Monday, April 22, 2013

I have a tattoo.

I struggle with the beginnings of posts like this. I have so many things running through my head, so many thoughts that I want to verbalize, and my fingers aren't moving fast enough on the keyboard to keep up with my brain. A post like this I can write in 5 minutes. A novel. So many different things to say. Yet I'm struggling with how to tie it all together. Make sense of it. Tell you, in the best way possible, to follow your dreams.

I have a tattoo.  Not at all how I envisioned starting this post off.

I turned 18 on a Sunday. The next day, on that Monday, I went to the tattoo shop and I walked in with a simple little picture in my hand with my two best friends by my side. A chinese symbol.

I didn't exactly fit in to the scene. It wasn't the greatest part of town. I knew nothing about tattoos. The man looked up at me when I handed him my request. "What's it mean," he asks, glaring. "Dream." I say.... "It means dream." .... 

I researched and researched the night before. I wanted to be sure before I put a permanent piece on my body that I would not regret it, that I would stand by it, and that 80 years from now I could tell you that it had meaning. I'm not sure what I will say 80 years from then. But I do know, that eight years later, there is a lot to be said about the small tattoo with a hidden message. A special meaning. A big dream.

I laid down on the table. My best friends next to my side. One holding my hand. The other next to my side. And once that needle hit my skin, I knew there was no going back. I closed my eyes, clenched my fists, and reminded myself of why I was getting it. I tried to laugh it off. Make little jokes with those in the room with me. But there was just a little more to it than I was willing to reveal.

I walked out of that tattoo shop feeling.... different. I knew I had this permanent mark on my body now. It's hidden. No one would see it. No one would know what it means. Except me. It's there, but how had it changed me?

It's hard to put into words, but it had this small, yet powerful way of speaking to me. I understand now why people get multiple tattoos. Why each one has a special meaning behind it. And why, they too, probably look at themselves in the mirror and when catching a glimpse of their tattoo they take themselves back. Back to what brought them here. The now.

For me, it was when I was seven years old.

I remember that day clear as day. One of the only memories of my childhood {that's a whole post for a later day}. I was at the airport with my parents, and my brother, with just a few suitcases in hand, a stuffed animal of some sort, and a few of our family members by our side. Hugging. Kissing. And tears. I remember the tears.

I didn't know then what it meant to go on a "long vacation." But I do know now.

I remember the train ride that we took in between flights. Where I fell off the top bunk and then cried in my mom's arms.

I remember arriving to this foreign country. The people around me. They didn't speak my language. The cars around me. They looked different. The apartment I lived in. The bed I slept in. It wasn't mine.

I remember my dad giving me "words" to study every night that summer before I started school in this foreign country. Fifty words a night. Over and over again.

I remember having an "accident" at school on one of my first days there because I didn't know how to ask to go to the bathroom. My teacher told me how.

I remember having yet another one just a week later because I was just too afraid to speak up. If I close my eyes, I can still see the little spot on the rug when I got up. And I know this may sound silly, and you may wonder why I can remember that particular moment {I ask this to myself all the time}, but I just do. It's something that has stayed with me through the years.

I remember my parents having to work two jobs. Having to go to "English" school some nights during the week.

I remember being pulled out of school on some days so that I could go home to watch my baby sister while my mom went to go work her next consecutive shift at the restaurant.

I remember ripping open my Christmas present one year. It was a graham cracker box. At first, I got an empty feeling in my stomach, not getting the joke. My dad urged me to... "go ahead, open it!" And then I did, and to my surprise there were the "bell bottom" jeans that I had begged and begged for a couple weeks prior. Yes, this makes me giggle thinking back... but it was my only present, and I just remember how happy this made me.

But better yet...

I remember when my parents bought our first home. My brother and I ran around room to room screaming with excitement about the closet sizes. And we sat in our individual rooms just taking it in. Our individual rooms. Who cares that we didn't have real furniture for years. We had a real home, out of a small 2 bedroom apartment and in a home. With a backyard. A pool. A home. It felt so good to say that.

And so I learned early on about what it truly meant to say... dreams do come true. That you can in fact come to this country with little money in your pocket, not speak a word of English, and give your children a home, a life, and a future they could only dream of.

When I look down at my tattoo, I remember. This is why I am who I am today. This is why I begged my parents to let me get a job at age 14. Why I have not stopped working since that day. Why, when my parents couldn't afford to pay for my braces, instead of spending the $6.00 an hour that I made as a cashier at Meijer, I walked into my orthodontist's office with an envelope in hand every week with my paycheck. Why I worked through college, driving an hour home on weekends for my double shifts at the restaurant. This is why at the age of 23, I sat across a group of men and women as I signed my name on the dotted line that confirmed I was now a proud home owner. Why when most people said that I would have to send E to daycare, I changed course in my career and switched to nights. Because this was my dream. To stay at home with my children, raise them, teach them, and not miss a single beat.

I believe that I have been through many challenges in my life, especially at such a young age. I have seen my world change right before my eyes, my parents struggle for these changes, and dreams come true.

So to my children and those that mean the most to me....I never want to hear the words I can't or I won't.


You can, and you will. It's as simple as this....
Just follow your dreams.


  1. This is a beautiful testament to the life your parents worked so hard for you to have. They must be so proud!

  2. You're such an inspiration! I love reading your blog because it motivates me and reminds me that you really can have it all.

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  4. Wow such an inspiring story! You are really an inspiration on what it means to be a wonderful mom! Thanks for sharing!


  5. One of the best posts you've ever written. Love it!

  6. WOW! What an amazing, inspiring story. I love that you shared it. Your babies are going to be just as proud of you as you are of your parents one day! xo

  7. Beautiful, lady! I would have had no idea. Thank you SO much for sharing. You are an inspiration! :) xo

  8. What a beautiful post! Very fitting with everything that's been going on here in America this past week. Stories like yours are what makes this country so great. You are one amazing woman/momma!

  9. This is so beautiful Becky, I have always admired your amazing drive for working nights to stay home with your kids, you are amazing, just like your parents! I loved reading this about you! Love you mama! Xoxo

  10. Amazing post! You go girlie! I have been working since I was 13 and I have never stopped. I feel great knowing that I worked hard for what I have. I bought my first car, my school clothes, and paid my way through college.
    I also got a tattoo after I turned 18 - just for me and in a place no one else can see.

  11. I love this. And I love the attitude that your parents have instilled from you. It's just too bad that the majority of Americans don't have the same one.

  12. Such a great post and story. I know your children will look up to you and be inspired by how hard you have worked to provide a good life for them.

  13. Love this girl!! I feel the same way about both of my tattoos but would never be able to explain it as good as you!

  14. This would explain why you are such hard worker.

  15. Love this! What a great story!

  16. I love your story! Well-written!

  17. Very inspirational! I find it amazing to read about people that immigrate with nothing more than a dream. As an adult, a wife, and a mom - I can't imagine leaving behind the securities of home to start somewhere brand new. You are a very strong person - and your beautiful babes are so lucky to have you as their mama:)

  18. Great post. I can relate so much! My family moved from Russia to save our lives. Its crazy how I have experienced exactly what you did. We didnt know any English. Didnt have any money, but my parents never let us know it and did everything they could for us to live a normal life. I remember when they bought their first house here and how happy we all were. They are now very successful and I am so proud of them. I could not imagine having to move my family to a foreign country with nothing. This really was a great post and so nice to hear about your experience. You have a wonderful family.

  19. Wonderful story! :) Your parents must be very special. My favorite parts... Getting your bell bottoms for Christmas (what a great memory) and how you decided to stay home with your kiddos! I think that is SO important! :) Happy week! :)

  20. I definitely relate to this story!! I loved it all. I have an incredible amount of respect for those who have seen struggles in their life and then decided to be motivated by them and make a better life for themselves.

  21. I seriously just love reading your posts!
    This is so inspiring!
    I'm sure your parents are so proud and your kids have a great role model!!

  22. Becky. This post. You need to write a book. I want to know so much more!

  23. What a wonderful and awe inspiring post!

  24. This post is beautiful. It's great to remember and write about the things that have truly shaped your life. Thanks for sharing.

  25. So nicely said sweet girl & very inspirational...

  26. This post had me in tears by the end of it. Your immigration story was amazing. You don't really hear these kinds of stories through a little kids eyes very often. it was touching. Absolutely amazing.

  27. Thank you for sharing a little bit about your past, you and your family are truly an inspiration and the definition of the American Dream.

    Btw just curious, but where is your tattoo?


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