I recently acquired a tattoo. It's not a big tattoo and it's easily concealed because it's on my left pec. It's a very simple tattoo, it's the word "Hope" written in cursive. The simplicity, however, serves as a juxtaposition to the complexity behind the ink. I'm getting ahead of myself. The story of "Hope" is actually comprised of two stories: how and why. The story of how I got my tattoo will undoubtedly stir up a chuckle or a grin at the very least. The story of why goes deeper, though. A word of warning, the second story gets depressing, but it needs to be shared, if only for my personal reasons. I hope (see what I did there?) y'all enjoy it.
New Orleans, Louisiana or NOLA for short. The city will beat you like Tyson would beat you if you killed one of his pigeons.
"Touch me. Come on, I dare you."
My fraternity's formal marked the very first time I had been in NOLA, and, for some idiotic reason, I had gotten it in my head that the city had nothing on me. I was going to take on the city, and I was going to come out on top. Obviously, this scenario is not even close to the events that transpired.
The bus ride from Auburn to NOLA was relatively uneventful, mostly consisting of massive amounts of "beverage" consumption. After what was most likely an eight-hour trip, we had finally arrived in the Big Easy. We quickly unloaded our bags into the hotel rooms and almost immediately set out for Bourbon Street for a fun Friday night filled with all sorts of debauchery. We started out bar hopping and went strong until the early hours of the next morning with many interesting events taking place along the way. For instance, I was scammed into buying a hat apparently. "Oh well," I most likely said the next morning when I found out about the incident. There was also a trip to Krystal's on the way back to the hotel that seemed to take hours, but, in actuality, was probably on half an hour. After the Krystal's detour, we walked back to the hotel through a torrential downpour, during which I can only hope that a plethora Katrina jokes were made. After it was all said and done, I had spent about $200 that first night.
The next morning, I awoke early, around 9 or 10 o'clock. I quickly got dressed and went down to the lobby for breakfast. I attempted to mix one of my beverages with what I thought was sweet tea, only to find out that it was apple juice. For the record, I am allergic to apple juice, and I tend to break out in hives if I consume it. Luckily, I didn't care. I finished my drink and breakfast and headed back to the room to get dressed and properly prepared for the day's activities.
After hanging out in the hotel for a little while, a large group of us decided to go out to lunch. We visited several restaurants before we found one that could seat us all in a reasonable amount of time. Lunch was pretty uneventful, I tried alligator for the first time, and I created one of the nastiest mixed beverages ever that I named "SoCorona." We left the restaurant and cruised down Bourbon Street and Canal Street for a little while. We were having a great time, one of my pledge brothers and I even iced two of my pledge brothers in the middle of the sidewalk on Canal Street! Finally, we decided to head back to the hotel. It was on this walk back that a seed of an idea was planted into my subconscious mind. On this walk back, we passed a tattoo parlor. I paid it little attention. However, unbeknownst to me, it was a simple unconscious suggestion to my mind that would eventually lead to the events later that night.
I blame Christopher Nolan.
After lunch, being both full and well, hilariously inebriated (sorry Mom), I decided it would be best for everyone involved that I take a power nap. This, from what I remember, was a glorious three-hour nap in which I missed out on exploring New Orleans and getting beignets. Side note, I may have to go back to get some of those beignets, they are incredible. Anyways, after I awoke, I realized that I needed to get ready for formal. I got dressed in a matter of seconds and then traversed to another room to continue the festivities. Then, by some miracle, we made it to a bar near where the formal was set to take place. Our group spent a good amount of time at this bar, and nothing special occurred.
Now, I'm not going to bore my audience with the details of the formal that I totally remember. Nor am I going to incessantly go on with the details of how I got my tattoo. Ah, great memories. I will, however, offer a picture of the process.
As you can see, I am totally in a present state of mind. Totally.
The next morning, I awoke on the floor next to the bed with a patch of black plastic taped to my chest and did not freak out at all because I remembered that I had gotten a permanent tattoo on my chest several hours earlier.
Well kids, this has been the story of how I met yo-- I mean how I got a tattoo on my chest. Now we move on to something that will be a little harder for you to read, and a lot harder for me to write, but I think it is important to get this off of my chest (No pun intended. Okay let's be honest, I meant to do that). Here we go.
"Hope" was not just some random phrase or stripper's name that I decided I had to have on my chest in a spur of the moment decision.
The stripper thing is just a coincidence.
No, I had been designing my tattoo six months prior inside of my dorm room. The word "Hope" carries a lot of personal meaning for me that really is not easy to explain. When I tell this story, I go back to a really bad place for me, and, well, I really do not like for people to see that side of me. I do not like for people to take any pity on me, I do not like people to feel bad for me in anyway, and I do not like complaining because I know there are people out there who have things so much worse than I did.
Growing up, I always had this plan for my life. This plan was very realistic, and, quite honestly, something I felt that I could achieve. I put a lot of time and effort into doing the things necessary for me to reach my goals throughout my life, especially towards the end of my high school career, and as such, I grew very attached to this plan. After a while, it was not even a plan. It was a dream. It was my dream. It was perfect for me. I invested almost everything I had into this dream because it meant so much to me.
All I had ever wanted to do in life was to do something to help others. I wanted my life to be dedicated to the service of others who really needed it. Growing up with a family that was comprised of several members of the United States Navy, my calling was obvious. I wanted to join the Navy to help others. My plan and dream involved me either going to the Naval Academy or going to college on a Navy ROTC scholarship. I would then go on to a career in the Navy doing something that I felt benefited my fellow man in some way. Realistic dream, right? I was on the right track, and it seemed as though I would accomplish what I had set out to do. Things change, though.
On August 15th, 2011, my life changed forever. During a regular cross-country practice a few days earlier, I felt what I thought was a runner's stitch in my side at the start of a five-mile run. During the run, the pain started to increase. By the time I had finished the run I was in agony. I was doubled over as I walked back to my truck. I got to my house and I tried to sneak past my mom. I did not want her to notice the pain I was in so that I could get to my orthodontist appointment and get on with my day. I snuck by her successfully the first time, and on my way out, I collapsed from the pain in my upstairs hallway. Long story short, after a trip to the chiropractor and emergency room, I was told that I had what basically amounts to intestinal inflammation and was referred to a gastrointestinal specialist. August 15th I met with this GI doctor, who, by the way is still my GI doctor, and I received the news that I had Crohn's disease. As soon as I got home, I looked up the medical disqualifications for military service. Sure enough, Crohn's disease was listed on the non-waiverable disqualifications. My dream was over.
I fell into a very deep depression. I felt as though everything I had worked for was torn away from me for no good reason. I felt as though everything I had done to make my dream a reality was pointless. Worst of all, I felt alone. I had no backup plan either. I was suddenly clueless as to what my future held. I was scared. Depressed, scared, alone. I started to lose sight of what made me, me. I defined myself up to that point based off of my dream. I could no longer define who I was. Lost. I did not want to exist any longer, I wanted to take the easy way out. Things kept going downhill, I could not find any semblance of a silver lining. I was close to ending it all. Obviously, I didn't (otherwise, I'd be taking ghost-writer to a whole 'nother level). For some reason, I just couldn't. Despite the fact that I could not see any positives, I still was clinging to the hope that something would change. I clung to hope, and that is what got me through.
Ever since then, the word "hope" has carried a lot of meaning for me. I can proudly say that I no longer suffer from the depression that I experienced, it is merely a chapter in my past now. However, I felt as though I needed something to symbolize the most important thing I gained from that part of my life. So, I designed a tattoo of the word "Hope" to go over my heart. Simple but present, it is and always will be next to my heart.