When I was two years old, my grandma (my mom came, too, but it was a gift from grandma) took me to get my ears pierced at the local business center salon (probably called something like Salon — small town life in a tiny California desert town yields basic business titles as no creative naming is needed to keep it logged to memory) and she promised that if I didn’t cry, she’d take me for a Thrifty ice cream cone afterward. I got up in the chair, little legs dangling hoisted up on the high stool. The game plan was to do both ears at once, but one of the guns didn’t go off, so they had to do it again, after convincing me I could have two scoops if I stayed strong, before finally creating holes in my tiny little lobes that would host youthful, sparkly little rhinestones to dramatic, dangling teardrops well into my adult life. I did end up crying and my grandma and mom still got me my you-were-brave ice cream reward.
I didn’t do needles then, and I don’t do them now.
It’s 26 years later. I took myself to Kustom Thrills to get myself a tattoo (it scored the highest Yelp reviews and the consultation affirmed it was a good place where I’d get what I wanted, both in terms of design and sanitary conditions) and I promised myself if I didn’t cry, I could treat myself to a Jeni’s two-scoop ice cream cone. I got in the full-size chair, positioned at an angle with one ankle turned up and the other leg dangling off the side. The game plan was to do two tattoos back to back, but the start of the first shocked my anxiety-ridden, low blood-sugared body into not one but two traumatic passing out episodes before eventually adorning my flesh with my birth home state of California, and after reminding myself I could have two scoops if I stayed strong and did the other, my chosen home state of Tennessee. I didn’t cry and got myself my I-was-brave ice cream reward.
I left my home of Southern California and made a new home on my own in Nashville, but who I am hasn’t really changed. I was and will be scared. I was and will be brave (provided ice cream is an incentive, or so it seems). I was and always will be me. This journey will forever be a part of my life story. And now, with these permanent reminders, there will never be an opportunity to forget that.
Post-tattoo photos are never too terribly attractive – gotta capture the moment, no time for perfect Instagram framing – but rather than incorporate my usual fun gifs or relatable memes, the only images that will be included here are these. Oh, there’s also a picture of my Jeni’s because my cone (I opted for just the one perfect scoop after all) came bundled up and sealed with a reaffirming You Belong Here sticker. I belong here, right here in Nashville.