I have a couple of small tattoos on my body. The majority of them serve only an aesthetic purpose rather than having a deep meaning. The tiny moon on my inner arm reminds me of my sweet sister and the day we got matching tattoos together. The olive branch is, well, little more than an olive branch (I like olives, okay?!). The flower on my shoulder is there because, hibiscus flowers are something beautiful that I’ve noticed a lot throughout my life, due to being a native Floridian. But the little line of script on my back – also the first tattoo I ever got – holds the most sentiment. “I will always love you” written in my father’s handwriting. It was the result of scanning an old birthday card, making a copy, and bringing it into a tattoo shop at the age of 19. That birthday card and tattoo, in addition to a few photographs, are some of the scarce memories I still hold of my father who passed away when I was 11 years old. Five years later, I’m walking into a tattoo shop with a new, meaningful line of script that will be engraved on my body, and today I’m sharing the story behind it.
On June 30th, 2019, Ray and I were in Florence, Italy. The plan for the day was to go see the statue of David (you know, that famous naked guy). Unfortunately, the regular tickets to see the statue were completely booked. I thought to check Airbnb to see if there were any guided tours to see the statue. We ended up finding a tour, led by a man named Mario, a native Florentine with a passion for his home city, and the art and history that it holds. He was well versed in Michelangelo’s work and was determined to help us look at David and see so much more than just “that famous naked guy”.
Michelangelo’s David is located in the Accademia Gallery. When you first enter the large room there is a sort of walkway that leads to David. The walkway is bordered by a number of other sculptures made by Michelangelo. These sculptures appear unfinished. Mario pointed this out to us, asking, “what do you notice about the other sculptures?” The point that he really wanted to make was that Michelangelo’s motivation behind David was not about the result, but the process.
Mario told us that upon completing David, Michelangelo had been frustrated with the fact that people were so focused on the statue, they were missing the point. So, Michelangelo began creating sculptures and stopping midway through to show the artistic process. To show the art emerging from the marble, fighting its way out in a sense. Mario used a number of analogies to point out that in all parts of life, it is the process that matters, not the end result. It is during this sort of “in between” phase when the awakening occurs. He pointed to my pregnant belly (I was about 6 months along at this point) and said that the pregnant woman is a beautiful example of the creative process, “no longer one person, but not yet two.”
We were in Europe for another 10 days after this experience in Florence. When we returned to the states, I was definitely in an “in between” phase, to say the least. As Mario had so beautifully stated, I was no longer one person but not yet two either; I was patiently waiting for my daughter to arrive. I was also in between the stages of “nursing student” and “nurse”. I had passed my boards and was ready to work, but I was so far into my pregnancy that the idea of applying and interviewing for jobs sounded exhausting. I decided that I would continue waiting tables until I went into labor and then plan to start my career as a nurse after having my baby and taking a few months off with her.
Dragging smelly bags of garbage out to the dumpster, dealing with annoying drunk people, filling up that disgusting mop bucket and sometimes leaving with barely any money for the day was a serious process that I needed to trust. It wasn’t easy. I saw all of my colleagues beginning their careers, and here I was, extremely pregnant and getting yelled at over burnt French fries. I was a nurse. I had worked my butt off for four years to get these credentials and here I was, filling up cups of tartar sauce for $5/hour.
Mario’s words really spoke to me. On the tough days I would bring myself back and think about how every experience in life teaches you something. I knew I was growing through this process. I knew things would fall together. The day after I gave birth to my daughter, I got a phone call. I was literally still in the hospital, so I didn’t answer. It was the manager of a job that I had applied for a week or so prior. She wanted to interview me. I called her back and she told me to just call her when I was ready to work. And just like that, everything was falling together just the way I wanted it to.
Today I am almost 7 months into my career, my daughter has grown so much and I’m in more of a rhythm as a mom. I am pretty much where I dreamed of being back then. I am comfortable at my job, I am confident working as a nurse, I am financially stable. But some days still, I don’t feel like I am exactly where I want to be. I was reflecting recently on Mario’s words when I had the realization that once again, I need to trust the process. This time last year, I would have loved to be where I am right now. I was dying to start my career. I was so nervous about being new at a job again, after having worked at the same restaurant for 7 years. I wanted to find that place of comfort. And today, I am there. Yet still, I am looking forward. I then realized that it had almost been exactly one year since I saw Michelangelo’s David and I couldn’t help but remember how moving of an experience it was. This led to the decision to make a tattoo appointment for June 30th, 2020 to get “fidati del processo” (italian for “trust the process”) tattooed on my wrist.
These reflections have led me to ponder a couple of things: Are we always trusting a process or do we eventually reach a goal? Should I be more present and stop looking into the future? Or, is it good to look into the future so that we never settle and get too comfortable? Thinking back seems like a healthy way to put your life into perspective, but I also believe that focusing on the present moment is a great practice as well. Share your thoughts in the comments!