What We Leave Behind

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When Bodies of Words: Stories on Skin came out last year, I finally had a chance to tell the world about the story behind the Jane Austen-inspired “Bad Girl” tattoo I got on my right arm back in July of 2017. Granted, most of that story was promoted in an Instagram image from the publisher that came out before the book’s release (which is still the most-liked image on that Instagram account, possibly the closest I’ve ever come to winning a popularity contest in my life), but seeing it in book form was still nice. If nothing else, I took the photo of my tattoo that appears in the book, one of only three or four selfies I’ve ever snapped in my entire life, so my percentage of self-portraiture that’s been professionally published is pretty darn high right now.

What I didn’t mention about my tattoo in Bodies of Words was why I got it when I did. After Mom passed away in October of 2016, I had a very strong sense that my time in Toledo was coming to an end, and Toledo has a very good tattoo shop, Infinite Art Tattoo, where I wanted to get my first tattoo from if I ever got one. (I’ve always been kind of a wimp when it comes to physical pain.) I’d designed the tattoo years earlier, and even had it printed out on temporary tattoo transfer paper so I could position it on my body and see how it looked in various places, but as it became clearer that I would end up leaving Toledo in 2017, I figured that I’d have to pull the trigger on getting a real tattoo if I was ever going to get one at all. In that way, my tattoo also serves as a reminder of the city where I was born and raised, a permanent reminder on my skin of my birthplace.

There was something else I did before I left Toledo which I haven’t told anyone about, but now seems like as good a time as any to mention it. I’ve written here repeatedly about how important Wildwood Preserve Metropark in Toledo has always been to me, and I’ve certainly posted lots of my photography from there over the years, but just like I’ve brought my tattoo with me everywhere I’ve been to since I left Toledo, I wanted to leave part of myself in Wildwood before I moved away. A few days before I flew to Colorado for my sojourn there, I made one last trip to Wildwood, and while I was there, I buried some of my fingernail clippings in a shallow hole that I covered up. This sounds as stupid to me as it does to you, believe me, but it felt like the right thing to do at the time; I’m sure that I left some stray hairs there over the years, but I just liked the idea of having a little bit of my DNA there after I left, since the park’s DNA is permanently imprinted on me. (That said, if anyone goes to Wildwood and sees a strange growth sprouting up from behind a trail marker, please let me know so I can go see a doctor.)

I could list a lot of reasons for why I’m thinking so much about the things we all leave behind right now, but one of those reasons is the fact that the .org turns twenty years old next week. Part of me wants to trace this website back to the first all-purpose personal website I posted back in 1997, on the free web space I got as a customer of GlassCity Internet (cue “Those Were the Days” refrain), but “going dot-org” marked a significant turn in my life that I’d really like to write a lot more about next week. I’d started my first professional wrestling website in 1996, and I’d designed a website for my father’s business — which he put on the free space he got from his CompuServe account (egads, I’m old) — all the way back in 1995, so I’ve actually been doing this website thing for over a quarter of a century now. Good freaking grief.

When I launched the .org on 2000.11.11, I was looking for a fresh start to my life in a lot of ways, and while the stupidity that plagued my life before that day hadn’t quite been eradicated yet, I’d like to think that I’ve come a long way in these last twenty years, and that this website has done its job of documenting a lot of the ups and downs I’ve been through in that time. There’s a lot to be said about that journey when the twenty-year anniversary comes around next week, but as so many of us have learned — especially in the last few months — there’s no guarantee that next week will come for everyone. Things happen for a lot of reasons, and there are far too many reasons for far too many bad things to be happening to people at this unique moment in our history, and none of us are immune to all of them.

This website is only a part of my story, of course. If I’m to be remembered for anything, I’d like it to be for learning and passing on Mom’s lessons about turning anger into positive action, through my writing and my teaching and the other good things I’ve managed to fit into my forty-four years on this planet. Some of those things made their way into the words on this site, but even with my penchant for verbosity, I wouldn’t dare try to condense all of what Mom means to me into any number of words. I’d like to think that maybe I had that effect on other people as well, and so twenty years of journals and blogs and everything else on here, as much as they may be a legacy of these last two decades of my life, are just a very small, very imperfect picture of this meat puppet called Sean Shannon.

There’s still a lot more I want to do here, and properly celebrating .org.20 next week is just the tip of that iceberg. Still, nothing is permanent, and even well-done tattoos fade and blur over time. None of us ever really knows how long we have left in this lifetime, and one of the biggest things that has helped me become a more responsible person over these past twenty years has been to keep in mind that just like everyone else, my time to depart this life will come one day, and I should live every moment that I have with the intent of being remembered for the good I managed to do for other people while I was here. I might not be able to control how many of those moments I have left, but at least I can control how good I make each and every one of those moments, and I hope that in setting some of those moments down on the .org these past twenty years, I’ve managed to make some of your life’s moments a little better as well.

Thank you.

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