The day I turned 18, the first thing I wanted to do was get a tattoo. I was prepared for all of the concerns: how it'll get all "wrinkly" when I grow old, infections, pain or how it could turn out differently than I had imagined (see the paper clip as Saturn's rings). What I was not prepared for was the everlasting question: "Okay, but what does it mean?" Every time someone notices the circles on my forearm, this is the first question I am asked. It's hard for me to explain to acquaintances the full, personal meaning behind my tattoo in a short period of time, so I've decided to share my story through my newly found cathartic hobby of writing. Here goes nothing.
During middle school, despite having skin covered in pimples, the bushiest eyebrows you could imagine and a gap in between my two middle front teeth, I had real problems. My cousin/best friend moved to Texas, my sister went off to college, my great-grandma passed away, a very close family member went off to rehab, another close family member suffered from drug addiction, and my best friend since the fourth grade decided she no longer needed me in her life. I then decided I was no longer needed in anybody's life, as those closest to me were dropping one by one.
The life of a massive star can end in one of two ways: as a neutron star or as a black hole. Neutron stars are very dense. If they accumulate any more mass, their gravity will become too strong. Then, they will eventually turn into a black hole. This is what depression feels like. I always heard the expression that happiness is within our control and that we can "choose" to be happy. While I can see how this is true, sometimes it isn't. Sometimes, life continues to pile on more upsetting events, and we turn into what feels like a black hole. A black hole is a place where the gravitational pull is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape from it. When depressed, it feels like everything is pushing you down more, giving a stronger gravitational pull. Then, you are unable to escape from the darkness that is depression, and it becomes hard to be able to see the light in your life. You feel trapped and cannot escape the various calamities dragging you further down.
That's why on my 18th birthday, I went out and got the solar system tattooed on my arm. It took me a long time to realize it, but I realized I am meant to be here. Even if it was something as little as a smile to a stranger on the street, I made a difference. Anything that was holding me down allowed me to gain strength to be able to climb back up.
When I look down at my arm, I am reminded that I am a part of something bigger. I am reminded that I am important. I am reminded that I am not a f***ing waste of space. And to anyone else who may feel trapped in life, neither are you. It's okay to need someone or something to help pull you up and out of that terrible, dark place.
I challenge those of you who are stuck in your own black holes to find the light in your life. Don't let anyone or anything pull you down. Don't let anyone think that mental illness is not as serious as physical ones. Don't let the world make you feel small. You are important, no matter your gender, religion, political views or mistakes you've made.
So, no, I did not get a tattoo of the solar system to help me cheat for my Earth Science exams. I got it because sometimes I need a little help and a reminder to pull myself out of that black hole. It is up to you to create the world you want to live in. Reach for the f***ing stars, get a tattoo of the solar system on your arm, and remind yourself that although you may feel small, you are an important part of something very large and something very beautiful.