The side tattoo was my first one. It’s just the word HOPE with basic capital letters. I started thinking of getting it when I was maybe 17 or 18 years old. At first, I thought wrist would be the best spot for the tattoo, but then I decided it would be better to have it on a place that I could easily hide. So, what could be better for that purpose than my rib? Everyone said that a rib would be one of the most painful places to tattoo, but I just thought well, let’s have it there then, so at least it’s done after that. It was unpleasant, but I wouldn’t say it’s the most painful or worst place in any other way. Anyway, you can always tolerate the pain, when you know the feeling you’ll get after that.
The word hope reflects my past struggles with mental health issues and bullying, and especially the fact that after all there is always hope. Later I’ve been thinking of adding there “less” in handwriting, just to remind that everyone of us can feel a bit hopeless every now and then. It would change the meaning of the original tattoo, but on the other hand, every time I see the text, I still know the reason why I got the tattoo in the first place. For the fact that there’s always hope.
I’m in love with old school, you know, when everything is made as traditional as possible. It’s easy for me to find meanings in that style. Sea is one of the traditional old school themes, and my other sleeve is full of nautical-themed tattoos. It is a tribute to my grandfather who used to sail the seas a lot as a young man, and who happens to be an avid fisherman also. My grandfather has always been my role model, and he has taught me important life lessons since my early childhood. He has taught me politeness, all the things like treat other people the way you would like to be treated.
When I was little, there were me, my big sister and our three cousins, and our grandfather always told us kids not to get ourselves tattooed ever, that it would be the very last thing we were allowed to do. Of course he said that just because back in the days when he was young, tattoos were something only prisoners or sailormen would have. When I got this ship tattoo, I told him that in the future this arm would be full of sea-themed tattoos and that it would be dedicated to him, since he has always been my role model. And that even though I’m going to have tattoos, it doesn’t make me a criminal.
I know my grandfather is honored by these tattoos, even though he acts like a typical man who doesn’t want to share his feelings out loud. But still, he has admitted he likes these. He said that he can see this clearly is an important thing for me, and that is why he has begun to understand the purpose of tattoos himself. I love sea, and I find a lot of symbolism in the nautical imagery, so what could be a better choice for a tattoo theme? For me it’s a nice thing that connects me and my grandfather.
As the nautical theme continued, the next tattoos were these flowers and this text. Sink or swim is quite a common statement, but for me, it holds an important meaning. It’s something you learn in life, that in the end it always comes to that one question, whether you let yourself drown or decide to swim. You either let yourself die or you let yourself live. At the end of the day, you will always come up with the decision that you must choose to fight for your life.
And then there are these roses, which actually leads us to this guy here, Teemu (link to Teemus’s story!). First we discussed with my tattoo artist Samuli that we should do the whole sleeve just with red and black ink. However, I later decided to include some black and yellow and some black and purple as well, as I knew black and purple were Teemu’s favorite color combination. You either sink or swim, and because of that kind of people I have always thought you should not let yourself sink. These colors always remind me of why it’s worth to keep on swimming.
After that, we continued working on the sleeve, and the next tattoo was this watch. It’s funny I didn’t even know back then Teemu also had the exact time when he always checks the clock – as I happen to have that kind of certain time as well, it’s just always been 20.20 for me. I guess we must have talked about it sometimes. Nowadays, as I work at a grocery store, there are so many times when the cash register also gives 20.20 € as the total amount. It’s sometimes a bit scary to always find those same numbers!
I can’t even remember which came first, the lock or the lighthouse. I think it was the lighthouse. Of course, a lighthouse reflects the fact that there’s always someone to guide you home. The sea is so wide and open that you can get yourself lost in there, and the idea of being a sailor is that you’re far away most of the time and you return to the shore only occasionally. I find that kind of life quite admirable, to be honest. A lighthouse was one of the most important things that I wanted to have on this sleeve. And of course, you always must have the old school roses.
Then there’s this lock, with another rose beside it as well. Even though these are all basic themes in old school, they always carry symbolism. As I think about a lock, for me it means above all that there are always these locks inside you that you can’t open for everyone. Whether it is a person or a subject that is attached to the lock – if you feel you don’t know the other person well enough or if the other person doesn’t open up to you, then your own locks will remain unopened as well.
The anchor is, of course, a traditional symbol in the nautical theme, and it suited perfectly in here. It’s the one that gave a final touch to this arm, so to say. The tattoo includes a lifering with the words isä and äiti (father and mother) in it. It means that my mum and dad are the anchor and lifering of my life, and this tattoo is completely dedicated to them. They always hold me in my place and they are ready to help whenever I feel I need someone to save me. They are my support and safety. My grandfather has taught me how important it is to have great parents who are always there for you – that you have been given the opportunity to have such wonderful parents, and that they have stayed together all these years even though there are so many couples that aren’t able to do so. They have been together since they were 18- or 19-years old. The anchor and lifering stand for all those things.
The ship’s wheel holds no bigger meaning for me, it’s mainly a filler. And so are the message in the bottle and the key, which can be associated with my lock tattoo, of course. They are just fillers that I wanted to have to get the whole arm covered by a certain theme. Then there are of course the sea woman and knots that are also a part of the nautical theme. And finally, I wanted to have an anchor on my finger, too, so the whole arm would be dedicated to the theme. Just to give a full respect for the subject.
The swallows on both sides of my lower stomach were the ones that hurt the most. It actually came as a bit of a surprise that they were the worst ones. Swallows are loyal animals, and I’m a loyal person myself. When I find the right person, I’m ready to give my all. That’s why I had to have these swallows, as I find their meaning so accurate. Of course, I don’t always tell other people the reason why I wanted to have swallows tattooed on my skin. I don’t usually explain the meaning of my tattoos in general because I find them to be more just for myself, not for other people. But naturally, if someone asks me, then I can tell.
And then there’s my latest tattoo, which is of completely different theme than the previous ones. Now that my other arm is full of nautical tattoos, I’ve been dreaming of having my chest tattooed with earth theme and my right sleeve to be full of air theme. They may not hold as significant meaning as the sea theme does, but then, air and birds are something that my family, especially my mother, loves. For me, the making of other sleeve is important in itself because the tattoos will cover my scars.
I got a job at a grocery store two years ago, and for a long time other people thought I was wearing long-sleeved shirts to hide my tattoos, even though in reality I was just trying to hide my scars. I was ashamed of them for a long time, but then I got used to the idea that I have nothing to be ashamed of – I am who I am. Scars are a bit like tattoos, you get them in certain events of life and they always have a reason behind them, whether it’s a negative or a positive one. I’ve grown up a lot since those days, and my tattoos are particularly a symbol for the fact that one era has ended and another begun. For me, tattoos are a way to get my scars covered with colors, to change them into something far more beautiful.
The eagle tattoo is a sign of the fact that I have decided to turn a new page in my life. After I had this tattoo I told my mom that I now feel much more normal than before. Even though some people will always frown upon me because of my tattoos, I nevertheless feel like I’m a normal person now. That I am just like everybody else. Air and birds are full of symbolism in general, but the eagle particularly reflects strength and freedom. So, what could be better than to have a powerful start with an eagle?
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