I’ve always felt like an outsider. I was born in Porvoo, Southern Finland, but we moved to Lapland when I was 10 years old. Our new home was in a small village where everyone knew each other and people belonged to their own cliques. Suddenly I was in a situation where I talked different, my laugh was too loud and I was too odd in every other way in other kids’ opinion. Because I was different, other kids started to bully me.
As I became a teenager, I decided that being different was my strength. I started to wear different kind of clothes and went through many phases: I wore my big brother’s hip-hop clothes, dyed my hair in different colors, got dreads, started to dress in black… It was easy to be different in a small village.
I was 15 years old when I got my first tattoo. I would’ve wanted to get a piercing when I was 14 years old, but 15 years was the parlour’s age limit for piercings. So, I waited for a year, but when I finally turned 15, I had already changed my mind and wanted to get tattooed instead. I knew already by then that I would get plenty of tattoos in the future, and now, as a 24 year old, I still think the same.
The shooting star doesn’t have any significant meaning itself, but since it’s my first tattoo, it’s very meaningful for me nevertheless. I had no trouble getting permission from my mom. She has always had a positive attitude towards tattoos, as she has two of them herself.
I got my anchor tattoo when I was 18 years old and studied visual expression. I wanted to get a tattoo in a visible place to express my own personality.
The tattooing itself lasted maybe 90 minutes, and the last 30 minutes were pretty painful. At first, I wasn’t planning on getting more nautical-themed tattoos, but later I have gotten a couple more sea tattoos as well. Naturally, sea goes quite well with my first name! (In English: Meri = The sea)
“Let’s pretend we’re just two people and you’re not better than me” is a quote from Pink’s song Dear Mr. President. I got this tattoo when I was still studying visual expression and had my practical training in a tattoo parlour. Pink is a great, strong character who has many powerful lyrics. I love the fact that other people can easily see this tattoo as well. This tattoo is above all a reminder that nobody’s better than others.
When I was 19 years old, I moved from Lapland to Seinäjoki. Although first it felt like I was moving to a big city, I soon started to feel everyone knew each other there as well and the atmosphere was somewhat narrow-minded. Later I’ve moved to a bigger city, which has felt very liberating.
My brother and I both have barcode tattoos. Once, my brother was searching a tattoo idea for himself and found a webpage where you can transform text into a barcode. I asked him if we both should get tattoos on the same theme – he’d get a tattoo that says sister and I’d get a tattoo of the word brother.
My big brother is a very important character in my life. When I was young, he affected a lot on my clothing and my taste in music. He has always been there for me and defended me. When I moved to live on my own, my brother already lived in the same town and it was comforting to know there’s somebody to look after me.
We still talk a lot with each other and have long conversations about global issues and everything. I have four siblings, and even though we used to have fights when we were young, nowadays we’re close to each other.
The lighthouse is made at Precious Tattoo, Tampere. I wanted to get a lighthouse to remind me that even when you go through storms in life, you’ll always have your own lighthouse that brings light into darkness. It’s nice that the tattoo is located on my arm where I can easily see it myself. Every time I see this tattoo, it reminds me of all the good things that bring light into my life.
Later I’ve re-educated myself as a youth worker. I traveled abroad for the first time during my studies. Earlier I had thought that I’d never travel abroad. I had always thought that I couldn’t speak English, and I was afraid of the idea that I would have to try to get by using a foreign language.
Then I got an opportunity to apply for an exchange period in Austria. I got fascinated by the idea, and after I heard other people’s positive feedback from the exchange, I decided to go for it. The trip included a lot of climbing, so I wanted to get a tattoo to remind me of it.
The decision to go to the trip was a real breakaway and taught me a lot. It was wonderful to see that I could get by after all. Later I’ve started to travel more, even just by myself. Traveling alone is very liberating, as you have to be in charge of everything all by yourself. It’s such a great feeling to see that you can manage on your own.
Later I had a training period in Czech as well, and during my time there I noticed that the local people didn’t really have many visible tattoos. My own tattoos and piercings, in turn, seemed to gain pretty much attention.
I also got a tattoo of a Sankofa bird on my upper back during my time in Czech. Sankofa carries an egg on its back, which symbolizes that in order to move forward, you have to know your past.
I make decisions quickly, and the same goes when I’m planning a new tattoo. If I have a good idea on my mind, I usually book an appointment as soon as I can. Usually I decide the place for my tattoo first, and the idea about the theme comes second. I don’t give much thought to whether I can hide the tattoo with clothes or not. I’d like to think that since it doesn’t matter to me, it shouldn’t matter to other people.
The semicolon tattoo is related to Project Semicolon. It’s a project where people show solidarity towards people who struggle with mental health issues, suicide or self-injury.
I think it’s important that people raise awareness about mental health problems. It’s so difficult to tell about them, and even more difficult to understand them, but that’s exactly the reason why they should be discussed more. I suffer from moderate depression myself, and I know that often one of the greatest things that a depressed person needs is the feeling that somebody understands them.
Älä unoha ittees (in English: Don’t forget yourself) is a cover-up tattoo. There’s a tattoo related to a person from my past underneath this text. It was important that the cover-up tattoo was meant for myself, not for anyone else. It still reminds me that I mustn’t sacrifice my mental health by putting other people’s well-being ahead of my own.
Before, I used to do things just for someone else’s sake, and I used to suffer a lot because of that. Nowadays I’m learning to do things in a way I want to do them, not in a way other people want me to do. I’m also lucky to get lots of support from my current boyfriend. He constantly reminds me to think about my own well-being, even in times when I’m about to forget it myself. I have to admit it’s occasionally kind of frustrating, but I guess it annoys me just because deep down I know he’s right.
I think Don’t forget yourself goes well with my current situation. I want to learn to think that I’m as important as everyone else.
Nowadays I think that I’m both a girl from Southern Finland and a daughter of Lapland. I have many good memories from my childhood in Porvoo, but the years in Lapland really raised me to be the person that I am today.
In Lapland, I got bullied and went through difficult times, but on the other hand, I also became independent and grew up to be me. Even though I enjoy living here in Southern Finland, I still need to get to Lapland every Christmas to spend time with my family.
I think that in a way, all my tattoos are related to my personal growth. Even though the images themselves would be something different, I still associate them with the phases of my life that have developed me as a person. Tattoos and piercings are my ways to express myself.