I’m wearing a new badge of honour. It’s on my deltoid muscle that bulges round as the curve of a mango. I trained and worked hard to earn it and I’m proud to display it. I’ve been told it looks silly, displaying such a tattoo.
It sits in strong contrast against my tanned arm and says, ‘MS 24 HR Mega Swim’. I wear it because I swam as part of a team of eight for twenty-four hours on the weekend. That meant we swam in relay so that someone was always swimming over the twenty-four hours. We swam around three hours each in total. And we did it to raise money for MS, Multiple Sclerosis, as thirty-eight other teams did that day.
My little bit of ‘ink’ will fade as it’s a wash off tattoo, however it’s a badge of honour that will remain forever. Every skerrick of physical and mental power that I, and probably many other swimmers, sought and used that day meant pushing past a deficiency to find a strength and determination from somewhere within. It was especially so over the last half hour of swimming where I didn’t know how I was going to finish. Depleted of all energy, I didn’t know how I was moving. And the depletion continued after the swim into the next day where I couldn’t feel my blood pump through me and into my brain. I couldn’t think and wobbled when I walked.
I’m thrilled that I was able to go beyond that depletion to find that ‘something’ in me to help me finish. And well after my tattoo washes off, my badge will remain imprinted into my deltoid.
We all have our badges. Some are inked over skin as reminders or proud displays, or worn on sleeves. Others hide in hearts and some are so well drilled into our conscious that they penetrate the subconscious and we’re sometimes torn by the constant reminders and visions.
I watch a dear friend going through her marriage break up. My stomach churns as butter to lump into my solar plexus as I listen to her details and the baby-steps she takes along the path of a marriage ending. I feel twinges for her and her family, at their torment. I see the great courage in her, and admire it. I can’t imagine what strength it takes to find that highest level of courage to battle through such emotional anguish. Her badge of honour is being emblazoned onto her heart as we speak, a slow, raw branding she will wear forever and expose to very few.
I admire too, the strength and fortitude it takes for a person to battle though a psychotic episode to survive and live life again. There’s much courage in realising the episode is occurring, and then to seek help to right the imbalance and maintain that balance for an entire life. Another badge of honour that is not hidden, but rather sits behind a flimsy veil that occasionally flutters open as a breeze passes through, to expose an insignia that can glow with life at any time.
From the outside, I see those battles as huge and my respect for someone who must find such courage is massive. But I wonder whether they realise the extent of their courage and the impact that their conquering of battles and challenges has on others. Sometimes people in the midst of any challenge can underestimate the huge amount of courage and determination they have, and they are modest about their effort.
I wonder that as I proudly display my own newly earned badge of honour, whether what I feel about my accomplishment and what others around me think about it, are two very different things.
I was humbled by the outpouring of support for what the team and I were doing. The encouragement and comments about what we were doing astounded me. I felt good about it and wanted the challenge. That was enough for me. But many around me thought it amazing and inspiring, and that amazed and inspired me.
In the end, it’s all individual perspective and perception about things. We all earn our own badges of honour. Sometimes we openly display them while other times, we hide them.
If we were to peel away all our layers, all our badges would be exposed. Grand, bright and small, tarnished and glorious. They’re individual to us and they are all equally important.