“What does your tattoo say?”

Oct 15, 2011 I just got my first tattoo @ Chameleon a bit before my 21st bday.

It’s been almost a year (9 months to be more exact) since I got my tattoo, and I still got asked frequently “What does your tattoo say?” Close friends, friends, new friends, try-to-be friends, the cashiers of Verdes, the worker in Urban Outfitters and Starbucks, the guys in workshops, all asked. I thought having it inscribed on my right wrist is all for me seeing it everyday, but it turned that it’s always people and their curiosity/nosiness reminding me this tattoo and it’s meaning to me.

This tattoo is by no means to be for funzies to me. Unlike jscott’s happy/ inspiring-life-motto tattoo, my tattoo is a piece of “vigilance”. Everything wasn’t going on the right track for me since September and most importantly, I felt myself losing a lot of discipline that I used to hold. There were bad things I have never done, rules/routines I have never broken; and I lost control in many of them. I might have been a freer person in that period of time, but then I realized that I was not, or would probably never be ready for that much of a freedom. At the same time the odds were not on my side in many decisions and many efforts I made. I knew that I would get them through eventually, but I was too lost that I figure something permanent would help bring my old self back.

So in the afternoon of the very day (a Saturday, when Chameleon has their walk-in hours) I decided I was going to get a tattoo. At first I was only to have the character “戒”, which means “to abstain”. However, the word was perhaps to heavy for me that I finally decided to choose another phrase/calligraphy “以戒為師” to be my tattoo. In the context, “戒” meant more as “commandment” or “discipline”; then entire phrase meant “let commandment as your teacher/guidance”. I wasn’t thinking too much and got the tattoo in the evening.

When the tattooist warned me that this tattoo might influence my interviews/ jobs in the future, I told him “I’m not having this tattoo to entertain the people who sees it.” “I need to be able to see this tattoo everyday.”

So I did, and it turned out to be obnoxiously entertaining.

In the first few month, people kept asking me what it meant. In the first few responses I tried to explain the meaning with my inner complicated feelings toward the tattoo. However, people didn’t have patience in my own story; they just wanted you to satisfy their curiosity. After a while I gave up and just said that it meant “to be more disciplined and to learn your lesson”, quickly fed up their nosiness and usually received an awkward silence in return.

“To be more disciplined”
“To learn your lesson”

Very inside my heart I know it meant more of the latter than the former to me. I need to learn my lessons. Never ever be a fool again, never ever let go my disciplines again.

Never err twice, because I’m too weak to bear another insult.

After 9 months, I guess I don’t feel as strong as I used to be. Nevertheless, it always turns back to me when I’m forced to answer the question “What does it(the tattoo) say?” It is this answering-by-mouth process than the visual impact of the tattoo that really bring this vigilance to life.

I say, “to be more disciplined.”
I say, “to learn my lessons.”

I say to people and to myself; I mean it. Every time I vow it, it turned stronger to me.

There was a time when I was asked many times a day and it brought a lot of stress.
“Am I going to be more disciplined?”
“Will everyone watching me being disciplined and judge me when I’m not?”

It was so stressful that I hated people asking. It still is, and will be a stressful inscription on my body.

Now I’m all fine, still staying in this little town for the third summer UROP. Dancing when I can, thinking wildly when I can, drawing when I can. Disciplines or lessons came to me as the question comes, and I just bounce them back .

When I bounce the questions back, I bounce them to myself also.

Bounce it hard enough that I won’t forget, my discipline.


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