I wear the world on my left forearm. It reminds me of all that could ever be. Just to the right of my sternum, I wear the riptide in which I almost died. It reminds me of what almost was.
The map tattoo came first. Now, it serves as a reminder of my infinitesimally unimportant place in such an unfathomably large world. The map reminds me that, even when I feel like I am drowning in stress, my problems do not matter. It encourages me to zoom out my perspective; to seek the critical distance from myself, which ultimately sets me free. If I live long enough for life to dig out and the sun to fade the ink from my forearm, my tattoo is meant to inspire me to keep going. As I grow old and world-weary, it will remind me that there is always more to see, and that the world still does and will always have more to teach me. The map on my forearm represents the solidification of my life’s top priority: travel. It is an epiphany that took me twenty one years to understand and will take a lifetime to realize.
The modified riptide under my collarbone is a much more personal manifestation of the mercilessness of nature. A month after I got my world tattoo, a harsh undercurrent in the Caribbean Sea almost removed me from it. With each wave that crashed over me, I became more and more aware of the urgency of my need for oxygen and eventually noticed the imminence of my death. I had begrudgingly accepted it when a surfer put me on his board. His name was Tyler and he was from Long Beach, California. He thought I was crazy when, out of breath and back on shore, I began excitedly babbling about not having any dying regrets. The tattoo is my own affirmation that I have been living my own life and loving it well– adhering to my own self-imposed standards and values.
The waves on my chest are a reminder to be grateful for this moment, this life, and my ability to live them how I choose.