Unlike other Fridays, I only had to teach one class today. I have to teach Saturdays and Sundays still, but now I have most of Friday free. I wasn't sure what to do with my time. I felt a bit lost. So I wandered into a tattoo shop. No one spoke English but a young guy named Robert, who was bald and dressed in camouflage clothing, spoke to my good friend Magda on the phone and she translated everything for me.
I had been planning to fix my tattoo for a long time. I got a tattoo when I was 21 and it was a symbolic event in my life. In 1995, I returned home early from a Mormon mission because I didn't believe anymore. I had a huge identity crisis as well. It was a hard time for both my family and me. An extremely stressful time. My family felt like I was leaving them. I didn't want to leave them, but I couldn't make myself believe in Mormon ideology anymore. I also felt like it was an American religion and I was starting to feel resentful about being torn away from Northern Ireland without my consent. I understand why my parents wanted to chase the American dream, and they have done well for themselves in general, but I had no choice.
So during this volatile time, my mum suggested I visit Ireland and see all my family. I had not seen Ireland since I was 12 years old. I had lost my Northern Irish accent and I wasn't sure where I belonged. So in 1995, during Christmas, I went to Portadown where I was born and it changed everything. For the first time in my life I felt like I was making choices. I think it was the first time I made a conscious decision to change something rather than someone changing my life for me. I was fascinated by everything. I began to seriously write poetry and read Joseph Campbell and Jung and Freud and Shakespeare. I also began to really study world religion and a bit of anthropology. Everything opened up.
Shortly after that trip to Ireland, I re-entered university in Southern Utah and took honours classes and studied everything I could possibly study. I worked at a telemarketing company called Matrixx and sold life insurance over the phone. During a coffee break I met Tiffany and she took me to the petrol station and showed me how to mix coffee and hot chocolate. Coffee was still new to me then since the Mormon Church prohibited it. After a short engagement, we were married despite the wishes of her family. It was a tumultuous affair. Since I no longer believed in the Mormon Church, we didn't get married in the Mormon temple. This was a very serious problem for both of our families, but especially Tiffany's family. Our respective families never really spoke at the wedding and continued not to speak after ten years of marriage. I still remember the day of the marriage. I was wearing a kilt. I felt proud and calm. Again, I was making a conscious strong decision on my own despite what others thought. It felt exhilarating. Tiffany also made a strong decision. She had to go against the wishes of her immediate family and her extended family. All of her family got married in the Mormon temple. I was 21 and Tiffany was only 19. I learned a lot from Tiffany during those ten years of marriage. I think we both did. I don't regret a single day with her.
Today as I watched Robert trace over my old tattoo with new ink, I realised how important it is to remember my past. For over two hours he worked on my tattoo and added shadows and small black flames. It became an almost completely different tattoo, but there were still traces of the old blue tattoo from when I was 21 years old.
Now I feel like I am floating around. I am not sure where I am heading. More importantly, I am not sure what I really want for my life. Drifting with the wind can be a romantic ideal. I want to be flexible and allow for changes, but I really want to make conscious strong decisions in my life again. I need reflection time. To slow down. Take stock. And yes, sort out what is really important.
New beginnings. I need them :-)