In college, three friends and I decided to go out and get tattoos together. As spur of the moment as it sounds, it was actually quite planned out; we’d spent months deciding what we wanted to get. I remember doodling designs into notebooks during class and researching graphics instead of finishing essays. Tattoo-choosing is a tricky business — it means sifting through all the meaningful moments and pieces of your life to think of something you’d like to highlight on your skin, forever. My friends chose less revealing locations for their tattoos — a rib cage and a lower back. I, on the other hand, decided to get my first tattoo on my wrist. I worried a bit about never being able to find a job, but was convinced after hearing my friend say, “I wouldn’t want to work anywhere that wasn’t accepting of people with tattoos anyways.” It seemed logical, and when you’re 20, seeming logical is about as good as you can get sometimes. I would go on to spend the next three years wearing sweaters in 90-degree weather to cover my tattoo from Japanese school administrators.
Despite my collection of cardigans I’d never wear otherwise, I don’t regret the location of my tattoo, primarily because its meaning is something I enjoy being reminded of on a daily basis. See, my left wrist is home to a small-ish infinity symbol. After wading through everything that felt important to me as a free-spirited 20-year-old who wanted the world to know who she was, I realized that the thing that has always been the most important to me, above all else, is the value in all things. My infinity symbol is there to remind me of our connection to everyone and everything. I could never quite grasp onto religion, but found solace in nature and ecosystems. There was always something special to me about the fact that we needed each other to survive and grow. This notion has led me to believe that even people I don’t see eye-to-eye with can add something significant to my life. It’s also led me to the idea that the insects patrolling my balcony at night are just as meaningful as the people who live in the apartment below me. Each being who has entered my life has brought something to it, even something as simple as a faint memory or shared beer. I believe that we all have value and something meaningful to offer the world.
I wrote this post after reading an article about a recent earthquake we had in California. One section of the article, in particular, stood out to me. The reporter was quoting the consensus of some scientists, who hypothesized about what would happen if a big earthquake hit California on one of our fault lines. In response, they said, “The violent motion would be further amplified by the soft soil underneath the Los Angeles Basin and the valleys, which produces a Jello effect as shaking waves wobble off the basin.” The first thing I thought was, “what the hell did I just read?” followed by, “how in the world do they know that?” And then, immediately, I started wondering about these earthquake experts and their passion for something I have no sincere interest in. I imagined the first time they came up with the “Jello effect” analogy and that they probably felt pretty clever about it. I also realized I was grateful that they chose to do this research, this something for the world, because if the world was only full of people like me, then we’d probably still think earthquakes were messages from The Underworld. Each and every person does their own something — often small gestures with big meanings. I’m thankful for that.