Tattoo Stories #5: Surreal Flower + Life-Altering Change

Dec 7, 2018

4 minutes

Have you ever had a time in your life that you knew, deep down, would change you forever?

Turning 30 years old was one of those times for me.

Throughout my entire 20s, I knew, for whatever reason, turning 30 would change everything about my life – and it sure did.

Originally, I didn’t plan on getting a tattoo when I turned 30, but as you’ll read, I did end up getting a tattoo that may have more meaning than any other tattoo I have so far.

Tattoo #5: Surreal Flower + Life-Altering Change

(please enjoy my very non-professional photo of my own tattoo)


  • Age When Tattooed: 30
  • Tattooed in: Connecticut; USA
  • Body Location: Inside of my Left Forearm
  • Time to Complete: 45 minutes

My life from age 20-29 was marked by two key themes: self-worth and relationships.

In terms of self-worth, I battled severe depression and social anxiety that impacted every decision I made.

In terms of relationships, before I turned 20, my longest relationship until that time (3 years) ended drastically and painfully (as you read about with my 3rd tattoo).

Right before I turned 20, I began a relationship that would end up being even longer than my previous relationship (10+ years) and had more twists and turns than a rollercoaster.

When I turned 30, I was alone.

My then-partner had joined the Marine Corps a few years earlier. With one year left on his contract, he deployed to Afghanistan. I moved back to live with family while he was gone.

With my 30th birthday coming up, I knew I wanted to do something just for me, so I planned my first-ever solo vacation. I spent the weekend indulging in massages, pedicures, and exploring an adorable New England town.

It may be hard to imagine, but that was the first time I had ever done something 100% for myself. Before that, any action I took or decision I made, I had to take someone else into account – someone else’s feelings, fears, or preferences. This time, it was all about me, for the first time in my life.

If you’ve never experienced that before, I highly recommend it.

After I returned from that vacation, I wondered what my year at age 30 had in store for me – I never imagined that it would change everything that I know about myself, my relationships, and what was most important to me.

Without giving too many details, the relationship I had with my then-partner completely fell apart.

Long distance can do only one of two things to a relationship: bring you closer together as you manage the distance OR bring up all of the issues you’ve been ignoring and force you to deal with them. The second option happened to us.

We were forced to deal with issues of dominance, depression, anxiety, self-worth, priorities, respect, and ultimately, lying to ourselves about what we really wanted out of life.

Through all of this mess, it felt like the right time to get a new tattoo (thanks for sticking with the story so far!).

Compared to my four previous tattoos, I was living in the most emotionally volatile time of my life, so you’d think that would be a terrible time to get a tattoo. For some, it would be.

For me, my 5th tattoo was a symbol of killing the old version of myself who feared everything and would quickly conform to anyone else’s preferences. 

As I often tell people, when I turned 30, my “fuck it” mode turned on permanently.

It’s easy to lose yourself in a relationship as “you and I” becomes “we.” That “we” can be a spectacular, supportive experience (us against the world!), but it can also be a suffocating, identity-killing horror – and the difference between the two is rather small.

My 5th tattoo, like my 4th tattoo, was designed by Rubens LP.

Living on the inside of my left forearm, the tattoo is a purple flower with eyes. For me, the eyes symbolize opening my eyes to who I really was, after 30 years of defining myself only in relation to other people. The ink drops falling off of its leaves symbolize shedding old definitions I had for myself that held me back for decades.

Every time I see this tattoo (and it’s multiple times a day!), I’m reminded that I define who I am – and no one else on this planet may ever understand who that person is. And that’s OK. I don’t need understanding from other people. I only need a community to participate in – they don’t have to “understand” me, they only need to welcome me.

Live With Your Eyes Wide Open.

For now, this is the end of the tattoo series! We’ve covered all of the tattoos I currently have.

In 2019, I’ll be getting my 6th tattoo during my first trip to Japan, so stay tuned for more soon!

Photo by Daniel Dvorský on Unsplash

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