I’ve been planning this buffalo nickel tattoo for close to two years now; the idea coming shortly after hitting rock bottom of an eating disorder, severe body image issues and anxiety. I had difficult time reminding myself that I held worth and was defined by things other than physical appearance. I found the concept of coins very comforting. I saw coins as holding worth, no matter how small they were monetarily or physically. I used this idea to pull myself through on the most difficult days as I started counseling and really facing my illness.
The line “Make yourself free” was incorporated long after I had decided on a coin-oriented tattoo. I knew that I wanted to replace the line “United States of America” with something that made the coin far more personal. When listening to Bright Eyes’ “Tourist Trap” the line “‘Make yourself free,’ a man said that to me. Now my heart is like an open door.” really stuck with me and more or less forced me to realize that, not only was I the only one in control of getting through my eating disorder, but that to do so, I’d have to be open with myself and others about what I was feeling and why.
The buffalo nickel and year came together when talking to my mom about my idea. She suggested a buffalo nickel instead of the more common penny I was considering. I was born and raised in the southwest with ancestors that not only settled the western US more than a century ago, but family members who still live there. Buffalo nickels haven’t been produced since 1938, but 1994 is my birth year, which drives the point that this tattoo and the ideas behind it are all my story and what I am and have been going through.
It looks exactly how I imagined and I don’t think I could love it any more than I do. It catches my line of sight more often than I’d ever thought it would and has already helped remind me why I keep going, even when the going’s tough.
Done at Phoenix Tattoo Company by Anthony Romero.