There was a time I seriously considered getting a tattoo.
I was 49, newly divorced, and intentionally put everything about my identity on the table for consideration. The “Old me,” married for a very long time, was fairly sedentary and a creature of habit. The “New me”, was thrust into the new dating normal, dancing up a storm and remembering how much I loved to shoot pool. Mine was a classic reinvention moment that I took very seriously, which meant “Trying on” both smart ideas and really bad ones.
So a tattoo did cross my mind more than once. I mean, really; if there was ever a moment to get a tattoo, a reinvention moment was that time. If I was giving my new identity a shot, why couldn’t the new me have a tattoo? While I was really thinking it through, I wondered which single image I’d be willing to carry with me until death. What one symbol could capture what I was about as a person?
Then it hit me… a starfish.
There were two reasons I thought very seriously about getting a starfish tattoo. First of all, starfish regenerate. If they lose one of their arms, they usually grow them back. Like the starfish, I, too, was transforming, recreating my life… regenerating, if you will.
Secondly, I am a big fan of a starfish allegory that goes roughly like this:
An old man is walking along a beach at daybreak as the tide rolls out, and sees what looks like a young boy dancing in the distance along the retreating surf. As he gets closer, he notices two things: There appear to be thousands of starfish that have washed up on the shore, stranded without life-sustaining water. And that the boy is not dancing, he is throwing the starfish into the water, one by one.
The man is struck by what he feels is a futile effort, and asks the boy, “Why are you wasting your energy? You won’t make a difference.” To which the boy responds, “I made a difference to that one,” and throws one back.” And that one,” and throws in another. And so on.
This story is very personal to me because that little boy is, for all intents and purposes, me. Married or divorced, young or old, in Nashville or Memphis or DC, I am a person that is here to make a difference. The starfish reminds me that there is great work to be done to improve the future for people, communities, and organizations, and it is time for me to get to it.
My dreams of getting a tattoo ended the day I sat with my youngest son while he was getting one on his shoulder. I was leafing through a book of sketches when I looked up and into his pain-filled eyes… deciding then and there that perhaps a tattoo was not for me., But when it came time to launch my new web presence, the only logo that made sense was a starfish.
So welcome once again to my brave journey. I welcome you here to me and to this new space for our brave community. I look forward to hearing your stories of resilience and bravery, in whatever form they take.