My 24-year-old niece is a lot like me in character and temperament, and I often think, she is far more than my own daughters. Like me, she is not mainstream. She is a rebel who took some time to settle down in her own skin. She left school early but is now back in education, working on her degree.
When she was 17, several positive changes happened in her life. She had a huge tattoo done to commemorate this. I too, had my first tattoo at 17 for pretty much the same reasons. Therefore, for us both, inking represents putting down beautiful stories on our flesh.
When my daughter turned 17, my niece cajoled her to have a tattoo. My daughter does not want one. We shook our heads in perplexity. Why not? Why not start putting poetry down on the canvas of your life?
“No, thanks!” My daughter shuddered.
It is human nature to want to give our loved ones what we think they need, rather than what they actually want. Often, we give them what we want for ourselves in order to recreate what we didn’t have.
I didn’t have such a good start in life, until my adopted family gave me a beautiful, stable and comfortable home filled with love, good food and plenty. I aspired to give my partner the same. Because a beautiful, stable and comfortable home is the best thing ever, right? I didn’t pause until lately to question, but does he need or want a beautiful, stable and comfortable home?
The answer is no. He has been telling me for years – and I am not listening – that he dreams of a strong partner who walks by his side through thick and thin, journeying on the exciting terrains of life. He does not mind sleeping in a cardboard box, if he could share a stunning dawn with the woman he loves. A house is just bricks and mortar to him, a burden, because a home can be found in the safety of each other’s arms.
“Trust, Jac,” he said. “Let yourself fall into my arms and sleep comfortably here.”
I thought back to my youth. My father (and my mother to a certain extent) had wanted for me what they had for themselves – a beautiful home and a respectable life in the home counties. I didn’t want that. My younger brother and I dreamed of escaping our little town for a different life. We started university together in Manchester and did not return home to build our adult lives. We only visited.
“We should have been doctors and solicitors, married to doctors and solicitors, living the good life here,” we often opined with a grin. Instead we travelled far and lived a life of no regrets, finding happiness in paths so different from our parents’ good intentions.
No, I have not suffered from not having a stable job, a respectable home in the counties and a conventional partner. And neither has my partner suffered from not having what I was trying so hard to give him, which only suffocated him.
“You need me to drink green smoothies more than my body needs them, Jac,” my partner often tells me. Maybe I should listen more.