I was really fucking dumb in my twenties. One of the biggest mistakes was thinking that the Beatles were right. Love isn’t all you need.
After the first three months that my ex and I were together, she returned to Canada. Her holiday visa expired out. We were engaged, and I thought this girl was the love of my life. I thought that this was it, you know? I thought we would last forever, and my heart was broken that she was gone. So I got a tattoo to show her just how much I loved her. Now, and forever.
Spoilers, folks. Don’t ever do this. It’s real dumb.
Given the nature of our relationship in the last half of our marriage, that message now carried with it a sinister undertone that I never even realised. It wasn’t a declaration of love any longer – it was a brand of ownership.
Every single day I look at myself in the mirror, that tattoo turns my stomach. It makes me feel physically ill. In the mornings, after my shower, I am very careful to only wipe the condensation from the mirror from my beard up. I can’t stand to look any lower. This horrible declaration, etched into the skin over my heart, is a constant reminder of misplaced sacrifice, and ultimate betrayal.
In short, it needs to be covered the fuck up.
The complicating factor is that I have something called dermatographia. Any trauma to my skin makes it react like an allergic reaction. Scratching, rubbing, etecetera, makes my skin swell up. It’s a great party trick, but really not very convenient when you need to get a tattoo.
I haven’t gotten a tattoo since my dermatographia manifested. I always thought that I would wait until it settles down, but unfortunately that’s just not an option anymore. I need this ink gone, or covered, and I need it done now.
So my plan was to get a small, meaningful tattoo as a test. Somewhere sensitive, like my chest, or my thigh, to get an idea of how my skin will react to being tattooed now. I’ve wanted to get something done for the last few months. Alas, I haven’t been able to find anything that has really grabbed me by the short and curlies.
In my adulthood, it’s rare to find a series of books that resonates with me so deeply as the Mistborn series does.
Written by Brandon Sanderson, it currently comprises of 7 books, with another one (at least) in the works. I had heard nothing but good things about the series, so I went ahead about bought the first three books on Kindle. The next three weeks of my life were consumed by it.
I’ve just finished the 6th book, The Bands of Mourning, and it is now firmly in my top 5 favourite epic fantasy series. I don’t think anything will ever topple Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series, but hot damn, Mistborn is coming mighty close.
I would argue that the magic system Sanderson has created is as much a central character as the characters themselves. Now, for the rest of this post to make sense, I have to do a little explaining of how the magic system works. Sorry in advance. It will all tie together in the end, I promise.
There are three main manifestations of magic within the series.
Allomancy; the consumption and burning of specific metals to achieve a desired effect.
Feruchemy; storing a certain attribute within a specific metal band to be drawn on at a later date.
Hemalurgy; using a spike made of a specific metal to pierce the body of a human or animal to transform them into something more than, or less than, their original form.
Each metal has a different effect through each of these types of magic. For example, steel has the following effects:
Allomancy: Burning steel allows the user to push metal away from them.
Feruchemy: A steel band allows the user to store physical speed, allowing them to tap it for a boost of physical speed in future.
Hemalurgy: Killing an allomancer with a steel spike steals allomantic powers from one person, allowing those powers to be gifted to another.
The original trilogy introduced a concept of an Allomancer who could burn gold. Burning gold is more of a curse than a blessing. Burning it allows you to see what is called a gold shadow of yourself. It shows you who you might have been, had you made different choices in your life. The people who can burn gold are called Augurs, and it is considered one of the more useless allomantic abilities.
This particular ability resonated with me because I do this every fucking day of my life, and I don’t even need to burn gold to do it! I always look at where I am and dwell on the choices that I have made that brought me here. Especially when I’m in a place that I am not happy with.
For example, on the last night of January I looked at my weight loss and my word count and I despaired. I had written 40k words during January, which was 9k over my monthly goal for 31k. I should have been happy, but I wasn’t. I saw some of my other writing friends who had utterly demolished their January goals – one wrote 59k, and another wrote a mammoth 100k. I felt inadequate. I thought about all the times that I read on the train instead of worked on my books. About the hours of videogames I had played after work when my brain was fried from the day, when I should have been writing.
I didn’t lose any weight during the final two weeks of January either. My knee was giving me grief, so I was taking it easy on the walking. And my diet was not the best.
I am of the firm opinion that you need to have a fuck it day occasionally, but only very occasionally. I had way too many fuck it days. I’m pretty sure I ended up having a fuck it week, which culminated in my trip to Sydney.
To be totally honest, I’m lucky, and surprised, that my weight stayed stable. I didn’t gain, and I didn’t lose.
So yeah, I was totally burning gold. I saw the alternate version of myself who had written 50k words, and had lost another couple of kilograms, and I lamented that the version of myself I wanted to be was not the version of me that I was. My gold shadow is infallible. I am not.
Allomancy is straight-forward. Use metal as fuel for your magical abilities. Feruchemy is very different. The basic concept of Feruchemy is to sacrifice something in the present to gain that benefit in the future.
A gold Ferring is called a Bloodmaker. They give up health, storing it in their gold Metalmind, spending weeks at a time sniffly and lethargic. This allows them to store their health, so they may draw on it in future,to heal from injuries that would otherwise kill them.
The process a Bloodmaker goes through echoes the process of weight loss. Weight loss is all about sacrifice. It is about giving up, to have more. To eschew the temptation of the present for the promise of the future.
In the Mistborn universe, someone who is born with both Allomantic and Feruchemical abilities is called a Twinborn. Someone who can burn and store attributes within the same metal can compound those abilities tenfold. An Augur who is also a Bloodmaker can draw on their stored health at one-tenth the cost of a normal Bloodmaker, healing almost infinitely. They are almost immortal.
Through my books, my words will live forever, even after I am dead and gone.
The tattoo I decided to get is the symbol for gold from the second era of the Mistborn universe. This symbol, which is now etched forever in my skin.
To me, it represents the acknowledgement, and acceptance, of all choices that led to where I am right now, good and bad, and that a healthier, brighter future is worth every sacrifice that the journey requires of me.