Owning Oneself

(Originally posted Nov 7, 2014, here.)

Last Saturday, I got my third tattoo. It’s an Art Deco style antique key I had put on my bicep.


Yes, it has a meaning. All my tattoos do. The phoenix on my calf is all about being reborn from my ashes and flying away with the key to my freedom and myself. (That’s a key it’s holding).


The wording on my arm is the last stanza of Ode 1.11 by Horace:



I spent a good portion of my twenties worried so much about the future that I forgot to enjoy the present. To say that I was unhappy is an understatement. It took me a long time to learn that while the future is important, don’t put all your hope there. Enjoy the here and now. It’s also a phrase that turns up in my first published novel, Close Quarter. Only Silas has a bit of a different reaction to it than I do.

And the key? Well, it’s alluded to in the phoenix explanation. If you see me at a convention, I’m probably wearing a key necklace of some kind. It comes from the first novel I wrote, where a key is used as a maker, a promise of a debt owed to the bearer. The key is my own, and I’ve made a promise to myself never, ever again to compromise who I am for someone else. I owe myself that.

So why tattoos?

One of the unexpected feelings I had when I got my first tattoo was the sudden sense of owning my own body. I had marked it. Not time, not accidents, not anyone else. Me. I claimed a piece of my very being and chose to mark it in a way pleasing to me.

That’s powerful, that feeling of possessing yourself. I think a lot of us feel owned by so much else. Family. Friends. Job. Society. But in the end, we inhabit our bodies and minds and belong first to ourselves. Yes, we share, but at the end of the day, when you close your eyes…you’re yourself. Whoever that is.

And that person is wonderful, by the way. Just saying.