Tattoos are the Scars we Choose

I have a scar. It’s right between my eyes and reminds me every day when I look in the mirror that life is precious and that I overcame something scary when I was very small. (For those wondering, I had a benign tumor when I was six months old).

My opinions toward my scar weren’t always positive. As a child, I used to get really tired of people asking me what my scar was about. One day, frustrated, (and only about 10 years old), I told one girl that I tried to staple my Halloween mask to my face when I was younger. The poor girl actually believed me.

Another time in high school, while riding the yellow cheese wagon, one boy looked at me (we had never spoken before) and with big bug eyes exclaimed “you have a scar just like Rob Zombie!” I was pretty mortified. It wasn’t really the look I was going for at 16, nor the reaction I was seeking from teenaged boys.

It got to the point that I went to a plastic surgeon to ask about having the scar removed. It would be a pretty invasive and expensive procedure – they would basically re-cut me in a zigzag pattern (it would apparently “blend in” to my face better) and then use many laser treatments to “fade” the scar. I said no way Jose, and went on with life.

When I was younger, I also didn’t understand the point of a tattoo. When I was about 18, and in one of my first long-term relationships, my boyfriend came home with a tattoo. It was giant, ugly and colourful…but most of all, it was shocking. He had never once spoken about wanting a tattoo, and here he was – with a giant PHOENIX BIRD image on his bulging bicep, complete with fire blazing from the creature’s beak. I asked him, with tears in my eyes, “what does it signify for you?” He shrugged and said “I thought it was cool.” I think that was the beginning of the end for us…I couldn’t understand why someone would emblazon on them, something so permanent and meaningless, on such an exposed part of their body. About a year later, he decided that he didn’t really like the tattoo anymore and got a snake put around it and turned the phoenix bird into a black “rock.” A ROCK. That was about the middle of the end of it for us.

It took me a really long time to decide that I wanted a tattoo, and wasn’t even sure of it when I got it. But I had really good reasons for it – I was nearing the end of this amazing, life-changing, self-exploratory trip and I felt like I needed to respect it and honor it somehow. At the time, I really felt like I had connected with myself and who I was – I almost felt “enlightened.” So, I went off and commissioned my personal artwork and had it placed in a private spot on my canvas. Whenever I see it, just like my real scar, it reminds me that life is precious and that I am Kenna and that I truly know myself and who I am.

Somewhat surprisingly, I had all of these revelations before I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; so I especially connected with the story when the protagonist, Lisbeth, got a new tattoo after a fairly traumatizing incident and stated that “[her new tattoo] is a reminder.” It really resonated in me that tattoos are truly the scars we choose (just like friends are the family we choose, [Edna Buchanan]) and that sometimes we simply need a way to document important realizations from our life to remind us of the hardships, joys and enlightenments of our own personal journey.

So, it is with pride I announce that I have a scar. And I have a tattoo. And they are marks of my story on this twisting, twerving and amazing path I’m on called life.

2 thoughts on “Tattoos are the Scars we Choose”

  1. Oh man. I’d love to know what the end of the end was with this guy!

    I can’t wrap my head around a tattoo for myself because I’m afraid I’d have buyer’s remorse! I think back to what seemed significant to me five or ten years ago, and think, thank GAWD I didn’t get a tattoo at that point in my life. I understand why it took you a LONG time to warm up to the idea.

    P.S. This post requires a picture. Or is it a really private spot on the canvas? 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment, Laura!

      The end of the end is probably another blog post in and of itself. And I completely understand the buyer’s remorse about the tattoo.

      No pictures…but maybe one day I’ll show you. 🙂

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