I got two little tattoos on a whim: an exclamation point on the outside of my right ankle, and an ampersand on the inside of my left ankle.
I like to see my body as a scrapbook, with pictures and decorations symbolizing different times and experiences I’ve had in my life. In my previous post “To the Future,” I talked about the DeLorean tattoo I got on the outside of my left arm, and how that symbolized my finally becoming comfortable with moving forward in life, and no longer fearing what the future holds.
In the past year, I HAVE been a lot less afraid. I’ve devoted myself to self-improvement, to following my passions, and to making my career and my future happen on my own terms.
As many people know, I have wanted to be a writer for my entire life, ever since my childhood days of stapling stacks of printer paper together and writing poorly illustrated stories about my Chihuahua inside. And now, as a sort-of adult a year out of college, I’ve finally become comfortable with fully devoting myself to that. I tried other paths. I briefly attempted the career in sales, but I knew very quickly that it wasn’t for me. A writer is who I am, and I needed to shape my life around that.
In addition to releasing my first YA book this past year, I started taking on a slew of jobs to pay the bills. I was a young-adult author, AND a substitute teacher, AND a coach, AND a freelance journalist. My life became all about “and.” And, I loved it. I loved pursuing all the passions I’d cultivated over the years. I loved coming home every day, full of inspiration and new ideas for stories.
On a more personal level, for the past few years, I’ve been struggling with pretty bad anxiety. I left it unaddressed for far too long, mostly because it was hard to admit that I was more than an exclamation point. Growing up, I was the loud one. The enthusiastic one. The passionate one. Sometimes, it was hard for me to admit that my emotional range went beyond that. It’s easy to let ourselves fall into these boxes, and then to continue portraying ourselves to others based on their expectations. But this past year, I started admitting the truth to myself: I did feel things beyond excitement. I felt sadness. I felt fear. I felt a wide range of emotions, and I felt them hard. My time spent treating my anxiety led to a journey of introspection, which showed me that I am a multi-faceted person, just like most people, and that’s okay.
So I, a girl with a lifelong passion for writing, editing, and punctuation, got two tattoos that symbolize my past year. When my right foot is in front of my left, the tattoos read “&!.” I have a lot of passions. I’m this, AND I’m that. AND I’m excited about it. However, with my left foot in front of my right, it has a slightly different meaning. It reads “!&,” showing that I’m primarily a passionate, excited person, AND I experience so many more emotions beyond that.
Just as I learned to stop fearing the future, I’m learning to embrace all facets of myself. And the best way to do that is by putting one foot in front of the other.