“I’m not from Boulder; in fact, I’m not even from Colorado. I hail from the sunny sand-swept beaches of Santa Barbara, California, the home of my childhood for the better part of my life. I didn’t even go far for college; in 2009 I graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a head full of ideas and a heart full of adventure. Having already studied abroad as part of my undergraduate work, I hopped on the first international flight I could get on and spent the first few months of my post-college years in France. Sadly, being a newly freed student, I had funds that were a bit lacking and I found myself back on a flight home, a little deflated and a lot more in debt—though thoroughly satisfied with my adventure. I spent my next year and a half as the cliché college grad, still living with my parents, wondering when and where my next adventure would take me. Lucky for me, it didn’t take long and in the fall of 2011 inspiration struck again, and off I was to Boulder, Colorado.
But this story really isn’t supposed to be about where I’m from or where I’m going, is it? It’s supposed to be about why I chose my word and what this project means to me… I’ll tell you what it means to me—it means being able to leave a baby shower to get a tattoo I had only decided to get an hour before.
Whoa. Wait, what?
You see, my story about how and why I became part of the project was just like that; a flip of a switch, a change in direction, and a decision I made in less than 1.25 seconds. It happened on a sunny Sunday morning at a friend’s baby shower. A group of lovely ladies were celebrating the miraculous gift of life when one of the shower-goers began showing off a tattoo she had recently gotten.
‘It’s for the Boulder Tattoo Project, see? Everyone gets a word or phrase from this poem written about Boulder.’ My friend held out her wrist for all to see. Everyone was quite taken by the beauty of it. The simple dark script of her word was delicately surrounded by a few carefully placed stars. I was sold.
‘Do they still need volunteers?’ I cried, unable to contain myself.
‘I think so, you can give them a call and see—’
But I was already on my phone, dialing the number for Claw and Talon. On the second ring, a cheerful voice greeted me; I later came to know her as Chelsea Pohl, the project manager. Pleasantly, she read off the remaining words. I wish I could remember what was left, but really the only word that comes to mind is the one I now have etched into the skin on the back of my neck: mirrored.
‘I think “mirrored” is pretty cool. You can do a lot with it,’ I remember Chelsea saying.
‘It’s perfect. When can I come in?’
‘Well, let’s see, maybe Tuesday or Wednesday…actually, I had a cancellation at noon today…is that too soon?’
‘Really?! I’ll be there!’
An hour later I bid the other ladies good bye and headed over to Claw and Talon, barely able to contain myself when I walked in the door. Chelsea greeted me with a welcoming smile and a few pages of paperwork, and after a few minutes of careful consultation on where to place my tattoo, I was on the table, sitting pretty, trying to be as still as a statue.
As I listened to the buzz of the needle, I couldn’t help but stare at myself in the mirror on the wall before me. Mirrored, I thought to myself. Mirrored. It gave me chills. A reflection of the world around you. And that was it. That was why I loved the word so much; why I was so eager to join the project.
I’ve seen the people and places of Boulder every day now for two years. Everything is happy. Everything is spontaneously creative. Everything is vibrant with life. I’ve always been a believer that you are a reflection of the environment you choose to surround yourself with and that, therefore, you should want to find yourself in a place that cultivates the life of whatever makes you happy. Boulder has become that place for me. In fact, it’s strange to me that it’s not strange that I feel so at home in city I didn’t grow up in. And this small word, this small tattoo on the back of my neck, at the top of my backbone, gives me strength to proudly mirror back all the magic and spontaneity that lies in this city.
I may not stay here forever; in fact, I’m sure that at some point I’ll be swept away on another adventure. But for now I’ll marvel at the second home I’ve come to know and, every now and then, peek in the mirror at my mirrored, and smile.”
Jessica Boltz’s “mirrored”