I’ve spent much of my life, the last decade in particular, trying on different skins, looking for the one that felt right. I was searching for the man I wanted and needed to be.
I wanted to both feel right and be in the right.
There are times when I’ve craved a blank slate, a new canvas on which to start over. Blank slates, though, are fallacies. Impossibilities. Figments of our imagination. Our history can’t be rewritten or erased. It’s what lies under our skin.
I thought I was looking for the right skin.
But all I was doing was molting, often ungraciously, sometimes without care, shedding that which didn’t feel right — and in the process failing to hold on to those values that were right.
Tumultuous is the best way to describe this year. I got divorced after two decades of marriage. I left an organization where I’d worked for more than 20 years. I struggled to deal with the complexities of a long distance relationship that both inspires and challenges me more than I ever imagined possible.
This year has had its fair share of mistakes and wrong turns, though I’m not sure I’d change a single thing — because this year taught me who I want and need to be. I can feel my foundation firmly beneath my feet, one that I am confident won’t shift in either opportunity or crisis.
Yesterday, I chose to have a symbol of that foundation written under my skin. The silhouette of a leafless tree, the foundation of the forest, now graces the back of my right calf. The 45 minutes I spent face down on the tattoo artist’s table, gritting my teeth and regularly flinching from his needle, reflected the painful path of getting here.
It took me 45 years to first embellish my skin in the slightest way. It’s the perfect first mark, an indelible reminder that no matter the season, my foundation remains.