For years I used to say "Someday I'll go to Spain, someday I'll go to Morocco". Then one day I found myself at 36 years of age having never even left the damn country. With the epiphany I had last October I decided to take a plunge and sell everything and travel the world for a year, making up for lost time.
Similarly, since I was a teenager, I have talked about getting tattoos. Even going to the extent of planning out elaborate designs for full sleeves. I always said "Someday I'm going to do it, someday I'll start getting my tats". Again I found myself 36 years old with not a drop of ink. So in keeping with my new approach on how to really experience life I decided to get my first piece done. To hell with anyone who says I'm too old to start now. Better late than never.
With the rough idea and a crude sketch I approached C.J. Ranes, a painter friend of mine, and asked him to help me develop my first tattoo. He agreed to do the mock-up of a skull and compass for me. He then suggested I see Vall at Folk City Tattoo to get the rest of it designed and permanently emblazoned upon my flesh. (Both C.J. and Vall are great artists. Please check out their work. Links below). The result was fantastic:
A skull and a compass sit upon a map. A banner that reads "Home I'll Never Be" is strewn across it. The symbology of the work is two-fold. It represents my upcoming travel and sums up things I have deeply felt my entire life. On the surface the compass and map represent travel in the general sense. On another level they represent the journey of life. On yet another level they represent the search for direction, the search for my place in the world - something I feel I'm still seeking and probably will continue to seek until I return to the earth.
This brings us to the skull. A reminder that we are all dying from the moment we are born. We have but a brief moment on this planet and every second counts. As morbid as it seems, the skull - a reminder of our mortality, is a good thing to meditate on. It encourages one to make more of their limited time here. Alan Watts said it best:
“Everybody should do in their lifetime, sometime, two things. One is to consider death. To observe skulls and skeletons and to wonder what it will be like to go to sleep and never wake up— never. That is a most gloomy thing for contemplation but it’s like manure. Just as manure fertilizes the plants and so on, so the contemplation of death and the acceptance of death is very highly generative of creating life. You’ll get wonderful things out of that.”
"Home I'll Never Be" is a line from a song that Jack Kerouac wrote (Tom Waits does an amazing cover of it). Kerouac also used the song in his novel On the Road. To me the line sums up a number of things. Wanderlust first of all - Something I was struck with as soon as I read that seminal beat book as a teenager. Secondly that line, like the compass, speaks to the everlasting search for direction, for belonging, for the place where you fit in perfectly. A place that is quite possibly imaginary.
So this tattoo, like my world tour, is just another manifestation of my new outlook: The past is gone and irretrievable. The future is but a fantasy. The present, the now, is all that exists and all that will ever exist. If you are ever going to do something, you do it now. As John Fogerty says: "Someday never comes".