Tattoos and Semicolons

I don’t have any tattoos, but I plan to get at least one eventually.  The problem is that I can’t commit to what I want.  It’s a pretty permanent decision.  I don’t want to be in a knitting group when I’m eighty and have someone ask about the saggy hibiscus on my shoulder, where I would then sigh and say, “Okay…so this one really stupid time when I was 19…”  Then I would have to relay a dumb story for the millionth time, and I would also hopefully wonder why I’m eighty and wearing a tank top.  This is the situation I am trying to avoid.

Anyway, I want the tattoo to have some sort of significance, and I want to know I’ll like it in the long term.  I’ve made a pact with myself: when I want the same tattoo for a full year, I’ll get it.  I made that decision when I was in college, and I’ve yet to want the same one for a year.  I always eventually change my mind.  Hence I am still tattoo-less.  Au natural.  Somewhat boring.

TODAY I am officially declaring Day 1 on wanting the tattoo I just discovered.  On May 18, 2017, if I still want it, I’ll get it.  Maybe this is “the one.”

*side note*  I decided after two months of dating that I wanted to marry the man who became my husband, and we’ll be celebrating ten years together this fall.  It takes me longer to commit to a tattoo than to a man.  I’m not sure what this says about me.

The tattoo I want is a semicolon.

Yes, the punctuation mark.  That’s the tattoo I want.  A small punctuation mark, probably on my ankle.

Stop judging me. I can feel your judgement radiating through my screen.  HEAR ME OUT, OKAY?!

First of all, something you should know about me: I love the semicolon.  It’s my favorite punctuation mark.  I’m an English teacher, so I do weird things like have a favorite punctuation mark.  You’re allowed to judge me for that one.  Anyway, I received a letter a while back from a student I had three years ago, and she put in the letter, “Did you notice I used a semicolon correctly?  I know how much you love semicolons!”  I spoke at a symposium with a team of teachers last year, and one of them actually put a semicolon in our presentation specifically because, “Hillboro loves semicolons, so let’s throw one in there.”  I don’t talk about them all the time.  I’m not sure why everyone knows this about me. Maybe it’s just that when you hear a person has a favorite punctuation mark, you remember that type of quirk.

Here’s the thing about semicolons: they are very underrated.  People almost never use them.  Commas get all the attention.  Teachers are all, “COMMAS! COMMAS! COMMAS!” and then there’s the sad little semicolon over in the corner, waiting to jump into the middle of a sentence, living in the shadow of the stupid comma. Half the students can’t even draw a semicolon at the beginning of the year when I ask them if they know what it is.  There aren’t many uses for it.  I picture the comma and semicolon as family members, but the comma is the one with all of the achievements and accolades.  It’s the super talented one.  The semicolon goes to family reunions like, “But hey, I’m really, really good at the two things I can do!”  No one cares because they all just want their picture taken with the comma.  It’s a sad story.

Anyway, I’ve always had a soft spot for semicolons, and I guarantee no one leaves my classroom at the end of the year without knowing how to use them properly.  I have lots of respect for people who use semicolons correctly, because so few ever do.  It’s like using a semicolon correctly puts you into a secret club of highly successful punctuation users.  We should name the club.  It would probably be called “nerds.”

A few days ago, I stumbled upon this quote on the internet:

suicide semicolon

I find this to be quite profound.  A semicolon is used when a period could have ended the sentence, but there is more to say.  A whole separate independent clause is going to come after it.  This made me think of my suicide attempt this past fall.  It’s like I put a period on my life – I said it was over.  Then God grabbed the pen out of my hand and was like, “Ummm…absolutely NOT!  You messed that up, but I’m going to change that period to a semicolon and make you keep writing.  This story is not over.”  One clause ended, but another one was just starting.  This is a grammar AND punctuation metaphor, so I’m oddly in love with it.

It’s weird to be alive when I tried to die.  It makes me feel like each day I live now is part of a second chance that I didn’t deserve to have.  I realize that no one should take any days for granted and that we should all live each day to the fullest, but it’s eerie to consider how close I came to ending things.  These words I’m currently typing would never have been written.  I have the rest of my life – however long that is – to find out how to spend this second chance.  I’m thankful for that undeserved opportunity; I’m thankful that this fall was only a semicolon.

37 thoughts on “Tattoos and Semicolons

  1. I like semicolons too; they’re a little tricky and a little snooty. Sometimes when I’m confused about whether or not to use a semicolon I just go with a dash – but that would be a stupid tattoo.

    BTW, I think you shouldn’t make assumptions about your eighty-year-old self. You might be rocking a tank top and if your tat is meaningful to you, you’ll still love it when the parchment is wrinkled. I’m saying this because there were all kinds of things I thought I’d be over by the time I was forty-five and I’m not over them yet. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just mean that life is life all the way through. It ain’t over till it’s over. I am barely making sense here I guess. I hope you can pick out the meaning and discard the babble. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad life doesn’t change you SO much. I guess I always felt like I’d one day wake up and be this totally different person who…you know…is responsible and has all of her shit together. But I suppose then I wouldn’t actually be me, ha ha. My life’s a little crazy, and it will probably always be that way. Might as well enjoy the ride. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Umm, I love that you have a favorite punctuation mark. I always want to use semi colons correctly but fear that I’m not doing it right.

    I’ve never met you, but I’m glad you’re still here. I’m glad that was only a pause before you moved onto the next clause.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So I never thought about getting a tattoo until I saw this semicolon movement last summer. Ever since then, I’m like I WANT ONE.

    I even know what I want it to look like and where I want it. I will have to e-mail you a picture.

    Maybe if we both still want it next May we’ll have to do it…..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I never really learned how to use a semicolon or colon properly until last year-now whole worlds have opened up in my english essays!

    Also, your thought process around tattoos aligns uncannily with mine-fear of an older me waking up to greet another day with a butterfly on my collarbone. However, lately I’m thinking that maybe 80-year-old me might just wake up and grin at that ridiculous butterfly…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have a butterfly and the Hebrew word “Beloved” tattooed across my right collarbone/shoulder area. There are days I regret it, but I usually like seeing that little butterfly peeking out from my sleeveless tops. 🙂 It’s a fun conversation piece.


      • That sounds lovely 🙂 For you it does have meaning and would be a great conversation piece indeed. I dont think I could personally rock a butterfly as you do, but perhaps something else.


      • I’d love to know-what inspired you to get it? Only of you feel comfortable talking about it, of course!


      • Sure! I got it for my 25 birthday (2 years ago). It is the word that God uses in the Bible to tell Daniel that he loves him – it’s the only time in the Bible where God tells an individual, not a people, that He loves him. I kind of stole it. 🙂

        I also just love butterflies and am always in awe of how they transform. It reminds me of the Scripture passage that says “In Christ you are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come”.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Wow, that’s absolutely lovely. That inspiration brought a true smile to my face–that’s a powerful symbol you carry. Thank you for sharing. If I ever get a tattoo I hope that it carries a similar fortitude of meaning to me.


  5. I have something with words/letters that look aesthetically pleasing. To me, some words look and sound better than others and I often choose titles for stories even for how they look.

    Semicolon is one of those cool punctuation marks I should use more. It can be a great replacement to “/” in titles.

    My life could’ve ended by my own hands too, but looking back on it I regret that they didn’t end. I don’t view life like many others. It’s not a gift or anything special, just a burden. Death isn’t a punishment for me, life is.


    • Didn’t mean to respond to this post with that – it was supposed to be a general comment. Brain in the Jar… whoever you are, I know that your life has a purpose. Find it. It’ll be hard, and you’ll struggle, and you’ll have to go through really dark times; it will be worth it. Find your purpose, and you will find out how beautiful life can be.


    • I’m so sorry that you feel that way – I definitely have days like that too. Hopefully you can sometimes see the beauty in life? Even if it’s just in a small way? Because life IS beautiful. It’s horribly twisted and grotesque at times, but there are glimmers that shine through until you can see a bigger picture.

      Life is too long to see it as a burden… I hope you can find a way to see it as a gift. Please e-mail me if you ever want to talk: Your life has a meaning, even if you haven’t found it yet.


  6. I came across the semicolon movement too last summer and since then several of my friends have had it inked on them. I have a lot of tattoos on myself and will be adding a semicolon to my left wrist at my next session.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Tattoos are very personal and everyone’s choices of design mean something special to them. Don’t let anyone influence your choice or make you question yourself. My tattoos signify my overcoming childhood abuse, my struggles with bipolar and commemorate loved ones I’ve lost along the way. My ink is a part of me and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    I came across this right before I started residency, and I knew that the semicolon would be my next tattoo. I’ve had a few different patients with beautiful, intricate, or stark semicolons, and I’ve seen how important it can be when someone recognizes the significance. One woman cried when I recognized it, because she’d never had someone see it and understand.
    I think this is beautiful, and it has such strong meaning – I hope this one sticks!
    Rock it like only a semicolon aficionado and survivor can 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sarah! I hadn’t seen the website, and I didn’t know this was such a big movement. It’s a really, really good idea. I’m so glad you could recognize it on that woman; I’m sure it meant the world to her.

      You’re pretty awesome. Thanks for all the work you do. We need more good, caring doctors like you in the world. 🙂


  9. I’m comma crazy. I use them way too often. and everywhere. I don’t use semi-colons much, but based on your post I may look into using them more.

    I’m not a fan of tattoos. You said, “… am still tattoo-less. Au natural. Somewhat boring.” That is exactly why I don’t like tattoos. The human body isn’t boring. It’s beautiful. I believe from your post that this time nest year you will be getting that semi-colon tattoo. I must admit, that is kind of fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Have you ever read the writings of Thomas Jefferson? Now that guy could sling some commas. In fact, according to my proprietary Sentence Punctuation Activation Matrix (SPAM) technology, Mr. Jefferson has a comma activation rating of 87.9; somewhere between Commakaze and commacommacommacommacommachameeeeeeeeeeleon!
    I like the semicolon tattoo. I think it’s powerful while still being subtle.
    Another good post, I hope I got the semicolon right.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. So much to love in this post, Hazel. I am a proud semi-colon user. Mrs. Christiansen (9th grade English) would be grudgingly proud.
    As I also attempted suicide a few years back, I dearly love this quote, and the fact that the second clause is *independent* of the first. There need be no connective tissue between the before and the after except for that stalwart punctuation mark.
    And I will never get a tattoo.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love quotes that touch my heart. And this one did so right away. Thanks a ton for letting us know about this quote. Your choice in them is as amazing as…I guess the fact that I can’t find the right simile proves how amazing it is!

    Liked by 2 people

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