So this will come as news to many of you, but a couple of months ago I got my first tattoo! It’s something I have wanted to do for many years and finally had the opportunity to do it. I got a little semi-colon on my wrist to honor my dad (who passed away from colon cancer a year ago) and also my career in treating mental health.
A day or so after I got it, I Facetimed my mom and was showing it to her. At one point, she looked at it and said, “From the way the camera is facing it looks backwards, but maybe that’s just because the phone is mirroring it?” I brushed it off and agreed it must just be the camera… until I got off the phone and realized that she was right, it is indeed, backwards.
Guys, just imagine this situation with me for a moment. My tattoo, the one I’ve wanted for several years and finally mustered up the courage to get after hours and hours of research and decision making is BACKWARDS! Forever. For life. Did I mention, FOREVER?
I flipped out.
The next morning, I expected to feel just as upset and anxious about my new public embarrassment, but instead all I felt was acceptance. It seemed that my kids still loved their mother, the birds were still chirping, the world was still spinning after all. When I looked in the mirror, I studied my tattoo and had an unmistakable feeling of peace and acceptance. “How perfect, really,” I thought, “to have a tattoo that’s so imperfect.”
Since that day, I’ve yet to regret getting this backwards tattoo. I mean, I’m probably not recommending that particular tattoo artist to anyone any time soon, but in its imperfection this tattoo serves to remind me of my own beautiful imperfection, of the things I’ve gone through and the things I will go through. It reminds me of all of the strong, imperfect women I have worked with and will work with. It reminds me of my dad who was quirky and had a great sense of humor. The fact that it is backwards really does make it my own.
As I look back on the last year, almost nothing has turned out the way expected to. I trained for a marathon I wasn’t able to run. We moved across the country and I finally opened my practice, only to find out 1 month later that we will be moving again. I got a tattoo and it’s backwards.
This year was supposed to be my year of self discovery. I vowed to myself that I would really focus on my body and mind and find myself again. If I look back and see only the outcomes, I see a lot of failure and wrong turns. It would be so easy to throw up my hands and say, “So much for self discovery! Look at all of these goals you didn’t even accomplish!”
But if I give myself permission to turn my head just slightly to look at the journey instead of just the destination, I see so much beauty. I see a woman who pushed through 3+ hours of running alone on a trail, waking up at 4am just to get it done in time. I see connection with my kids and husband and battling through depression that overwhelmed me after moving to another new state. I created a whole new business idea because of the difficulties I’ve gone through with my licenses, something that never would’ve happened if licensing had been easy.
As you reflect back on this year, please give yourself some space for failure and wrong turns. Turn your head and see how you have grown through the struggle. Be kind and encouraging to yourself and recognize the great achievement it is to just keep pushing through. That’s all any of us imperfect people with backwards tattoos and unfinished races can do.