I got a tattoo at 14 years of age!

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Before I share a life-changing experience with you all, I would like to give you some context. Religion shaped the culture and values that influenced my parents, who were born in the pacific islands. My parents are Catholics, so going to church every week was essentially a norm for me growing up. And most of the time, I found it quite boring, but it was a seed planted in my life. So, being raised in Australia was different because as a Polynesian, the cultures often collided.

Nevertheless, I had an incredible childhood growing up. I was the youngest and spoilt with love from my family. The most challenging experience I had in my childhood was finding out that I was adopted at the age of 10, which I shared in a blog here.

GINSFAITH

At the prime of my adolescents, I was trying to navigate high school and trying to find my feet with who my real friends were at the time. For example, I had one friend tell me they were not allowed to hang around me based on my skin colour. I had the pressure of playing competitive sport and aiming to represent Australia which I eventually did at 16 years of age. I was also trying to add a part-time job to my school studies and my hectic sporting schedule because financially, my family were not exactly wealthy. And to top it all off, at 14 years of age, I got a cultural tattoo that I did not want!!!

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We were in the Pacific islands on a family trip. However, my father stayed home in Australia because he had to work. I was being pressured by my Mother in front of my extended family to get a traditional tattoo because several family members were getting a tattoo to symbolise the culture and occasion by a family tattoo artist. It is a cultural norm for 14-year-olds to have tattoos in the pacific islands but illegal in Australia.

I told her in front of the family that I did not want one, and she proceeded to call me a ‘chicken’ and that I was too scared. I will never forget them laughing at me. The intense people pleaser inside me and an overwhelming feeling of desperately wanting/needing to impress my Mother more than anything and prove to her that I am not afraid. So, I got one and showed not one ounce of emotion while getting the tattoo.

And when I saw it, I cried hysterically because I hated it so much which scarred me more emotionally than physically. Some extended family members thought my tattoo looked funny and thought I looked like I was part of a bikie gang which no 14-year-old girl wants to hear. We got home to Australia and my father was devastated when he saw my tattoo because he did not know. My father was not happy and in total shock that my Mother would allow such a thing to happen.

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It was a life-changing moment in my life, and I became emotionally closed off. I kept everything deep within and never really shared anything with anyone about how I was truly coping. The joy slowly left, and I was not the nicest person to be around either. Everyone knew there was a shift in my attitude but could not put their finger on it. I kept myself busy playing every sport under the sun to cope with life. However, I struggled as sports was taking over and starting to define who I was as a person based on my performance. I will never forget as a 14-year-old girl when a female coach commented on my weight/body in front of my entire team. I was so stunned that I just stood there embarrassed and wanting to cry but not letting any tears appear. It was the first time I started to have body image issues. All of a sudden, I was insecure and did not like my healthy fit body.

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Meanwhile, at school, I would get comments like ‘eww look at how muscly your legs are’ and ‘your body is so manly’ because I had muscles. I also started to get in trouble at school and got suspended, which was a huge shock for my parents as it was my first ever mister meaner at school. I tried to fit in with the crowd by kissing more boys than I could count because I thought it would make me more desirable and popular. Little did I know at the time, I was slowly falling apart mentally, physically and emotionally.

I remember one teacher let’s call her Mrs Turnip pulling me aside at school to have a chat about my behaviour. I will never forget what she said ‘something about you changed when you got your tattoo’.

Her perspective was that this tattoo made me think I was better, but little did she know it made me bitter.

GINSFAITH

I just sat there silently as tears streamed down my face because she had no idea what was truly going on inside me. There was no way in the world i was going to tell her the truth about my tattoo either. And if you are wondering about my Mother, please do not worry as God restored our relationship which you can read here. So I lied to my teacher and told her My Dad was unwell to justify the shift in my behaviour, so she wouldn’t contact my parents again.

He paid for our sins with His own blood. He did not pay for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 2:2

NLV

It was definitely the start of my journey to making Jesus my Lord and saviour at the age of 18, which I will share in another blog. As I reflect, though, I am reminded of my before christ life and how God has paid for my sins with the blood of Jesus. It makes me forever grateful to have a relationship with Jesus because he is the only one who truly defines who I am on this earth.

Although it was a life-changing moment, God gave me a life-defining moment that bought healing.

GINSFAITH

I will never forget experiencing his warm embrace as I covered my unwanted culture tattoo with something more meaningful and beautiful that I wanted. It took me 13 years to fix/cover it finally, and when I saw it, I cried tears of joy and there was unexplainable peace that only God gave me. My tattoo journey was an encouragement that Jesus covers it all and that I am loved as I am. Without God in my life, I would not have true healing and not be able to share this experience. I hope this once upon a time mess can be a message for someone to open their hearts towards Jesus, to experience his unconditional love and declare him as your Lord and saviour in your life.

Love G x

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