Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tattoos tell stories

I'm a big fan of tattoos. I love looking at the work on other people, asking them about when they got it and what it means to them.  I really do feel like the tattoos people choose say something about them.  Or maybe that's just because all of mine are significant to me.

I got my first tattoo when I was 20 years old.  It's on my lower back. Yeah, yeah.  I know what you're thinking, and I'll admit I get a little annoyed when people refer to it as a tramp stamp. I just don't like the label.  Though I sometimes wish I'd gotten the tattoo somewhere else, I don't for one second regret the ink.  It symbolizes one of my first musical passions -- 'N Sync.  Yep, it's the star and flame logo from their first U.S. album. I should probably be ashamed to admit that, but I'm not. (Click here to see the tattoo.)

My second tattoo happened a few years later at a cheap little place in Texas.  It's a treble clef with eighth notes on the inside of my left ankle, and it was more of a generic nod to my love of music.  I never envisioned changing it until recently, but we'll get to that in a moment.

I got my third piece of body art when I attended my first Texas Rangers Opening Day back in 2009.  It's a heart with baseball stitching located on the inside of my right ankle, and it's absolutely perfect.  The artist I worked with was great, and I'm still really proud of this piece.  I've decided I'll add the Rangers logo at some point in the future, preferably after they win a World Series. I was ONE STRIKE AWAY from doing that just a few years ago, but ... I really don't want to talk about that. (You can click here to see my baseball tattoo.)

That brings me to my latest tattoo.  I don't know if I can call it my fourth because even though I've sat in an artist's chair four times, there's still only ink on three areas of my body (my back and the inside of each ankle).  I've been thinking about this concept for more than a year.  It finally came to a fruition last Friday afternoon, courtesy of Berry, of my brother's friends who works as a tattoo artist in Ames.

Check it out:

I like it more and more with each passing day.

So what does it mean?

Well, if you know me or have been reading this space for any length of time, you know about my admiration for a certain musician named Tim Stop.

I discovered him in 2009 when my brother still owned a bar and invited me to come check out this band he'd just booked.  I was going through a rough patch (read: broken heart) at the time, so I figured a night out of town listening to a little band might be a good distraction.  Music is my therapy and during that week, I'd been listening to John Mayer's "I'm Gonna Find Another You" on repeat.  It's not his most well-known song, so color me surprised when Tim Stop (and his band) covered the song that night.  Then they immediately went into a Billy Joel cover song. I was sold.

I've since seen Tim perform live 24 times (and counting), and I feel safe in considering him a friend at this point.  A very talented and kind friend.

Fast forward to about 18 months ago.  I was going through some more rough times and I turned to music again, and it was about this time that Tim put out a new album, "Across the Atlantic."  One track on there kept speaking to me.  It's called "Open Road."

I don't listen any longer to the voices in my head
I ain't gotten any stronger doing anything they've said
And I don't worry any longer about the girls that pass me by
I know the ones that really matter will find their way into my life

Oh my God the sun is shining on this open road
Let it take me anywhere, that's where I want to go

There's a saying that goes something like, "You'll regret the things you didn't do"
And after all the times I've messed up, I'm thinking that it must be true
Because I've cared too much about what people think, and it kept me inside my shell
But the people that'll like me like me anyway, and everybody else can go to hell
That's why I'm singing

Oh my God the sun is shining on this open road
Let it take me anywhere, that's where I want to go

And it's not that I'll never learn to trust somebody else
But probably first I should learn to trust myself

I just don't care any longer about your fortune and your fame
Living a life for anything but what's in your heart
Isn't it a crying shame?
That's why I'm singing

Oh my God the sun is shining on this open road
Let it take me anywhere, that's where I want to go

The song has become a bit of an anthem for me, especially in light of the last few years as I went through employment woes and cycling out of friendships.  So about eight months ago, I began thinking about getting a tattoo based on the lyrics.  But as you might have noticed, the song covers a lot of bases, and I wasn't sure how I'd commit that on skin.  I worked with my tattoo artist of choice.  He sent me an idea and I countered with some adjustments.  We went back and forth a few times before settling on the final product.  I think it's a great enhancement for my pre-existing ink.

Here's the before and after of that tattoo:

So much better, right?

The road part is an obvious nod to the title of the song. I chose the last line because it symbolizes the idea that even when times are tough, good things are ahead as long as I remain open and true to myself.

I get free touch-ups for six months, and Berry said we could go back in and add some more music notes on the "road" if I want.  I'm going to think about that.

I'm sure some people think it's crazy for me to make a permanent mark on my body for a song I love right now but might not still love in several years.  And they're entitled to that opinion.  But I think they're wrong.  No matter what happens to my musical interests over the years, this tattoo will serve as a reminder of a time when I didn't have everything figured out but kept going anyway.  Besides, the tattoo is on my body, so it doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks.

By the way, yes, Tim is aware of the tattoo.  I told him before it happened and texted him a photo when it was done, and he likes it.

Do you have any tattoos?
Feel free to tell me about them!


  1. I LOVE tattoos for this reason!!! Hey - just because you love it now, doesn't mean you won't later. I think if you truly THINK about the tattoo you want for a while, and you don't change your mind, you won't regret it. Yours is awesome, I love that you added more to it, to give it more context and meaning. It's wonderful :)

    I have a tattoo on the right side of my ribcage that says "live". Such a "trendy" tattoo but I got it because I finally got out of a 5 and a half year relationship that trapped me in so many ways. When I was out, I felt free again. I got it to remind myself every day to live my life to the fullest. When I look at it, I remember how far I've come and it's such a positive message.

  2. I love that your tattoos are special to you, and you're so right not to care about what anyone else thinks! I don't have any tattoos and don't think I'll ever get one, but I like hearing the stories and meanings behind everyone else's.

  3. I loved this so much. I love tattoos and the stories behind them as well. I love music, musicians, and lyrics. I have 3 different tattoos that are music related. And, I love the last piece and how that was worked around previous ink. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I love it! I want another too but I don't know what to get. Maybe my wedding date? I don't know. Do people do that? Anyway, I love your baseball tat too.

  5. Okay I'm glad I learned how you became a Rangers fan now! I thought you were from Texas because of your deep love of The Rangers until you said something about Iowa.

    As for this I love tattoo stories. I always think even if the tattoo may not have meaning the story of how someone got it is interesting. If they have deeper significance you always are getting a peek into the person at a deeper level.

    P.S. - I kind of want to punch people who call lower back tattoos Tramp Stamps because it's SO sexist. We don't call bicep tattoos any bro-type of language. Why does it also have to be sexual based too? Rude. Sorry for the mini-rant it's just one of my biggest peeves.

  6. I am a lover of tattoos and love finding out people's story behind them. I loved reading about yours above. I also have a tattoo - a small star on my hip that was representative of me being my own person and a small act of rebellion. I still love it to this day. Love your newest addition!

  7. I love tattoos! I currently have 11 (I think. I lost count at some point.). Most of mine have meaning of some sort, even if it's just in the story behind them. The most recent is a tattoo of Bermuda. It actually matches my husband's and that's where we went on our honeymoon. It was the most amazing trip where we learned so much about each other and about life so we wanted to always remember it. I love that all of yours have meaning too!

  8. I love that your tattoos are all meaningful to you and not just ink for ink's sake. And I love what you did with your treble clef and notes. It really looks amazing.

  9. I love the meaning behind all your tattoos and think it's AWESOME that you have an N Sync star :) I have one tattoo. I got a matching star with my best friend when I found out I got this big job after college. We made a pact that if I got the job (and then had to move away), we'd get matching tattoos to remind us of each other. It still makes me smile.


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