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The state of permanence used to scare me. It was difficult to imagine forever. My mind, interests, and beliefs tend to change over time, especially as I got older, so being confronted by things that seemed permanent usually made me second guess myself. That’s why a tattoo was something I dwelled on for 10+ years. I couldn’t make the leap to get one, fearing regret in the future.

I can’t pinpoint the exact reason why I finally decided to bite the bullet this past weekend. Maybe it’s because I’ve been in an on-again, off-again rut for the last few months and wanted to break that cycle. Or maybe I just wanted to drastically express myself in a new way. Or maybe permanence doesn’t seem to be that intimidating anymore. Whatever it was, I’m content with forever.

To me, a tattoo should carry a significant meaning behind it. It took 10+ years, but I found a simple, yet layered symbol:

  1. It’s my name. Rex is Latin for “king”. My name is the basis for my personal brand, as it represents my value to the world. Just like any other brand, my name holds connotations to my personal character. I strive to be a decent human being, while unafraid to be my genuine self. Flashback to a moment during my teenage years. I was getting a routine teeth cleaning, when my dentist asked how I was doing in school. He then proclaimed that with a name like “Rex”, I had to be successful. That was heavy for a kid to think about.
  2. It’s a crown. Crowns are worn by royalty and they represent power, legitimacy, and triumph. We’re all kings and queens in our own regards, as everyone has the potential to achieve greatness. It can extend from earning an “A” on an exam or launching a profitable company. If you rule supreme over your goals, you can lead yourself and others to anything. Being a royalty is a mindset.
  3. It’s a Basquiat Crown. Jean-Michel Basquiat went from painting graffiti in the East Village and Lower East Side to become one of contemporary art’s most celebrated artists. He embodied NYC counterculture, as he meshed gritty street culture with punk rock edge. Basquiat used a number of motifs in his paintings, with the most famous being his unique crown, which represented strength, power, and confidence. He had an apartment and studio not far from mine in the East Village
  4. It’s NYC. The best years of my life have been in New York. The city not only through everything it could to test my will and patience, it also provided irreplaceable experiences that made me feel like I could accomplish anything. I was inspired by being around other kings and queens of their crafts, and no other place on this planet can come close to presenting anything similar.
  5. It strength.  The bicep is a muscle associated with strength and resilience. My permanent crown can hide under a sleeve and can be easily accessed if I needed a reminder.

I went in and left Honorable Society tattoo shop with no inhibition and regrets (and it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would). It’s the perfect symbol, and I got it life. Real kings wear crowns.

 

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Rex Pham

Originally from the Bay Area, who then moved to Los Angeles, then out to New York City. NYU Stern MBA c/o 2014. Inspired by the grind of NYC to create something that has value. Lover of all things digital, culture, and brand strategy.

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