I've decided that my 30th birthday present to myself is going to be a tattoo. To some, it seems like an odd choice because I waited until I'm 30 to do it - not in my early 20s when everyone else was getting them done (though, technically, I'm getting it two days before my birthday. That way, I can say that I did it back in my 'wild and crazy' 20s. Not like I was wild and crazy in my 20s, but it's a good thing to say, I think.)
I've just been feeling the urge to mark this occasion - to mark myself to commemorate all that I've been through in the past 30 years. The urge is very strong. I guess you can't help but look back on the past when you hit a milestone such as this.
I once went to a therapist during a stressful time in my life. She asked for my life story and I gave it to her. At the end, she looked at me with wide eyes and said, "You have how many degrees and you work where??"
Apparently, people who have lived through the kind of childhood and adolescence that I did don't usually make it to where I have in life. They end up with drug problems; they end up on the streets. They don't get university degrees and good jobs.
"You're the resilient child," she said. "They write textbooks about people like you."
Of course, you can't live through that kind of a life and end up entirely unscathed. All my scars are on the inside.
I remember when I was 14 and everything that happened in my childhood started sinking in. I suddenly had labels for all that had happened: sexual abuse, physical abuse, alcoholism, dysfunctional family. The pain at that was so intense that I didn't know what to do with it. I was this peppy overachiever on the outside but no one knew what was going on inside. I remember wanting to cut myself so that I could feel some pain on the outside to distract myself from the pain on the inside. I remember doing just that - scarring up my wrists just so that I could feel something and know that the pain was real.
But this marking - this 30-year-old urge to mark is different. I want something that I can look down on and say, "I made it. And I'm going to keep making it."