How My Tattoo Came to Symbolize the Change I Want to See in Myself
by Maggie Shores
A while back I found this quote while searching for inspirations on the web:
I think I have read it a million times by now and it has deeply touched me on many levels. I had realized that this strange, and absolutely overwhelming defiant desire to change has followed me my entire life!
From when I was a little kid, I learned to survive while living with my biological mother, who was afflicted with substance use disorder. She was often gone and I was left to fend for myself. I don’t know how I was able to survive, but I know that I had a defiant desire to change even back then, which kept me trudging through some pretty dark days.
I felt that defiant desire to change from my childhood stirring once again when I decided to get sober after struggling for years to quit drinking. Willpower was not enough for me. Wanting it really, really badly was not enough either. Neither were brute force, nor bargaining, nor promising—none of those worked. And it went the same way with the many announcements that "this time"— unlike all the other times—this time, it was going to be different. It just wasn't enough to make it stick. Still, the defiant desire to change became the overpowering force to compel-and-propel me forward into recovery.
At 38 years old, lost in the sober world and not knowing what to do next, I finally embraced my defiant desire to change. It pushed me forward to go back to school and strive for excellence. I soon earned an internship at a law firm and a brand-new career.
Recently, another defiant desire to change showed up to help me through a difficult situation in my life. And my defiant desire came as forcefully as all the others to launch me forward. It lead me into a tattoo studio with a design on a piece of paper I had printed out. I showed it to the artist and made an appointment. But she quickly told me that she would like to come up with her own design to "make it more interesting." I was totally appalled. “This is what I want!" I kept telling her clearly. Still, she kept giving me all her reasons why the design was not good enough.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH?!
I started crying at one point. She just did not get it. "Today is the day," I said emphatically, “If I don’t do it now, I will never do it!” She finally agreed to use my design.
As a tattoo virgin, I was super excited . . . and also completely terrified. I hate pain. However, I kept thinking that nothing can hurt as much as the last few years of my life. As I sat in the chair, petrified, I reminded myself of the negative phrases I had heard thrown at me in the past, but which had ironically propelled me to this point . . .
You're too old to get a tattoo.
You're crazy and obsessive just like a Scorpio.
You're really quite boring, mundane.
Suddenly it all became too overwhelming—the pain of the tattoo needle on my skin, the pain in my heart, the pain of the past, the pain of the future. I began feeling dizzy and faint. I had to stop.
As I tried to regroup myself and stay calm, I felt embarrassed and frustrated. But then . . .
That defiant desire to change kicked in again. I had to finish—I knew this was my symbol of the end—the end of the negative messages bombarding me from so many directions.
Half an hour later, I walked out of the tattoo studio filled with relief and overwhelming sense of freedom. Once again, the moment when there was no more questioning, no more reservations. I was 100% sure, without a doubt, without any second guessing.
The defiant desire had come through once more. And so did I.
Maggie Shores is a mom of three awesome kids. She works full time as a Senior Content Development Specialist at an e-Learning firm in Washington D.C. She is also a person in recovery from a substance-use disorder, and a blogger at Sober Courage, where she shares her experience, strength and hope with others to encourage change. Maggie is also an avid gardener, music lover, coffee junkie, and happiness fanatic.