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A couple weeks ago I got my first tattoo, a semicolon with the lyrics “in my darkest night I am beautiful” written underneath. Today I’d like to share the story, and the symbology, behind that tattoo.
My affinity for tattoos
I have wanted at least one tattoo since I was twelve, a wolf similar to the one my dad had tattooed on his forearm. Unfortunately, there are no good pictures of said tattoo, so I don’t have a good basis for mine. This means I will get it one day, but it’ll probably take me another decade to decide exactly what I want.
Discovering the semicolon movement
In 2015 I discovered the semicolon movement and Project Semicolon, a nonprofit dedicated to suicide awareness and prevention. The semicolon was chosen because in grammar it represents the choice not to end a sentence. In tattoo form, and for Project Semicolon, it represents the choice not to end your life.
Creating my own semicolon tattoo
The semicolon is my favorite punctuation mark, so I immediately fell in love with this idea. But I knew I didn’t want just any semicolon. I wanted something unique, something to represent my personal journey. To show the individuality of my struggle.
This is what I ended up with:
In the end I chose three symbols:
The spiral of life
Instead of a regular dot, the top of my semicolon tattoo is the Celtic spiral of life. It represents the journey we are all on. I chose this instead of a circle because I don’t honestly know if I believe in reincarnation, so the spiral, with its fixed end point, has always seemed a more appropriate representation of the cycle of life to me.
The unfinished tail
The tail isn’t filled in, and in fact has something of a splatter effect, to represent that my journey isn’t over. The struggle continues, even if I happen to be winning it most of the time these days. I might get this filled in someday, if I come to feel that the battle is well and truly won. For now, it’s a reminder of how much work remains to be done.
The words “in my darkest night I am beautiful” are a modified lyric from the Icon for Hire song The Grey. I knew I wanted to add an Icon For Hire lyric to my semicolon tattoo for a long time, because their music speaks so clearly to my specific journey. I’ve never felt so much like a band was telling my exact story. This was the first lyric I wanted, and I kept coming back to it, even after their most recent album came out.
This lyric represents the lessons I’ve learned and the art I’ve created during my darkest times. It reminds me that there’s always an opportunity to turn the darkness into something beautiful, to transform it. And it also reminds me that I’m not alone, that so many people are also on this journey.
This tattoo is many things to me. It is a reminder to choose life, no matter how bad it gets, because I have so many stories left to tell the world. It reminds me that many of those stories will come from my future struggle. And it reminds me that as far as I’ve come, there’s still a long way between “not suicidal” and “actually healthy”.
What do you think of the tattoo? Of Project Semicolon itself? Let me know in the comments section below!