I never thought that I would get tattoos when I was a kid because we used to associate them with gangsters or baddies, and the endless talks from the adults on “what if you regret getting them one day…”. Well, little did I know that I will have 6 (maybe more in the future) of them now.
Fast forward to the current me, tattoos are just my kind of self-expression and an art form to me. I no longer care about how people look at me now that I’m so much more mature as compared to the past. Just over the CNY period recently, relatives, some younger some older, have been asking me about my tattoos in a reprimanding manner. I usually just make a joke out of everything and say things like, “Oh!!!! I’m going to run away loh!!”, laugh it off and walk away. This is almost like politics and religion, there’s no point talking about it to people who can’t see from your point of view.
Many people also like to ask me what my tattoos mean. It’s not that I don’t want to explain there and then, but it is a little hard to explain. Sometimes I feel that the story is a little long for me to finish in one or two sentences; sometimes it feels a little mushy mushy and too personal to share the meaning, even to my close ones. It’s hard to say it, but writing them down is definitely easier.
Here are my 6 tattoos and the meaning, or none, behind them.
Tribal butterfly (2008)
I got my first tattoo some 11 years back in 2008. I remember that it was a sudden thought to get one, and besides trying to decide which spot on my body I should place my tattoo, I didn’t think very deeply about it. I went ahead to get one with the support of my sister and then boyfriend, not even having any idea of what design I would like to have.
The tattoo artist passed me a file with all his designs inside, and I eventually settled on a tribal butterfly design, much inspired by my sister’s tribal butterfly tattoo that she has on her ankle. The tattoo artist customised the design a little for me to fit nicely on my shoulder, and the rest is history.
And because this tattoo is pretty meaningless besides stating the point in my life when I started appreciating tattoos, I made a decision to remove this tattoo last September. I’m currently on my fifth session of Picosure Laser tattoo removal and you can read more about it here. I’ll definitely update again with more details of the removal when it is completely done.
Faith and Hope ambigram (2014)
My second tattoo came 8 years after my first one in 2014. Inspired by G-Dragon’s “Forever Young” tattoo at the side of his body, I went about searching for a design that I like to put on the same spot. My main concern back then was that getting a tattoo at this area is going to hurt a lot. But I always have the mentality that if someone else can do it, I can do it too. It was painful, but very bearable.
Credit: YG Entertainment
I only wanted positive designs on my body so all dark or devilish designs are all out for me. After much deliberation, I settled on a Faith and Hope ambigram.
I don’t really have many photos of this tattoo so here’s one of it with my awkward face.
“Faith” when you look from the front
“Hope” when you see from the back.
But you know what, I followed my friend’s recommendation and went to his tattoo artist but lo and behold, I really think that this artist is no good although his shop’s name is one of the few that pops up on the first page of Google search. After completing the first session, the tattoo looked very faded. I went back for a retouch and he had to go over the whole tattoo again. After the tattoo recovered, it still looks faded and the lines aren’t very nicely done. I’ll need to re-do that soon!
Christ, Heartbeat, and Love (2016)
There are always random bursts of thoughts when I get a tattoo. I don’t really plan them but when that thought came I’ll just look for something I want to do and went ahead to do it. I can’t remember how this came about, but most probably without rhyme or reason as usual.
I’ve been studying in Christian schools from primary school right up to Junior College. I do talk to God although I’m never a staunch or the go-to-church kind of believer. My primary and secondary school teachings shaped me a lot as a person, from the daily teachings of my wonderful teachers to all the weekly chapel services. While I’m never the true blue goody two shoe Christian, this tattoo is something that is pretty meaningful to me – my faith, living life to fullest, and using love as a guide to making decisions.
Of course, I didn’t go back to the previous tattoo artist to do the tattoo this time around. My bro Xiang recommended me his tattoo artist, Jeremy from Seven Sins Tattoo, and Jeremy did such a great job. The lines were sharp and defined and the tattoo was beautifully done! And yes, I’ll be going to Jeremy to redo my Faith and Hope ambigram soon. I’ve been dragging it for tooooo long.
Key with heart (2018)
IT DOESN’T MEAN “THE KEY TO MY HEART”. That’s too mushy and stupid.
Neither is it SHINee’s KEY although a lot of you said it must be because I love SHINee’s Key so much.
On my inner arm
I did a sketch of the design I wanted and brought it to Jeremy from Seven Sins Tattoo. He refined my trashy artwork for me and got started once we settled on the final design and size.
There are times when I doubt myself, from the things I do and whether I am doing them well enough. I wanted to have a key design because keys unlock doors. They can be doors to anything and its a gentle reminder to myself that I’m the one holding on to the key and the decision lies with me whether I want to use the key or not.
And the heart shape on the key? It came about from this quote in my favourite book.”And now, here’s my secret, a very simple secret: It is only within the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye” ~ The Little Prince.
The “X” over the heart shape is just an addition to the design because of the “X” in “Xinyi”.
Haru, Me, and Kele (2018)
My 10-year-old rabbit Kele passed away in March and I missed him a lot. I’ve never locked him up in a cage and allowed him free roam of the house. He was the sweetest rabbit who would scramble up to me just to sit by my side, run to me when he hears me getting up in the morning just to ask for head pats. Kele was with me through my ups and downs over the past 10 years and it was really difficult to see him go.
My initial rough sketch.
I did a drawing of Haru (my little doggie), myself, and Kele looking into the sky together and posted the picture on my IG story. Replies came flooding in suggesting that I should convert this picture into a tattoo, and so I thought, why not? Since I was heading to Seoul, I decided to go to a Seoul tattoo artist who does very fine line tattoos to ink this picture on the back of my arm.
I send Uzi the picture and told her what I wanted. She refined and redrew the picture based on what I had and I was really happy with it when I received it. It was so cute and pretty. I would never have expected a tattoo to be so fine and adorable. I showed the design to a few of my close friends and they suggested that the girl was too fat to look like me and the hair of my toy poodle Haru should be curly. I reflected these suggestions to Uzi and she promptly redesigned it for me.
I received a lot of compliments from this tattoo and many asked me for her contact because it seems that this kind of fine lines tattooing is not exactly common in Singapore. Now you know where to find her yo!
Korean calligraphy 평정심 (2018)
I did this together with the Haru, Me, and Kele tattoo with Uzi. Since I wanted a Korean calligraphy tattoo, I reckoned that it was better for me to do it in Seoul.
With the help of Jay, a Korean friend of mine, I settled on the three words “평정심 (pyong jong shim)” which is something I lived by. It translates directly to Chinese “平静心” and it means a little more than just peace in your heart. It is also a state of equilibrium I want to achieve. Not easy, but hey, we are getting there with age. Heh.
Uzi gave me a few different styles to choose from and after deciding on the size, I got 평정심 inked.
And that ends the story of my 6 tattoos. I’m guessing that I’ll definitely add more (my mum is sure to nag haha) when I feel inspired. Do you have tattoo stories to share? Tell me, please!