Since teenagehood I have been obsessed with ink, piercing, scars, anything that leaves a mark, or a story on the body. I’m probably the only person who has a session of Chinese cupping and feels sad when the bruises fade.
Given my fanaticism, you’d expect me to be head-to-toe covered in permanent art. But the truth of the matter is I’ve always been afraid to make that commitment. I’m a love-it-or-hate-it type of person, and my taste is wildly fickle. Plus, I’m still a bit scared of my mum, and my mum hates tattoos. For 38 years I’ve made do with obscene levels of tattoo groupiedom around friends with ink (sorry to everyone whose arms, legs and chests I’ve creepily pored over) and talk of “the best tattoo in the world I’m going to get at some unspecified point in the future”.
This trip, however, was about a new start - a different way of living and some alternate ways of thinking. Yes, it also featured Brazilian Jiu Jitsu quite heavily, but more than that I was beginning to recognise some patterns in my behaviour that were really counterproductive.
The eternal fearfulness that meant I never really stepped into something unfamiliar in case it worked out badly.
The “martyrdom” that meant I prioritised keeping everyone else on side over making myself happy (undoubtedly the misery that accompanied the martyrdom drove friends, family and partners up the wall).
And the desperate desire to be the best at everything that continued way past school and university, and regularly ran me flat into the ground.
With my 39th birthday hurtling round the corner, I had a real moment of clarity – one that said “You’re about half way through life, and you haven’t really started living yet. How much longer are you planning on waiting?”
It was time for a reboot, a Lisa Version 2.0. Taking the last 38 years as a test run, and using it to build something stronger, braver and more “in the moment”.
I wanted something to mark this commitment to change, something that wasn’t detracted from by “but what ifs?” And so, with roughly three days planning, and five days before we left for the States, I got 2.0 tattooed on my ankle.
The tattoo itself was done by a very good friend of mine, MMA fighter Pete Irving. He’s currently apprenticing as a tattooist and it was my way of taking my pals with me on my travels.
As it happens, the 2.0 tattoo has come in handy in other ways. When I handed in my notice, got rid of my flat, sold my possessions and moved across the globe, I assumed change would happen automatically. After all, pretty much every element of familiarity was gone.
And the first week was definitely new and exciting, filled with an adrenalin-type rush. Our brains quite regularly couldn’t comprehend the enormity and consequences of chucking so much into the air, and so we flipped into holiday mode, bouncing merrily between beaches and BJJ mats with glee.
Around the middle of week two though, I started noticing a shift, one that was making me a little sad and deflated.
In an environment where everything was chaotic and unfamiliar, we had started building frameworks that made it more like the old life.
We didn’t have jobs to go to, but we had a gym schedule, classes to hit, people who expected us to be there. We had chores to complete, laundry to run, breakfast slots in the motel to wake up for.
Instead of the “letting go and uncovering what I really want to do” mantra I had recited to myself, we were both finding ways to organise, and hurry, and prioritise. Rest was squeezed in between things, a commodity that would enable the other stuff on the “To Do list.”
I’ll be honest here, I don’t think it was accidental that we slipped back into “I’ll get round to it after…” future mode.
Racing on and "achieving", be that belts, jobs or weight loss, is tough. Standing still is sometimes more intimidating. What if you don't like where you're at, see mistakes that you've made, or mourn opportunities you've missed?
But without stopping, it's impossible to really change. After all, you have to take stock to even know where you're starting from.
At times where I notice I'm reverting to old habits, it helps to have a tiny 2.0 on my foot.
It reminds me to keep changing. I don't want it to end up as a faded, meaningless piece of nothing – the proverbial dolphin tattooed on a drunken hen night.
And the funniest thing is that after 38 years of "what will I find that looks good enough forever?" type stress, the design itself is secondary - it's the permanence I like the most. It is, and was, a way to mark a snapshot in time. And at least it doesn't say #YOLO.