I get asked about my tattoo on the daily. In small talk situations, it is almost impossible to eloquently explain what my tattoo is all about. So this is it. An explanation of what what my tattoo means.
I am a firm believer in the power of a book. Nothing else has the profound power to comfort, uplift, and manifest emotion. A book is validation of being human. In short, words can change your life.
And change my life it did. But first, some background.
When I was 15, I had a bit of a breakdown. I was under extreme stress that created unhealthy habits, which led to uncomfortable emotion, that ended with diagnosed depression and anxiety. I could share my whole story and it would fill a million pages- but here is what is important: I was sick and I got better.
And then I cracked open “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath. It was Christmas 2014 and my flu-ridden brother used my toothbrush. So you can guess what happened next. Exiled to a bedroom, donning a surgical mask, I had nothing else to do but read. I didn’t know what “The Bell Jar” was about, a librarian recommended it to me after I checked out “Catcher In The Rye.”
Only a few pages in, I felt utterly and completely understood. Esther Greenwood’s (The main character) breakdown was not unlike mine. Her story and my story synced. Plath articulated emotions that I didn’t know I had. But after I learned I was never the same. In time, “The Bell Jar” became a reference for myself. A reference that I read when I felt like my mental illnesses hindered who I was.
Early on, I decided that I wanted a tattoo inspired by “The Bell Jar.” I tinkered with a few quotes, but eventually decided on “I am I am I am” being the beat of her heart.
That is a quote that is repeated throughout the novel- when she is struggling is written in a tone of annoyance- that her heart won’t let her give up when her mind does. But the bell jar ascends and her health improves, the “I am I am I am” is in a hopeful tone. The beat of her heart becomes a reminder to persevere- that her heart isn’t going to give up on her.
And that is what my tattoo means. It is a reminder for me to stay strong and persist.
“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am I am I am.”