Teeny tiny tats

I may be addicted to tiny tattoos.

After my first tattoo last year, I knew I wanted more, and this year’s meetup was as good a time as any. After much deliberation and experimentation, I ended up with two designs, and I couldn’t choose between them.

I knew I wanted a skeleton key of some kind. I love old keys. I also wanted something small behind my ear, but the key idea didn’t fit there.

I also wanted to acknowledge that Tim got his first tattoo this year — a Celtic knot on his wedding ring finger — and finding a way to incorporate that connection into the tattoo, whether directly or indirectly, was important to me.

After much iteration, I decided on a heart-shaped key on my right wrist to balance the tattoo on my left, symbolizing the love part of “amor fati”, and the Celtic knot behind my left ear.

I’m so happy with the new work, and now I’m having all sorts of new ideas for more tattoos. I didn’t believe Tammie when she said tattooing is addictive, but she may be on to something…

So I got a tattoo…

Cathedral Tattoo, Salt Lake City, UT

Cathedral Tattoo, Salt Lake City, UT

(I gave a modified version of this post as a 4-minute flash talk at the Automattic Grand Meetup.)

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of tattoos, but I’m also a…cautious person. Read: I overthink everything.

I asked myself things like, “Won’t it hurt? Am I the kind of person who can pull this look off? Do I really want to permanently scar my body for the rest of my life? How do I decide on one thing when it’s so irreversible?”

And the big one: “What if I don’t like it?”

So I scared myself out of doing anything (it’s one of my super powers), and put the thought aside.


And then my dad passed away.

It got me thinking. Our bodies are marked in irreversible ways all the time, through scars and age. No one is immune to change. Suddenly, the thought of a tattoo didn’t seem so overwhelming when viewed as a mark of growth.

I decided I wanted to honor my dad and acknowledge the ways I’ve changed and grown this year.

Tattoo design

I chose the script “Amor fati”, which is a Latin phrase that translates roughly to “love of fate.” It’s about taking the good with the bad, and accepting that suffering and loss are equally as important to one’s existence as joy. In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche:

“My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not in the future, not in the past, not for all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it—all idealism is mendacity in the face of what is necessary—but love it.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

My dad was left-handed, so the tattoo is on my left wrist, facing inward as a message to myself. I worked a star into the design, because Dad loved astronomy and astrology.

Yes, it hurt, but not that bad. Thanks to Tammie for the photo!

Yes, it hurt, but not that bad. Thanks to Tammie for the photo!

“Amor Fati” also happens to be the name of an X-Files episode, making it a subtle nod to one of my favorite things. It’s serendipitous that this particular episode includes a quote that fits my situation almost perfectly.

“There was one thing that remained the same. You were my friend, and you told me the truth. Even when the world was falling apart, you were my constant…my touchstone.” — Fox Mulder

This mark is a new constant; a reminder to live and cherish life’s ups and downs; to accept what comes my way with grace and courage, even when they are difficult or challenging.

The final product

The final product.

So thank you, Dad, for inspiring this gift to myself, and for the painful-yet-necessary reminder that life is too short to waste on what-ifs.

Dad and me