Good morning! It’s Thursday already, which means two things: It’s my day off (Thank God), and I’m linking up with Amanda to share some of my most recent and random thoughts with you.
Last week, I realized that I have had the tattoo that inspired the name of this blog for one year. I had it done with my cousin in Chicago last May, when I ventured out to the Midwest to visit college friends.
I had been thinking of getting a tattoo to commemorate my transformative study abroad experience since returning from my semester in Senegal, but I had not yet decided on a design. Last Spring, I decided that I also wanted to incorporate my recovery experience into the tattoo, and I started thinking about how I could tie the two together. After some contemplation, I wound up with this:
The tattoo is the outline of a baobab tree, native to Africa, with the phrase “loved and worthy of love” written in French underneath it.
My initial inspiration for the tattoo, the baobab, is a reflection of the attitude toward life that I experienced in Senegal. While I was there, I learned that the first President of Senegal wanted the country to be deeply rooted, but open when it gained its independence from France. I took hold of that expression when I heard it initially, and it certainly summarizes the people and culture that I learned to love while I was there. The Senegalese people that I encountered were deeply rooted in tradition, yet open and welcoming with boundless hospitality. This attitude of acceptance struck me as one I wanted to carry into my own life, and the baobab, with its deep roots and expansive limbs, served as the perfect symbol of it.
As I started contemplating how to tie my baobab tattoo into my recovery experience, the connection actually seemed quite clear to me. The concept of being deeply rooted but open can easily apply to recovery. I see it as a way of honoring how my past has influenced me while acknowledging my eagerness for growth and potential for change. I also like the image of the baobab because baobab trees are…well…kind of ugly. Despite their lack of immediate visual appeal, these trees are considered immensely valuable to the people of Senegal, and they are quite fascinating. In addition to providing a food source, baobab roots extend far beyond the surface of the trees in complex systems that can connect to other trees. Their trunks are also hollow, providing shelter to a multitude of creatures. These trees are appreciated for qualities far beyond their aesthetic appeal and their is beauty in their purpose.
As for the phrase underneath the baobab, it was inspired by my dearest cousin, Hannah. More times than I can count, she has reminded me that I am loved and worthy of love, something that has never been easy for me to believe, especially not in the depths of anorexia. There has been no time in my life when I have felt more loved and inherently worthy of love than during my semester in Senegal. I was draped in love and acceptance by my Senegalese family, with whom I am still in touch. Somehow, in the three months that I spent in Senegal, the insecurities and feelings of worthlessness that I had carried for years were no longer quite as important. I felt more comfortable in my own skin, as my own person, than I have in my life. For these reasons, I decided that the phrase “loved and worthy of love” written in French would be the perfect complement to my baobab tree, and I wanted to have it written in my own, imperfect handwriting.
Looking back on the last year, I am struck by how meaningful my tattoo still is in my life. I have learned more about my roots and the things that have shaped me, yet I have been astounded by my own potential for growth. There was a time when I believed that I would never be able to give up calorie counting or weighing myself, a time when I felt imprisoned by workouts on an empty stomach and an ever-expanding list of rules. Over the last year, I have seen myself simultaneously extend my roots and my branches, growing into the thriving, passionate person that I want to be. Although it is still hard for me to remember my own value, I believe that I am slowly but surely learning that I am loved and worthy of love and my tattoo serves as a wonderful daily reminder.