Big news: I got a tattoo this month. It has been something I have wanted for at least a couple of years. So many people don’t think I am a “tattoo person” — not sure exactly what that means. If it means that up until this point in my life I never had a tattoo, then yes, that is an accurate statement. If it is meant to be something derogatory and insulting, I cannot help you with your judgments but you remain entitled to your opinion.

I’ve gotten a lot of reactions since permanently etching my flesh; most of which I expected, and none of which have given me “buyer’s remorse.” Some people love it (as do I), some do not (including my youngest daughter), some think it’s too big, some want to know if it hurt (it was uncomfortable), some think it would look better on my back/thigh/ankle, but everyone wants to know what it means. So, here goes:

Giving tree tattoo
This tattoo is a very accurate depiction of an image from The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. (*If you have never read the book, please go buy a copy and devour it…then share it with your kids.) My mom introduced my sister and me to this book when we were tots and it has been a staple ever since. So, in a way, this tattoo is a miniature tribute to my mom, the consummate giver.

The Giving Tree book

I thought long and hard about what I wanted to “wear” on my body for the rest of my life. I originally wanted something that symbolized the ocean – my soul place – but that will be for the next tattoo, because I couldn’t completely visualize it and depict it the way I ultimately wanted to. I also knew I wanted the tattoo to represent who I am, what I stand for, and what I hope to leave as my legacy.

Hence The Giving Tree.

In so many ways, the book speaks to me about parenting and how we give so selflessly and unconditionally to our children. We give them wings and hope that they will come back and share those stories with their roots + stumps (us). Seeing them fly off to live their own lives and then come back to play in our branches and eat our fruit brings us such immeasurable joy. We want better for our children than for ourselves, so we give them the best of us, and giving that way makes us happy. So, every time I look at this little stump with the heart in it, I am reminded of Brenna and Shaylagh and how I would trade my life for theirs in an instant, without giving it a second thought. The tree is such a beautiful metaphor for “grounding,” and this drawing is a reminder to stay true to my roots no matter where the next chapters of my life might take me. Family first. That’s what makes this tree happy.

The heart signifies Bobby and his role in my life. (In the book, the initials ‘Me + T’ appear in the heart. I wanted mine to read ‘Me + B’…but the tattoo artist said the letters would be too small and they would become illegible over time.) Bobby has given me so much, especially over the last few years when I have been on my “journey inward.” He is the calm to my worry. He is the unwavering confidence to my occasional self-doubt. He is the wind at my back, gently encouraging me along. And, like a deeply rooted tree, I know he will always be beside me: my shelter and my shade.

Give heart tattoo

The word “give” signifies the path I am on. Kahlil Gibran once said, You give but little when you give of your possessions.  It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” This tattoo is a reminder to stay in that space of giving and loving and growing. Because I am truly at my happiest when I am giving to other people and helping them shine their own lights. That’s how, my work with Nu Skin, and the Self Esteem Through Art program all came to being. I work tirelessly to give people what they most need at a given moment in time; whether that is simply a product to make them healthier, an opportunity to share their authenticity in a safe environment, a vehicle to help them generate added income, some encouragement to shine their brightest, or some overdue time for some self-care. The tattoo represents me striving to always live my life in a  “How can I be of service to you?” and not a “What is in it for me?” kind of way. It took me a long. long time to get here. It took decades for me to realize that givers get. It took years of unlearning a lot of the things I learned along the way to recognize that giving to others does not have to mean losing myself. And, I want to stay here. It’s who I am now, who I hope to be in the future, who I have ultimately become. Give. A powerful little word.

That pretty much sums up the symbolism behind the ink. It’s about roots. It’s about wings. It’s about strength. And love. And legacies. And journeys. And gifts. I guess I only have one piece of advice: if you are going to get a tattoo, make sure it is something you will want to look at in 20, 40, 60 years — and try to put a little meaning behind it.

**Footnote: Dan at Regeneration Tattoo in Allston did a phenomenal job! I highly recommend him. Tell him Jenn with The Giving Tree tattoo sent you.
The Giving Tree tattoo and book