Putting myself out there

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Four words my parents never expected to hear: “I’m getting a tattoo.” I think they thought I was joking. Many of my friends probably wouldn’t have believed me either.

Back in December, a couple of my friends received their undergraduate degrees, and the “group” spent the weekend celebrating before we left school for winter break. One night we got sucked into a whirlwind of nostalgia and sentiment, and somehow we started talking about a group tattoo idea. This kind of suggestion would normally have been pushed aside with a couple laughs, except we unanimously loved this specific idea. What was only a joke for maybe two minutes quickly became a seriously considered plan.

“Do you like Lord of the Rings?” That’s the first thing I ask when people inquire about my tattoo. Yes, not only have I permanently doctored my body, but I have gone as far as to brand myself with something nerdy. Well, my group of friends loves LOTR. Loves = mildly obsessed. It’s one of the many things with which we connect.

“Friend” — this is what my tattoo says. Well technically it says “mellon,” which is the elvish word for friend. Yes, I know this doesn’t help the nerd situation, but hey…this is me; this is us. Below is a script version of the word. One of my friends stylized it for us, so ours varies a bit; I think this makes ours a little more special.

Mellon: "friend" in elvishSo “friend.” Six of us got the tattoo at once, but more are still to join. The permanence factor of a tattoo has always scared me. And the idea of permanently binding myself to a group of people is even scarier. So for me, although I truly believe our friendship will endure, I needed a broader, more profound reason behind my tattoo; to accept permanence, there must not be regrets.

My tattoo is a reminder that I’m not alone — that I am loved more than I’ll probably ever know; I have friends and a family that I can depend on and that care about me. It is a reminder that I need to show my friends that they are special; I need to listen to their stories. It is a reminder of trust, dedication, dependency, loyalty, honesty, humility and commitment. I hope it will hold me accountable, and I hope my friends will too.

Another one of my guilty pleasures is ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. There’s an episode in season five where Meredith and Derek have been together for a long time and want to make their relationship official with marriage. Unfortunately on the day they planned, the hospital was too busy for them to make it to city hall. Because a marriage commitment is so important to them, they decide to “marry” themselves, right there in the hospital and write their vows on a post-it note. They promise “to love each other even when [they] hate each other…no running, no matter what.” Whenever the couple is going through a tough time, they pause the fights and say, “Post-it.” In this moment they remember the vows they made to each other. As silly of analogy as this may be, I feel like my tattoo is a “post-it” reminder for me — to dedicate myself to my friends and family relationships; to be my best self and to love them like they deserve…even when I hate them.

I got my tattoo on my wrist, which is a frequently visible part of my body. A lot of people advise you to get a tattoo somewhere you can hide it, but that was something that felt strange to me. Not the idea of concealing your tattoo, but feeling the need to hide it. I took the decision to get a tattoo seriously, and for me this was something that I didn’t want to hide.

Like many people in this world, sometimes I struggle with self-confidence and public image. Too often am I concerned with how someone might judge me for my outer appearance. Although I think a positive public image is important, especially for someone in my field, I believe a confident self-image is equally important. It is essential that I love and fully accept myself, including something as taboo as a tattoo.

We all have a story to tell.

My tattoo is an opportunity for me to openly share, to not feel ashamed about my love for nerdy things and to publicly admit that I have a group of people that I care about deeply. It is an opportunity for me to proudly and confidently show people a part of “Tori.”

This is one of my favorite quotes:

“The world I believe in is one where embracing your light doesn’t mean ignoring your dark.”

It came from Kevin Breel‘s TEDx talk “Confessions of a Depressed Comic.” I found it through one of my favorite organizations: To Write Love on Her Arms. The organization has had a big part in shaping my self-image.

This leap of self-expression gives me a chance to embrace all that makes up Tori — the light and the dark. Sometimes I still struggle with showing the messy parts of me, but it’s important for me to accept that all of me is beautiful. My tattoo gives me a push to fully embrace all my quirks.

Tattoos may never be something everyone will agree on, but we can all relate to self-expression.

My parents have never been thrilled about tattoos, so initially I was a little nervous to tell them. Surprisingly they took the news well. They understand dedicated relationships and are glad I’ve found a group of people I can count on and that love me despite my imperfections — just like they do.

This wasn’t a shotgun decision by any means. As a group we have meditated on this commitment for almost half a year. I spent months drawing the design on myself to ensure I was happy with the placement and permanence. Even though at first it was a shock when my body art really couldn’t be washed off, I am satisfied with my decision. If I’m having a stressful day or feeling discouraged, I get a glimpse of my wrist and smile; my reminder sets in, and I know that everything is going to be okay. But you know what’s great? Even in the moments when things aren’t okay, I know I will be.

As someone who is afraid of needles, I somehow ended up with a tattoo. Sure, sometimes I look at it and think, “I hope future employers don’t mind,” or “this will sure look interesting when I’m wrinkly.” But more than that, I’ve decided on a piece of my personal brand. Tori is a bit of a nerd. Tori values relationships and trust. Tori is intentional. Although the future may be ambiguous, the permanence of friendship and love will be a constant in my life.

So here I am putting myself out there — with ink.


5 Responses to “Putting myself out there

  • Thanks for putting yourself out there! Nerd power 🙂

  • Tori…I hope a 74-year-old man posting on your blog doesn’t bother you. You know I have followed your career through college; have always had the greatest respect for your integrity. Our 43-year-old son just got a tattoo a year-or-so back; then got another. The first was an image of the first Nikon camera I bought for him when he was quite young, that he had placed on his forearm. His dad (me) was, at the time of the camera gift, a very busy photographer in West Texas! We were shooting over 30 weddings a year, along with much other work. So, photography was near-and-dear to him when he was young!

    The second tattoo was of his favorite dog who had died months before. It was a labor of love, and sits prominently on his left thigh.

    While I have none (tattoos, that is), I know that times have changed. I hold those who choose to display a life motto such as yours as being just perfectly normal. I still have quite a bit of trouble with the so-called body art movement whereby folks tattoo entire vast areas of their body in ink. I don’t condemn them, just don’t get it. Friends of ours have done so. For the life of me, I don’t understand the motivation. The human body is one of the most beautiful creations. I’m a photographer! That’s what I do…photograph various portions of the human body, mostly clothed, but always beautiful.

    So, I am really OK with your tattoo…it carries a wonderful and powerful message about you.

  • Tori – love this. Not much of a tattoo person myself – whatever that means – but I really respect this, nerdy and all.

  • Carolyn Green
    8 years ago

    Tori, you are so gifted in sharing yourself through the written word. You are making a positive mark on this world of ours. I am a proud K teacher! Love and hugs to you!

  • Emma Sager
    8 years ago


    Everything you said above is so beautiful! I actually got a tattoo on my wrist last summer when I was in Germany and it has such a strong impact on my everyday life. The small outline of a heart represents my new found love for myself and for all of the people in my life. It’s my constant reminder that I am loved and that I have people to love; my personal brand that I’m a lover, not a fighter.

    I also have an infinity symbol on the inside of my right heel that I got at the end of my freshman year at Auburn. This one represents how time is eternal and on-going, whereas we are only given a portion of time in this world. No one will live forever, and regardless of life’s obstacles, one must keep going forward. To me, it’s important to take your small piece of time and make it worth living. People pass away, children are born and life goes on. Time is not forever, so embrace what and who you have in your life, because it can change in an instant.

    Both of my tattoos have a similar meaning of my life values to appreciate what I have in my life and appreciate who I have in my life. Keep putting yourself out there, Tori! You have some amazing things to share with individuals!

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