Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Life of Tattoos

For as long as I can remember I have had a strong desire to get a tattoo. I came across a roadblock however, as the time in which I was finally able to (legally) acquire one just so happened to coincide with the beginning of my time here at Loyola. My parents always threatened that they would stop paying for my education if I ever came home with a tattoo, and although I doubted they would put my future in jeopardy over a respectably located inscription, I did not want to test their limits. Getting a tattoo was the one thing my three older sisters failed to do before me, so I literally had no idea what the true reaction of my parents would be. I held out for as long as I could, but once the time came for me to spend a semester abroad, I was determined to return with a marking that symbolized my time away from home. Due to a combination of plummeting funds and a lack of revelation, my skin returned from Australia flawless, and I was defeated. More than content with the experiences of the greatest four months of my life, I was reluctant to tarnish them with a tattoo that did not bring justice to my journey. Ideas have arisen in the time since my return, and I will no doubt receive my Australian-related (FIRST!) tattoo in the near future; however, my view of its significance has been greatly reinforced. Dr. Ellis states, “For people who acquired Pacific marks and then departed the region, tattoo remained a sign of a specific place that came to represent elsewhere, sometimes indicating a desired destination” (p26). For four months, I found myself at home in a foreign region. A region that brought my inner being further towards that mysterious and serene “elsewhere,” and a region that I desire to return to with every waking moment.

In Tattooing the World, Dr. Ellis covers the three aspects of tattoos that I have always found fascinating about such works of art. First off, tattoos have the power to directly connect aspects of our inner most cores with our exterior appearance. Tattoos “make visible the simultaneous intensification and joining of the interior and the exterior” (18). Whether I notice the full extent of it or not, my time in Australia had an enormous impact on the person I am today. I am constantly growing, but in that time I was marked with the reassurance that I can live apart from my family and loved ones if need be. I was lucky enough to have my friends from Loyola and all around the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, but we were strangers upon my arrival. I found a deeper strength of self-reliance and a new capacity for friendship within myself that I did not know existed, and may have never known existed without such a wonderful gift. Second, and somewhat most obvious, is the fact that tattoos are permanent, “it will be your ornament and your companion until your last day” (Rakuraku p16). What prevented me from getting a tattoo down under is the fact that the perfect idea never came to mind, and I could never live the rest of my life without the perfect tattoo. They mark a special aspect of our lives that we will be constantly reminded of, and although I could never forget my time abroad, I long for the appropriate reminder. I’m also fascinated by the fact that no one can strip of us of our tattoos without the painful removal of skin, or by taking it away through taking our lives. Tattoos eternally belong to their owner, and only their owner. They serve as an image of what is inherently ours, just like the soul. Finally, what I love most about tattoos, as well as all signs of moving art, is the fact that they have a personal meaning, yet yield an infinite amount of interpretations for others, “Such is the rich instability of the tattoo, whose meanings may be imposed in one frame or reference but transposed within another” (p13).

I know that my tattoo will eventually entail the line “A Lucky Man Who Made The Grade,” from the Beatles masterpiece “A Day in the Life.” Every major event of my life gathers a soundtrack from the most prevalent album amongst my selection at the time. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was my favorite album during my stay in Australia, and although the album closer deals with potholes in England, the song’s jarring crescendos directly mirror my emotional exuberance of being abroad. I consider myself to be the luckiest kid in the world on behalf of my opportunity to travel, and as I grew into a man, I found a sense of contentment I never knew before. Not to mention, I surprisingly passed every class I took with flying colors. People may see my tattoo and comment on how great of a song Lennon and McCartney created together, but they will never know the personal prevalence it holds amongst the days of my life.

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