It’s tattooed on the base of my neck: a large, black semicolon. I got it in the fall of my senior year of college, after a boy broke my heart by not loving me back, after I self-harmed for the first time in almost ten years, after I was diagnosed with a panic disorder. Truthfully, it was a bit of a rash decision, like many tattoos are for 20-somethings living in college towns, but it has come to mean more to me the longer it has been inked in1235977_10152452573315869_4960828711613384046_nto my body.

A semicolon by definition, is a punctuation mark used to separate two complete clauses. However, a few weeks before I decided to brand myself with a punctuation mark, I heard another way someone looked at it. The Semicolon Project, an organization that aims to bring public awareness to mental health, specifically for those who self-harm, have attempted suicide, have depression, and anxiety says that “asemicolon is used when an author could have ended a sentence, but chose not to. The sentence is your life, and the author is you.”

For me, this definition became a crucial mantra to me. Every day I choose to live, and every day I need to remind myself that my choice is important.

The Semicolon Project started as a small, planned event: on April 16th, 2013 draw a semicolon on your wrist to support mental health awareness. The response was remarkable. Over 700,000 people in 9 different countries participated, showing their support for speaking about mental illness. When I heard about the results, I wanted to leave my mark too, but I didn’t want mine to wash off with a few showers. I wanted my mark to be as permanent as the illness I live with.

I chose my neck because I want to remind myself that while I cannot always see my semicolon, or see a way out of a bad situation, it’s still there, and I’m still there. I will continue to grow and change. I will continue to be sick, but what is important is that I remember that I am still here, living and trying to figure out every wave of my illness. I don’t end here;

Hunter Parsons is a recent graduate from Kalamazoo College with a degree in English with a writing emphasis. She has been published in The Cauldron, Kalamazoo College’s literary magazine, and is being mentored by poet Diane Seuss. When she’s not writing, being a plant mom, or advocating for young women’s self esteem, Hunter is baking and organizing her ever-growing makeup collection.