Some of you may know, and maybe some of you will be surprised to know, but I have four tattoos.
I see them all the time on people, and I like to ask what the story is behind each one… sometimes there is a good one, more often there is an embarrassing one that starts with, “Well, I was 18 years old…”
For me, I have no regrets, and I am not embarrassed. Even though I was only about 21 or 22 when I got my first one, even still, I love what each one of them stand for. They each mark an important, pivotal, moment in my life, and I would invite those of you who love your tats to share your story here in the comments. What did you get, and more importantly, why did you get it?
My first tattoo…
I was in my early 20’s, as I mentioned, and I had just returned home to San Diego from a two and a half month long European excursion with my very best friend in the world. This particular friend will always be the missing piece of my soul. I call her my ‘girlfriend’ because we met while playing opposites in a play entitled Stop Kiss. If you’re curious, it’s the single most important piece of theater I ever took part in. I played Callie and she played Sara. It’s the story of two gals who became friends and accidentally fell in love. It’s a beautiful, amazing, moving, emotional, loving, perfect, important show that challenges all kinds of things in all the right ways, and it changed me. I fell in love with my friend Tess (no, it’s not what you think), and I know we’ll always be linked because of that show.
After I graduated college- she was a few years behind me- she encouraged me to audition along side her for a very challenging and amazing summer theatre program at Oxford University in England. I did, because she believed in me. We both got in. That summer was one of the most transformational of my life. If you’ve ever studied and/or traveled abroad, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Either way, that summer, I left behind a very toxic relationship. And by ‘left behind’ I don’t mean that I had recently ended it. I mean that I had recently moved in with my boyfriend, who was emotionally abusive and controlling, and he was staying in the US while I was changing in Europe. When I returned, I discovered that he- along with a string of boyfriends before him- had not just cheated on me, but had started another relationship on the side. So along with a heartbreak and the feeling of being absolutely lost in the world, I was also homeless.
I ended up moving into Tess’ dinning room, temporarily. Temporarily lasted almost a year. And during that year on Tess’ dinning room floor, I started to really figure out who I was and what I wanted out of life. I drew a firm line in the sand- one that put me on one side, and all men on the other. I placed a self imposed dating ban on myself. I clearly couldn’t be trusted to choose myself a mate. And I promised myself that I wouldn’t lift the ban for anyone who wasn’t worthy of me. And by that I meant: ZERO red flags, no compromising my morals or my heart, no falling for anyone who wasn’t committed to me for the long run. NO DATING!
I also was going through a season of confronting the reality that when a person had been hurt as deeply, and as many times by men as I had, it was going to be dang near impossible to give myself fully to the next person. Honestly, at times it felt like there were only mere pieces to give to whoever would come next. And I felt afraid of doing even that much.
But I knew that I would have to when the time came… if I wanted to really love. Callie and Sara taught me that there really is only one way to love well, to have a love that’s worth while, and that’s to give all of yourself… all the way.
So my best friend Tess had a tattoo on her right front hip of a star. I couldn’t tell if it was a falling star or a shooting star… but what I loved about it then, and this seems so fitting now, is that it’s all about perspective, right? To one person a star is falling, and to another, it’s shooting. It’s rocketing. It’s souring.
In that season I felt like my star was falling, but looking back… it was absolutely shooting.
With Tess’ excited permission, I got a tattoo to match hers on my right, front hip, and she had hers edited to match mine. Because in the stardust that rocketed out behind the star, the tattoo artist wrote “all of me.” It’s connected as one word, and really not meant to be read so much as to just be there, but it fuels me.
All of me.
It came from the lyrics to a song that played during one of the scenes in Stop Kiss. It was a pivotal scene for my character, where she made a decision to love and not to fear. It connected me to Tess. And it connected me to my future.
The next man who I would allow myself to date became my husband. And I walked down the isle towards him to the only other song that played in that show. It was at the end of the play, when the two characters decided to go all in. Tess was also at the end of the isle as one of my bridesmaids of course.
My second tattoo…
Not long after my first tattoo, my sister and I decided we liked each other. Readers, some sisters grow up as best friends, and although we did have so many great times, this would not describe my sister and I. We are just shy of 3 years apart (today is her birthday actually, and that will become relevant here in a second), and in our formative years we bonded over Nsync and disliking our step father. And that would be about it.
Her senior year of high school we got a touch closer when she and I each dated one of a pair of identical twins. That was fun. And then my senior year of college, she moved in with me for her first year at San Diego State University. That was a great year. Yes, it was the year that I started dating the last boyfriend mentioned, but it was a fantastic change of pace for my sister and I. We finally became peers. It seemed we were at long last, on the same page and in the same life stage. And because we hadn’t grown up with any other siblings, it was she and I against the world in a lot of ways. And I’m proud to say that I feel more connected to her now, today, than ever before.
But my second tattoo really marked the beginning of our friendship beyond our sistership. I drew the tattoo myself and if you can’t tell, it’s the Gemini birth sign (for her) and the Virgo birth sign (for me), connected. She is a Gemini 1 and I’m a Virgo 3 (it just refers to the stage of the sign you’re born in), and so that’s why there are correlating stars. Geminis and Vigros are very different, but she and I are connected. And we will always be.
She has the same one on her left heel. Mine is on my right. She’s left handed and I’m right handed. Pretty simple.
My third tattoo…
Much like the first one, this one has a bit of a back story. When I got this tattoo, Thomas and I had recently gotten married- like only a few months before- and our relationship had moved relatively quickly (read more here). We had only been dating for one year and one day when we said, “I do.” And because he was joining the military, only a few short months after becoming someone’s wife, I was moving from California to Texas.
But let me back up just a little bit more here…
When Thomas and I started dating, I was truly lost. Yes, I had my ‘all of me’ tattoo, and I had decided that I was willing to go all in with someone one day, and when Tom came into my life, I knew immediately that it was going to be him. But that was the ONLY thing in my life that I knew for sure. I had spent from age 8 until age 24, pursuing the dream of becoming a famous actress. During those 15 years, I didn’t go more than 2-3 months without performing in a show or being filmed or taking an acting class. I was serious and I was committed. After 2 years in the ‘professional world’ of theater, I had decided that it wasn’t what I wanted anymore.
This was an impossible decision. And it broke the tiny pieces of my heart that hadn’t already been broken by the men in my life. Only a few days before I started dating Thomas, I had moved back to Woodland (Northern), California to live with my mom and step dad. Readers, I planned and executed 3 separate ‘going away’ parties for myself, because twice I tried to move home and couldn’t make myself do it. But on that third time…
So Thomas found me in a season of severe depression and anxiety. A few months into our relationship, he followed an ambulance to the ER as I lost my marbles inside it. I was medicated. I was co-dependent. I was losty-lost-lost.
It’s a freaking act of God that that man stayed with me. The whole actually going through with marrying me… I’ll never understand it as long as I live. But I’ll go to my knees as long as I’m able because of it.
So when Thomas left for basic training, and I knew I would have to be alone at my mom’s house for months before his return, I moved back into Tess’ house in San Diego.
Readers, when Tom and I first stared dating, and I would lose my mind about something, he would just call Tess and put me on the phone. I guess you could say I have Tess to thank for us being married. She was quite helpful. So where else would I go when Tom left as someone so co-dependent as me?
But anyway, after only about a week and a half in San Diego, I realized that I needed to move to Texas to be with Thomas. Not because I felt like I needed to be with him. But more because I didn’t know how to feel like me without him. Yes, we’re talking serious co-dependent, stalker status here people. This isn’t romantic, trust me. This is my lowest point.
When Woodland stopped feeling like where I belonged- the place I had spent the majority of my life- I moved to San Diego. And when San Diego very quickly was revealed to be just another place I had lived, and not my home either… I didn’t know where home was. I didn’t know where I belonged… When I was MOST lost…
I went and I got a compass rose tattooed on my left hip!
It’s not as silly as it sounds. Truly, to me it was meant as a reminder that wherever I am, is where I belong. My true north is my future- where I’m going- and my ‘home’ or my ‘past’ was in the West (thus the W being the only direction marked).
Yes, that is a Walt Disney ‘W’… However, in truth, that’s also how I write the W in my own name. And yes, the older I get, the more of a committed Disney fan I become, so it’s still relevant and not at all regrettable.
You’ll notice that there are 2 stars to the right of North on the compass. Well, as I said before, my true north is where my future resided then, and still resides today…
Second star to the right, and straight on till morning…
Neverland! Where I never have to grow up, and I can dream while I’m awake. That’s where my future will always be pointing. And that’s where I’ll always be headed. It makes me smile even more today, because it’s more true than ever.
But here is what is REALLY fun… you’ll notice that my stretch marks distort the north tip of the compass rose. And it also distorts the ‘W’ for West. No where else on the tattoo is disrupted, and the shooting star on my other hip was also spared…
I don’t know about you, but having kids has sure rocked my ‘true north’ and sometimes makes me forget where I came from!! But seriously, don’t you find that fun that my babies distorted a part of my tattoos and left their mark on my compass? I love it. And even though at first, I was disappointed and wanted to get the tattoo fixed, I quickly realized that my stretch marks tell a story, just like my tattoos. They leave their mark and they chronicle an important, pivotal part of my journey. And yes, although having kids in a lot of ways means that I have grown up, I am still aiming towards that second star to the right, because who else is going to teach these kids how to dream with their eyes wide open?
Fun facts: My corporation is called Second Star Inc. I love Peter pan and it’s my favorite ride in Fantasy Land at Disneyland. The original story of Peter Pan is where the name Wendy comes from. It’s the first example of Wendy being used as a name. So you know… Still relevant and not at all regrettable.
My fourth tattoo…
This one is simple. And this one is recent… less than a year old. My dear friend and business partner, Molly Lovell, was planning to get her first tattoo. She was telling me all about a recent battle with the enemy that she had walked through and had won. She had won the battle, but the war would continue to be waged and she knew it. A war with pride. A war that I was very familiar with, how about you?
When success comes in our lives, it’s hard to stay humble! Let’s just get real here people! It’s hard to remember that we’re blessed, we’re not important. We’re lifted up, we’re not capable on our own accord. We’re given opportunity, we’re not able to climb the mountains alone. And yet, how quick are we to claim all the glory and all the victory as our own?
Molly spoke of a book she was reading- I can’t recall which now- that told her of a few famous composers and artists that had signed their work and their masterpieces SDG…
Soli Deo Gloria. All the glory to God.
It reminded her, and it struck me immediately, that we were created to glorify God… not ourselves. And she was getting the tattoo on her cell phone hand (we run virtual businesses after all) as a reminder to give God the glory as she worked and built her business.
“I’m 100% getting that with you!” I said. She agreed that we should do it together, because we basically do everything including raise our babies, study the bible, grow our businesses, travel, and cry together.
Less than a week later, she picked me up at the airport in Reno, Nevada- conveniently we had dressed alike with matching shirts, similar black work out pants, and Arbonne hats- and she and I went and got our reminder set in skin.
I love all these stories and the tattoos that represent them. It reminds me of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. They’re my stories, my testimony to the work He has begun in me. The work He’s not nearly done with. And yes, because the story isn’t over yet… I can’t be sure the tattoos are either.
But until next time… now you know.