Not for the first time in recent months, I have been given a peculiar look when I’ve revealed my left forearm in a public space and someone I’m with has asked about my somewhat random assortment of tattoos. Most recently was a friend of the children I am currently au pairing for. Once their curiosity has been satisfied however, I have noticed that everybody has realised that it is not a random jumble of references but instead is something deeper and personal. So, to save time, I’m also putting the answer to this question on this page so that if any of you have wondered this before or are perhaps just learning about this then you will know the reasons.

  First, I will quickly identify the references to give some context for you starting with the Tolkien insignia which was my first ever tattoo. Next came the Stark wolf from Game of Thrones (or A Song of Ice and Fire) along with a Batman and Joker crossover. The latest being images of Timon (The Lion King), the Avengers logo and an 8-bit version of Pikachu and Red from the Gameboy game series of Pokemon. I intend to get more.

  Often I have faced this line of enquiry from a new person whom I am not yet on a personal level with and I often respond by stating that all of these are simply stories/movies/games/TV Shows I enjoyed in my life. This is a half truth. The other half is something I have only recently revealed much more openly. It’s not much of a secret that I grew up in what could be called first world poverty, being under the threat of eviction was not an uncommon theme of growing up, often realising that food in the house was sparse for one reason or another and ultimately not having the resources that others had, but enough of the sob story. In fact that is the one thing that was a pure and indomitable part of my childhood and teenage years. Stories. I’m quite sure my parents will testify that I spent a heavy amount of my time growing up in front of a screen of some kind (and a little later, in front of the pages of a book).

  As a result of what one could consider an unprivileged life, I found an escape in these stories. Stories I still know by heart, that I love, that I can still watch, play and read with emotion and enjoyment. But ultimately, these stories that I experienced and fell in love with made their impressions on me as a person. As a result, I have made a tribute to my favourite ones on my arm. My arm isn’t a random collection of geeky things I liked (otherwise I would have no space on my body at all), my arm is a collection of the stories that I took life lessons from and made me who I am today. By coincidence, a favourite quote from one of the authors that is referenced on my arm (J.R.R. Tolkien in this case) has a wonderful quote that sums up this feeling quite fantastically. “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going.”

  All of the stories on my arm have made me feel this way and helped shape my trajectory, so if you happen to be a person that likes me for who I am, then these stories are heavily to thank.