The Story Behind The Tat On My Leg

I have always wanted a tattoo, even since I was a little kid.

My dad and uncle, both of whom I respect (and hero worshiped as a kid) have tattoos from their time in the service and I suppose that was a factor. Plus, my mom, whom I love dearly, told me she'd throw a fit if I ever got one (this was back when I was a teenager). So, I would imagine that a psychiatrist somewhere would say that I was driven by the shock value I would get from my mom's reaction. Maybe I thought it would make me look tough (although tough guys don't usually wear shorts which is what I'd have to do to show it off). Lot's of tough guys have tattoos. Of course, lot's of toothless idiots that still live with their moms have tattoos too so it's probably not safe to hang my hat on that one. But honestly, I just wanted one.

Only late last year, I came across a design that fit with a personal belief I have. See, over my life I've come up against some pretty difficult decisions (boy oh boy, that sets me apart, no?). Of course I've tried to use common sense and logic to decide, but I've been very careful not to allow "taking the easy way" or "doing what others do in order to fit in" to sway me in my thought processes. Maybe too much sometimes.

Enter the "piratefish". He is a species from a type of animal (fish) which is typically known for their tendency to school, swim in an orchestrated fashion in the same direction, with little individuality or free-thinking. But he has chosen to use a bit of risk to his benefit.

See, he was part of a school of fish that were born and lived in a fast little creek. The fish all swam hard, all day and every day, just to stay in one place and not be washed downstream. Downstream awaited a horrible death. This had been drummed into the fish over and over for generations until the fish became conditioned to never question the belief and they all just kept swimming hard.

The pirate fish stuck with the others but as time went by he started questioning how it was that everyone knew what was downstream if no one had ever been there. The school reacted with shock that he would even bring up the question and told him to settle down, quit thinking, and keep swimming. But he kept this behavior up and over time, the others started to avoid him for his reckless thinking. They even nicknamed him "the pirate" because of his tendency to be different and always question the norm.

Well, he kept thinking but he didn't keep swimming. He said goodbye to his school and he turned around and allowed the current to wash him downstream, not knowing what waited there. Once he turned he was amazed at the speed that he moved and how quickly things changed from what he was used to. Although he did bang into a rock or two, and even take a terrifying plunge over a cascade, he found himself washed into a nice, placid, pond, with good bugs to eat, plants to shade himself under, and best of all, he found that he could swim at whatever pace he wanted, when he wanted. He no longer had to fight the current.

After fighting his way back upstream, he tried to convince his school of what he had found. But even after he described the awesome pond, they still called him the crazy pirate and told him to leave them be. They were just fine doing the same thing all day, every day, until they died, thank you very much. So, he'd turn and make the now familiar trip back down into the pond where he lived happily in the place that everyone said did not exist.

I've known of that story, and other derivations of it, for a long time and closely related to it. Whenever I've had to make a decision, I use the pirate fish story to remind me not too allow concensus, heresay, or silly social tradition to dictate my course. As sappy as I'm making this sound, I try to stick to answers that are the "right" thing to do, that protect those that I love or value, and that will result in a good thing, even if some work has to be done to get there.

I found the pirate-fish on a website last year and knew immediately what I had to do. The tat is on the lower side of my right calf facing out and yes, he's swimming forward. I had to make him relatively small because my leg is skinny. He's not mean looking, in fact, he's smiling and looks happy. Not very bad-boyish to have a smiling fish on my leg but hey, i just can't pull off the bad-boy thing.

OK. Now before you call social services because you are now certain that my children are the offspring of a maniac...just take into consideration that maybe it's just a middle-aged guy thing. Yeah, that's it, I just did it to be cool!!