Every New Year, for the last few years, I’ve picked a Theme for the Year.
Yes, I know how wanky and insufferable that sounds. But I’ve grown to like doing it so I’ll try to take the eye-rolls and inward groans on the chin(s).
Having a theme helps me to focus – not in a goal-orientated, get-shit-done kind of way. No, nothing as useful as that. It’s more of a ‘summing up’ of my thoughts, intentions and circumstances.
When I was pregnant in 2015 and had returned to the charity sector after a short-lived stint in the commercial world, my theme was Redemption.
And when my daughter ‘O’ came along in 2016 – by necessity, it seemed – the theme was Family.
Last year, I chose Hope. It was a reaction to the really depressing stuff happening in the world. And, to be honest, it was also inspired in-part by Leia at the end of Rogue One. It felt like the first good Star Wars film in a lifetime and I cried when I heard that single word uttered by Carrie at the end.
Yes, I’m wanky and embarrassing.
This year’s theme proved difficult to capture. I like to find them in the same way I come to books. Organically and with a degree of serendipity. My husband mulled this for a while and – I imagine quite frustrated by my ‘woo’ methodology – suggested Renewal.
It fitted, so I’m taking it.
New Year, re-NEW-al me
Change and renewal are well-trodden themes but, after a couple of years of treading water to try to keep my head above baby-infested waters, they’re a welcome one.
I hate sticking with stuff. I’m always looking over my shoulder or, more specifically, on RightMove and Guardian Jobs, to see what I might be missing.
Enforced status quo has had its benefits though.
Two years of trying to remember how to do my job, whilst also keeping my daughter alive, paying the bills, sorting out the house and maintaining acceptable minimal levels of contact with friends and family has been absorbing enough.
Whenever I’ve explored changing things up, the universe has wisely interceded and put paid to any plans and pipe dreams.
I’ve been told that I “can’t have it all”.
I rail against this with every fibre of my feminist being. However, I am slowly beginning to accept that perhaps ‘having it all’ isn’t the same ‘as having it all at once’…
So, to renewal.
Adieu, old tattoo
I’ve started with a bold, non-verbal statement. On Saturday, I went to Newington Green in North London and visited Alex at Santo Cuervo Tattoo Studio to get a tattoo cover-up.
When I was 20 years old and going to university in Birmingham (the old Poly, not the ‘proper’ uni, as I was often reminded), I LOVED dolphins.
I hasten to add that it was 1996 and all that hippy dippy New Age stuff had a brief moment in the sun. The Spice Girls proudly showed off their tribal tatts and Celtic knots, Barb Wire was a thing… And dolphins were EVERYWHERE (like unicorns now).
Obviously, all trends are cool at some point but, sadly, my tattoo never was. I got a really rubbish botch-job from a tattoo ‘studio’ in a run-down row of shops in Birmingham. (You can see the results of my ill-judged whim in my Instagram stream on the right)
There were no online reviews back then, so I should’ve been relying on word-of-mouth reviews and recommendations. But no, I was young and impulsive and got it done as a walk-in. One of the cardinal sins of tattooing. It was drawn badly – two black dolphins in a Yin-Yang formation – complete with wobbly tails and noses.
Fast forward to 22 years later, and many years of research into styles, artists and techniques, and I finally ended up with a tattoo I’m proud of.
Yes, it may all merge into one big pink and black blob in 5 years’ time. Yes, it’s as likely to date as the dolphin duo. And yes, I could’ve just had the original one lasered off.
But I don’t care. Well, I don’t care much.
I’ve been thinking about how people have become a bit obsessed with being ‘timeless’ and keeping things traditional and simple – and ‘classic’. Like when people get married and pick a simple dress, a classic theme, a traditional setting…
And when people name their kids something simple, classical and traditional…
It’s all very laudable in terms of trying to avoid the future pain of embarrassment, I’m sure. But don’t we all just love a 70s wedding pic? Or an eccentric 60s inspired name?
The now-hackneyed Tracys and Sharons were once the name du jour, and the Margarets and Elizabeths of their time looked upon them with envy in comparison to their safe (and arguably stuffy) monikers.
I question being timeless because there’s no room for change, growth or – yup – you guessed it, renewal.
Yes, if you’ve never been in fashion you don’t have to worry about being out of it either. But to a greater or lesser extent, we’re all products of our time, and I’m not embarrassed to have reflected the eras I’ve been part of through my clothes, my lifestyles and my body.
In order to grow you’ve got to grow out of something.
This week, I’m growing out of dolphins and into a fresh, modern geometric and floral tattoo. And why not?
O has asked to look at photos of ‘mummy’s back’ since I got the tattoo done and I’m proud to show her.
The night before I had the work done, I dreamed a particularly meaningful dream (instead of the usual anxiety-driven nonsense). I woke up remembering a faceless person quoting to me:
“The moving finger writes; and having writ, moves on.”
I am in danger of reaching unbearable levels of wanky with this admission, but I genuinely did remember this quote in my dream and it was prescient, so I’m sharing it. Sorry.
The finger – to me – is time. Once a moment has passed, it’s gone. There’s nothing you can do to change or undo that indelible mark.
My tattoo is done. My back is changed forever. It’s time to move on.