On Tattoos

As promised on an Instagram poll about two months ago, this is the explanation of my tattoos. Aside from close friends, I tend to avoid answering questions about my tattoos. Tattoos are such a personal statement, juxtaposed by a rather bold appearance, so I figure your curiosity is understandable. Personally, I think tattoos are such a beautiful thing. Aside from its meaning, (whether there is one or not) it acts as a reminder of a very specific time in your life in which you loved something so much that you kept it like a collection or memoir to be permanently engraved onto your body. 

Let’s begin chronologically. 


The Cross
This happened one night in my sophomore year dorm room. I highly recommend that you do not follow my example because it was unsanitary and probably unsafe. I was looking into getting a tattoo, but as a poor college student with no source of income, I took measures into my own hands. Literally. I read up on some articles about ‘Stick and Poke’ and I already had all the materials because I was an art student. I didn’t give it much of a second thought because at that point getting a cross tattooed on my wrist didn’t feel like a big commitment. It didn’t sink in till much later that it would actually be permanent. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret it at all, in fact I really love it and it serves as a daily reminder me of my impulsive and spontaneous adolescent self. This one is rather self explanatory. I grew up in the church and found redemption in Christ in my latter years of high school and even more-so my early years of college. As I began to understand more and more about the depth of Christ's love and cycled through the series of events happening in my life, I knew that my faith was ultimately the most permanent part of me.

The Music Note
I get quite a lot of questions, often from strangers about this one because it’s hard to tell what it is at first glance. This was also a stick and poke that I gave myself around the same time that I got the cross. Music is arguably one of my favorite things in this world. It holds so much power in provoking emotion of all ranges and extremes. I often connect memories with specific songs. For me, music has the ability to bring an instant rush of memories of very specific emotions, dreams, failures, and etc. Music has served as a conversation piece, a foundation for new friendships, and sometimes a presence in solitude.


The Three Dots
This is definitely the most understated of the collection. This resembles an ellipsis. It has a couple meanings- one being a pause or a breather. A couple years ago, at the height of my anxiety and panic attacks it acted as a reminder to take a breath in moments of fear and nervousness. Secondly, it means that the story isn’t over. In literature, an ellipsis symbolizes a pause and usually signifies that it is ‘to be continued.’ 

The Moon
I got this one in the fall of my senior year of college. I’ve always been very drawn to the moon. Something about its presence keeps me grounded. Perhaps it has something to do with being constant and bright, or in some ways I feel like it looks after all of us, especially in our darkest nights. In the summer of 2016 I spent a month in Spain. The town we stayed in was right by the shore and I spent many a night looking at the Mediterranean Sea feeling very small and feeling God’s overwhelming presence. The long and bright reflection of the moon on the ocean is quite possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. When I got back from that trip, I woke up the next morning feeling like it was all a dream. But there was a full moon that night and it reminded me that just like the moon, God is constant, overwhelmingly large, and inexplicably beautiful. 


The Wildflowers
Much of my spiritual growth has happened in the midst of nature. The long list of church camps, morning quiet times, nights spent at the neighborhood park, my grandmother’s garden, and etc are all places that I've spent a copious amount of time with, considering and contemplating the things I believe in and why. A couple years ago, when my great grandmother passed away, I made a floral sculpture in one of my classes to commemorate the fond memories I had with her. Shortly after I got the moon, I went back and got this tattooed with one of my best friends. She was moving back to Chicago and wanted to commemorate her time in California with some poppies. We both left with florals tattooed on our arms that day. This tattoo symbolizes growth, joy, revelations, and friendship. 


Most of these tattoos have several meanings and I think they’ll continue to change over time because we are ephemeral beings with minds that are constantly changing and growing. Everyone has different opinions on tattoos, so to each their own. 

Thanks for reading, Cheers! 

Catherine Li