A while ago I had my second tattoo done, placed on my left shoulder-blade. The tattoo is the core honeycomb-inspired design above – not the many honeycomb parts, but just the joined-3. It’s actually my ‘hive’ tattoo, in honour of a brilliant friendship Darren and I formed when we moved to Melbourne; named ‘hive’ simply because when the 3 of us are firing off each other it can be a bit like a bit of a group mind situation. As another friend once said to me, a tattoo is a shrine, or a temple to something important to you, so without a doubt that tattoo is a celebration of that friendship.
In the weeks it has been on my shoulder-blade (largely out of sight), it’s caused me to think a bit more about friendships in general, and it’s clear that it’s also an apt symbol for all true friendships. I’m not talking the fly-by-night or fair-weather friendships, but the ones where there’s a connection you value and equally reciprocate.
When I chose that above pattern for the honeycomb, rather how it appears in nature, it was quite deliberate; regardless of how deep our friendships, we are still at some level individuals. The amount we choose to share with each other changes those boundaries – erodes and merges those boundaries – but a friendship also can’t survive without an acknowledgement of each person’s individuality. Yet, each friendship is a trinity – a 3 into 1.
The trinity arrangement works as a broader celebration of friendships on two levels for me. First, in so many situations, if someone is a friend of mine, that person may very well also be a friend of Darren’s. Not always, of course, but there’s a fairly large overlap there. So the trinity arrangement in that situation covers the recognition that we as a couple will form unique friendships with each individual we come across. Us two, plus the mutual friend. Equally, if you look at the specifics of any 2 people in a friendship, there’s a third component – the friendship itself becomes a pseudo-tangible entity; you have one person, you have the other person, and you have the personality they exhibit when with each other. That’s not always the same. We tend to interact with all of our friends slightly differently, depending on the circumstances at the time. That combined entity, the result of the interaction between the two friends, is potentially unique every time, and is the very thing the friends celebrate or enjoy about each other.
Completing the nested trinity, when we walk away from each encounter with a friend, we’re left with three distinct aspects, too – the memories, the emotions, and the time. We are, after all, linear creatures, and that specific time experienced will never be experienced again – it’s fixed in our past and manifests as (even in the most subtle ways) a building stone on what we become.
That’s why we should celebrate every friendship we have – not just while we have it, but even those friendships that have passed. At any point we allow those interpersonal boundaries to erode, even just a bit, we open ourselves up to sharing a little of each other, and so built on our own tapestry. Even when we have to let those friendships go, they remain with us at some level.
We are, by our very biological nature, social creatures. I perhaps know this more than most people due to the at times intense isolation of working from home, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year. Since we are social – very social – one of the most potent things we can do is form friendships – they give us our life experiences and contribute significantly to the ongoing building and development of our personalities and our memories.
So my tattoo celebrates not only a strong, important friendship, but in part celebrates all my friendships – the past ones, the current ones, and those to come. A hive and a trinity, all at once.