My time spent in Greece in the Fall of 2009 was an amalgamation of life’s dualities. An introvert when shy but outgoing when confident, I didn’t know how to fit into this new group of peers from all over the country and world. I speak hardly any Greek and that meant social options were mostly limited to the other (mostly American) students. I’ve studied abroad three times so I feel confident in using this basic generalization: it should really be called “partying abroad,” for many students anyway. Classes were of little to no interest for many of the others in my program and I struggled to find my place. I wasn’t a big drinker and most everyone else was. I was used to spending my Saturday nights watching Netflix and eating out with my roommate back in Philly and in Athens, the weekend started Thursday night.
I had my brief party interlude that lasted about a month. I gave it the old “college try” and confirmed that the party scene was not for Alex. What was for me then? Lots of nights cooking alone at home, wandering and exploring Athens, and spending most of my free time in the gardens and parks around the city. I immersed myself in Ancient Greek philosophy, especially the pre-socratics Heraclitus and Parmenides and I started a new type of study abroad, the study of myself.
Most of my time I spent thinking about love in its various forms. Friendships, intimate relationships, and the relationship with myself, which up until that point hadn’t been very good. In Athens I spent so much time in solitude surrounded by things like the Acropolis and other amazing sites like Olympia, Sparta, and Mystra. I began to love myself because I really became all I had. I thought about the painful parts of my past and looked at the city of Athens, which had managed to preserve its history yet move into modernity. I’ll leave the economic crisis out of this because Athens’ spirit has nothing to do with politics or the economy. It has to do with its legacy, with the fact that despite the cannon that was shot through the Parthenon, most of it still remains and the Greeks guard these ancient relics as precious gems should be guarded. I began to view myself as a precious gem too.
It was in Greece that I stumbled across the Sanskrit word for goddess, देवी or Devi, which means goddess. I was utterly enchanted by this word because I so badly wanted to love myself and have the confidence that any true goddess would. It was also around this time that I dyed my hair purple, then red, and wanted a tattoo. The nearest tattoo shop was filled with cages of lizards and was a 10 minute walk from my apartment. I don’t know what the lizards were about but I kept wanting that tattoo and kept being advised to wait and didn’t get it on impulse.
For two and a half years I’ve been thinking about this tattoo and yesterday I finally got it. Originally, I was going to get the design on my wrist, but instead decided to do it on my foot, where it could be more easily hidden. I want to say upfront that before you want to say, “Who the f&*^ is this chick who calls herself a goddess?” or “That’s disrespectful to put it on your foot,” please understand that this is something meaningful to me that is in no way meant to be degrading to Indian culture or anyone/anything else. I mean no disrespect but this was my way of reminding myself to treat myself well. No more purging, no more starving, no more cutting, and as best I can, no more negative self-talk and putting myself down. This is my time to shine after what has happened over the last few years.
…Now for the story of getting the ink:
As most of you know, I’m visiting family in Georgia/Tennessee. To make a long story short, my cousin who is a few years younger than me knew of a good quality, well-priced, clean tattoo shop, but not without it’s rock and roll music, cursing, and guys with skulls tattooed on their heads. Perfect for me, right?
The “Oh-my-God-I’m-actually-getting-a-tattoo-and-it-kinda-hurts” face
Using breathing techniques from yoga to get through the brief pain
I have to say I have no regrets and I’m super happy with it. Now all that’s left is to tell my Dad….