I was less nervous about the pain than the implications of having a tattoo. I used to—not really despise but—snub the idea of myself getting tattoos. I can’t really explain the reason; it’s not the prison/gang stereotype that many people had. I guess I wanted to stay “pure” and untainted and cute, LOL. Also, I was concerned about practical consequences such as reduced work opportunities and not being able to donate blood (although I’ve never even tried that).
Tattoo is also a permanent thing (unless it’s a henna tattoo from Boracay). And I’m very wary of such commitments, just like marriage and kids. It’s not something you can easily reverse and erase. So you have to think about it really carefully. Otherwise, regret will also be permanent.
So, why suddenly did I decide to get a tattoo? First of all, I think they’re a really nice form of expression and a reminder of something very important. They carry a lot of meaning. When you look at the mirror and see that tattoo, you’ll get butterflies (like I do now). You’ll remember your purpose, a precious memory, a past pain, or just the meaning of being. Your tattoo represents you.
My first tattoo also signifies change, like I’m shedding old skin and a new person with a fresh slate emerges. (It sounds simple as I write it, but it’s a process and it starts now.) This is me acknowledging change and refusing complacency. This is me forging bravely forward to a new phase.
I chose fall leaves first of all for the simplest reason that autumn is my favorite season. More than that, autumn is the backdrop of the most precious travel memories I have, most especially Jeju. It’s always Jeju I’ll be thinking of. The time I hiked through foliage of orange, red, and gold. The moment I fell in love. My vow to return.
Going deeper, autumn leaves resonate well with my embrace of change. I adore how beautiful trees transition into a new phase—they don’t simply shed their old leaves, no. They shed it beautifully and make a great show of it. And people are frozen in wonder, spellbound, witnessing this very meaningful event. I want to change like that. I want to change gracefully and for people around me—friends, family, fleeting acquaintances—I also want to fill them with awe as they watch me transform, as they watch me grow, as they watch me march forward.
I’ve undergone a lot of changes in my life, of course, but this is by far the most significant for me. Just like with tattoos, the thirties was an age I dreaded. It feels weird to be thirty now. It feels just like yesterday that I was being carefree and stupid in my teens as if I was gonna be young forever. There were always adults around to tolerate my stupidity and guide me forgivingly. Now, I’m one of them and at this age, there are new expectations. But I will always be in the middle of being a kid and being a fully formed adult—like autumn swaying between the warmth of summer and the chill of winter. I will always carry that sense of adventure, curiosity, and childish humor. At the same time, I’ll be treading the earth with greater responsibility and awareness.
Although my short answer to friends asking why autumn leaves is always “it’s my favorite season,” there’s a whole lot of meaning contained in my first tattoo. On the outside, it may seem to be largely cosmetic especially to the eyes of other people. But this tattoo serves a good purpose for me; always a reminder that I’ve had good days to remember and always better days to look forward to.
My most beautiful autumn experiences: