of that song with the sniper heart logo and frayed angel wings that are shedding their feathers. Specifically the lyric “As your wings discard their feathers on the ground, I see a halo, up above you.” I got it almost six years ago and it is still (as far as I know) one of singer Mat Devine’s favorite fan tattoos ever. In the top ten at least. He even remembered it well enough a year later to ask to see it again and get a picture of it.

5. The first year I was able to attend Kill Hannah’s New Heart for Christmas weekend, there was a tattoo fundraiser for To Write Love On Her Arms. The band connected with a tattoo shop in Chicago and set up three designs we could get and the shop would donate a portion of the profits to TWLOHA. One of those designs was the word LOVE in Mat’s handwriting and that is what is on my right wrist. To Write Love On Her Arms. is an organization devoted to support people dealing with depression and other mental illnesses or with self-harm. There was nothing like it when I needed it and because of that I whole heartedly support what they do. I am an ally and that’s why I wrote LOVE on my arm (I actually sent them a picture of the tattoo with that statement attached but I still like it).

6. I went back to Chicago the following year for my second New Heart for Christmas and on my last day there, I got my second official Kill Hannah tattoo. While not one of my “favorite” songs, there was a song that always managed to find me when I needed encouragement or inspiration, Get Famous. The basic idea of the song is if you have a dream, do whatever you have to do to make it come true. “Get famous, even if it takes every white blood cell you ever had.” So I truncated that lyric and put the words “even if it takes every white blood cell” on my left wrist, surrounding Kill Hannah’s “military butterfly” logo.

7. One of my favorite bands in college was Something Corporate. They toured with Yellowcard in 2004. I missed dates in two different cities on that tour and they broke up shortly after that. Singer Andrew McMahon started a new project he called Jack’s Mannequin and wrote a song for his second album with that project called Swim. I finally got to see him live in 2013. I had gone into the show knowing that if I got a chance to meet him that I wanted to ask him to write the word Swim on my ticket stub. What I didn’t know was what I was going to put with it to finish the tattoo I had planned. Until the music started. My choices were (obviously) lyrics from the song. “Just keep your head above, swim” or “Swim for the music that saves you.” It only took a few chords to know it had to be the latter.  Only a couple days later I got the lyric tattooed on my chest.

I waited outside the venue after the show and when it was my turn to meet him, I brazenly asked for a hug and then told him about my tattoo. Two years later, almost to the day, I had another chance to meet and talk to him. I showed him the tattoo and he loved it. I have moments in my life when things happen that I couldn’t make up if I tried. That was one of those moments.

8. My first band tribute tattoo was for AFI. The summer before I had the chance to show Andrew McMahon my “Swim” tattoo, I saw AFI play for the third time. It was a very different show compared to the first two times I’d seen them. They were opening the show instead of headlining so they weren’t playing to their crowd which meant the crowd was much more subdued. Which meant I got to actually stand at the barrier and watch the show instead of just listen to it while being tossed around the mosh pit. I left that show knowing I had to get another tattoo to honor them. It took me about 8 months to put together the idea.

One of the logos AFI has used over the years was a flaming rose. I used that at the center of the design and built around it. I dug through several songs and pulled together every reference I could find to stars. Some of them were literal images of stars while others were allusions to fallen angels. So the rest of the tattoo is folded angel wings (for the fallen) and trails of stars.

Almost as soon as it was finished I started thinking of how to expand it, bring the stars further down my arm.

9 and 10. Last summer, I finally got the chance to meet another of my favorite musicians, Chris Carrabba. My Little Sister and I had seen him, either solo or with Dashboard Confessional, four times together and for our fifth time we went all in and bought VIP passes, ensuring that we would absolutely have the chance to meet him. Finally. After all of my various run ins with Mat Devine and my couple extraordinary experiences with Andrew McMahon, I have kind of abandoned any glimmer of being starstruck. When it was our turn to get our photo and autograph, I told him how many times we’d seen him together and that we would love to get the words “Don’t wait” (the title of and lyric from a Dashboard Confessional song) tattooed together. He gave us four different versions so our artist could pick the one she liked best.

The opening band for that first New Heart for Christmas I was able to attend was Awaken the Empire, fronted by a guy several of us had met while promoting for Kill Hannah. We spent most of the weekend hanging out with the band in our hotel room and in the time since, we have all become good friends. That weekend three of the girls I was staying with went to a shop and got their logo tattooed to show their support. I wanted something a little more…me. So I waited. Four years.

Their debut full-length album released in the summer of 2015. I had kind of already decided what I was going to get but wanted to wait until I heard the whole album to make sure something else didn’t resonate stronger.

In October of 2015, I sat down with my tattoo artist for tattoos 9 and 10. In the bend of my right elbow (above the word LOVE) are the words “Don’t wait” in Chris Carrabba’s handwriting. “Don’t wait to lay your armor down.” Don’t wait to live life and do the things that will make you happy. Don’t wait to say the things that you need someone to hear. I put them in a place I could see them every day, multiple times a day, because the message they carry is not one I am terribly adept at following. On my left foot is “Unite and rise above,” from Awaken the Empire’s Rise + Fall. The full lyric is “Can we unite and rise above our battle scars?” In a way, it kind of ties back to that first AFI tattoo, “Through our bleeding, we are one.”

I’m definitely not finished. I have plans for several more. Just have to prioritize and save up the cash. HAHA


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