Tattoo, Identity and Personal Significance

Tattoo has been practiced across the world since ancient times. In These days, tattoos are very popular than before. People get tattoos for so many reasons, such as to get attention, self-expression, artistic freedom, rebellion, and a visual display of a personal narrative. Leslie Jamison also tells the story of her tattoo in “Mark My Words. Maybe” which was published in the New York times at 2014. On her forearm, she has a tattoo, which is a quotation belongs to Terencem the Roman playwright.

And it is in the Latin phrase, “Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto.” In English, this translated to “I am human: nothing human is alien to me” (Jamison 458). She gets a tattoo because of her personal reasons and how it shows her identity. The meaningful tattoo gives a person to chance to where their heart and visually express who they are literally.

In “Mark My Words. Maybe,” author Leslie tells the story of her tattoo, and it shows her personal significance.

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At first, she was hesitant to get the tattoo because she needs to attend multiple ceremonies and weddings. Jamison mentions that she could not picture giving her blessing in front of 200 people while her left arm glistened under Saran wrap. However, she decided to get a tattoo after some trouble in her life. She got a tattoo on her forearm, which is a quote of understanding humanity (Jamison 458). The point of her tattoo is a mark of her past relationship with whom she spent four years and she tried to move on her troubles.

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She has been through hard times. Because of her tattoo, she is ready to face anything that comes her way in the future. Jamison explains how a simple phrase can mean to a person’s feeling and the story to demonstrate the significance.

In Jamison’s story, she describes her tattoo and her identity. She explains that the tattoo was supposed to represent new freedom and to attract attention (Jamison 460). However, she got the opposite side of all of this from people. Since the tattoo’s phrase was in Latin, it got attention from many random people. When she answered the meaning of the quote of the tattoo, each of them gave a response that she does not like. They asked her questions which are offended by her claim of understanding humanity and everything wrong in the world (Jamison 495). She tried to explain about aspiration, asymptote, attempt. In fact, they do not know what she has been through and do not understand that the meaning of the tattoo holds. She thinks the tattoos as “declarations of selfhood,” and she said that is who she is (Jamison 459). As she previously reported, this tattoo is a new beginning for her. The tattoo makes Jamison from the past and welcomes the future. Before, Jamison’s identity marked by her connection to her boyfriend. After the tattoo, her identity shifted to independence and search for a better partner. This tattoo means much more than a quote or something that makes her stand out. The idea of the tattoo and the meaning of the quote drives her to find a new identity. To Jamison, identity is an important part of life.

This story has given me understanding the mean of identity and sometimes the tattoo are meaningful for some people. The author focuses on the significance of her tattoo which is importance of self-identity. She achieves a new identity through her tattoo, and it allowed her to recover from her relationship and drove to the beginnings of new life. The tattoo demonstrated how she felt restricted around her ex-boyfriend while being free in describing it to strangers. Although many strangers did not quite understand the meaning of tattoo and the reason of the quote, it gave motivation to recover her hard times. From her story, I realize tattoo’s symbols are for strength and represents her identity. Jamison’s new identity is that she is now strong, independent, and capable of overcoming any future human experience that may hinder her.

In conclusion, Leslie Jamison’s story of “Mark My Words. Maybe” helps me to better understand the significance of identity through her commitment to her tattoo. Tattoos are used for a variety of reasons whether it be for looks or for a deeper meaning. The short phrase of “I am human: nothing human is alien to me” is much more meaningful than it seems (Jamison 458). Because of this, she is now ready to face anything that comes her way in the future. The tattoo served its purpose as a reminder of the importance of identity. Jamison’s tattoo empowers her to maintain her identity of strength, independence, and the capability to overcome human adversity for the rest of her life.

Work Cited

  • Jamison, Leslie, “Mark My Words. May be.” The Norton Reader: An anthology of Nonfiction,
  • edited by Melissa A. Goldthwaite et al., 14th ed., W.W. Norton, 2017, pp. 458-60.

Cite this page

Tattoo, Identity and Personal Significance. (2021, Oct 07). Retrieved from

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