I'm now in the last year of my 20's and I couldn't be happier. Despite my many issues with the politics and religion of the country, I chose to spend my Birthday in Turkey. I've been traveling for 4 and a half months now and I've learned that the thrill I get from seeing a new place isn't quite the same as spending time with people I now call friends. I could have added another country to my "been" list but I decided to come back to Turkey for the company. Not to mention, the dollar is still really strong here (1 Turkish Lyra is only 43 cents) so I could afford some pampering that just wouldn't be possible anywhere else in Europe.
My Birthday present to myself was a new tattoo. If you don't have any Jewish or Middle Eastern friends you might not understand the meaning, so let me (and Wikipedia) summarize: The hamsa is a palm-shaped amulet popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa. It's an image recognized and used as a sign of protection in many societies throughout history, the hamsa is believed to provide defense against the evil eye. The symbol predates Judaism, Christianity and Islam. That's why I chose it. I have a lot of friends and family members who have very strong religious beliefs. Many would even admit that they hate the others while speaking candidly. The hamsa is worn and displayed by Muslims, Jews, Christians and agnostics, like myself. To me, it's a symbol that unites people against evil. Regardless of religion.
When I was fighting cancer, my friend Jess (who is Jewish) gave me my first hamsa and I've loved them ever since. It was blue, which factored into the colors I chose for the one I will now have forever. Even though she isn't a fan of body ink, when I told Jess about the tattoo, she sent me the following: "The right wrist is a good choice. In Kabbalah they say the right side of your body represents "chessed" or loving kindness and the left side represents "gevurah" or strength and judgment. In our prayers we ask God to treat us as kindly as he did when he brought us out of Egypt with an "outstretched right arm."
I was originally going to write my last name in Arabic in the hamsa, but decided "To Life" was more appropriate. And before the Arab readers comment to tell me that isn't what it says, I know it translates literally to "into life" but the design is my own, I liked how the writing looked and I know what it means to me and that's all that matters. So there!
Separate from all of the sentimental and spiritual meanings, the location of the tattoo is also a big deal for me. It's the most visible and hardest to cover up of all of my tattoos. And as she always does, my mother nailed it with her response after I sent the photo. First, as always she asked if it was real. (I've never sent her a picture of a fake one... So..?) And then: "Are you planning to ever work again in this world?" Short answer? No. Sure, I'll get a job. I'll have to when I run out of money. But will it be an 8am-5pm kind of job in an office with a dress code where they don't allow tattoos? Nope. I'd rather kill myself.
And that, friends, is my actual birthday present to myself. Freedom. An irreversible promise to myself that I will never live a life I don't want. That I won't ever accept a job I hate just for the money. "To Life."