You know how in some art shows people try to sell you kind of unique or "out there" sculptures or paintings and they pitch them to you as “conversation pieces?” My hands have always been my conversation piece. I wear a ring on every single finger, every single day. They only come off if I’m showering or swimming, and they go right back on afterward. The tan lines I get in the summers are kind of comical.
But for me, it’s a lot more than just accessorizing for the sake of decoration. Each ring holds its own story, carries its own meaning, sends me its own messages. Their significance sometimes stays the same, but at times the stories will grow and evolve with me, and every so often the rings themselves will be swapped out to make room for new stories. After reading Anushka’s article about her own rings and how much she loves their stories, I decided it was about time to pay my own a tribute.
Left Pinkie: Cactus, January 2016
Senior year, my best friend did a massive favor for me, and being the wonderfully absurd lil' ball of strange that she is, she begrudgingly let me know that I “owe[d her] a really big cactus.” It grew into a running joke between us, “I owe you a cactus,” quickly becoming our “thank you.” A random winter Saturday, she surprised me for no real reason with a matching set of cactus rings, a reminder for me always that when it comes to her, there is absolutely always something to be grateful for.
Left Ring Finger: Ametrine, June 2015
This square cut stone is formally called ametrine, but is commercially known as a bolivianite—a half-amethyst, half citrine rock that is only mined naturally in—of course—Bolivia. I was in the country a few summers ago with my church, working on a construction project but also with tons of kids from various orphanages in the city of Cochabamba. One thing that I absolutely loved about those kids was their unconditional love and welcoming towards every new person, as well as their boundless joy. I bought this ring one of the last days of the trip so I could keep their examples with me.
Left Middle Finger: Laurel, May 2016
At my high school graduation, I wore a headband that looked just like this—gold leaves connected along a thin band. My friend Ellie came over and did my hair, and paired with the loose white dress and sandals I wore that day, I totally felt like some Grecian princess. When we got home from the (both joyful and tearful) ceremony, my parents presented me with this ring to remember the day.
Left Pointer Finger: Diamond band, Spring 2015
With this being my first year away from home, this one is often a favorite. It marks the beginning of a tradition my parents started with me, their oldest daughter, and continued with both of my younger sisters. Using my mom’s finger as a reference, they bought this ring nearly twenty years ago, either before I was born or when I was way, way tiny, and they held onto it until I was a bunch older, to give to me as I was a bit more grown-up. I’m admittedly still not very grown-up at all, but I’ve always loved how much this ring means that my family loved me from the very start, and knew they’d love me no matter what as I grew up. It’s the one I tend to play with the most when I’m sad or nervous or when I miss home.
Left Thumb: Pineapple, New Years’ 2017
This past winter break, my dad’s entire family—all the aunts and uncles and significant others, all the cousins, my grandparents, and my parents and siblings and I—decided to take our Christmas “overseas” and spend it in Hawaii to celebrate my grandfather’s upcoming 75th birthday. We’ve nearly always spent the huge majority of our holidays with my mom’s family, because her dad and all of her siblings still live close to the town where she grew up, and it had been something like five years since the last time my dad’s whole family was able to get together. After day after perfect day of breakfast buffets, of poolside proseccos, of helicopter trips and whale sightings and Nurai’s animal impressions and disposable cameras and silly dance moves and exploring Maui, I was even more filled with love for my huge crazy clever adventurous magnificent family than I even thought possible. This ring was $10 at a gift shop, and it’s totally been rubbed down to cheap metal and it turns my finger a tiny bit green, but I still wear it every day because I smile every time I think of that trip and how much closer it brought the nineteen of us together.
Right Thumb: Opal, Summer 2013
The summer after my freshman year of high school, my family went on a three-week cross-country road trip, all the way to California and back to Chicago before going on another road trip out to Massachusetts and back. We saw mountaintops, deserts, and coastlines, we visited family in San Diego and had a disastrous run-in with a swarm of bees at Joshua Tree National Park. I got this ring on top of a mountain in Colorado because opals are definitely my favorite stone. They’ve always felt underrated to me, which is crazy because they’re totally the prettiest stone out there. Each of them has such a gorgeous iridescent pastel rainbow inside, they’re so so cool, they’re like little fairy-dust rocks. I like them because it’s definitely a reminder that you don’t have to be a diamond (or some other popular classic expensive luxurious equivalent) to be beautiful.
Right Pointer Finger: Sapphire band, May 2016
The essay I wrote senior year for my CommonApp was about how much I (clearly) love jewelry, rings especially, and how it can be used as a celebration of people’s personal journeys and stories. I’ve always thought of them like tattoos, signifiers of things that are so important to you that you want to keep them publicly displayed on you all the time. This ring was another graduation gift from my parents, that in a kind of meta way stands for my love of stories and my pride in my own. The million tiny rainbows it makes when it reflects sunlight is one of my favorite things ever.
Right Middle Finger: Mixed metals, September 2015
I got myself this one for my eighteenth birthday, and for me, it’s elaborate pattern and the combination of metals and designs is a celebration of how complicated and detailed and sometimes contradictory life can be, and how all the little parts can make up a really beautiful whole. I didn’t notice this until after it was shipped, but each of the half-circles have eleven silver dots inside, which happens to be my lucky number. So each pair of half circles ends up being 11:11, which, if you’ve added me on Snapchat, you’ll know is something I hardly ever miss.
Right Ring Finger: Sapphire, September 2013
Two years before the week of my sixteenth birthday, my grandmother came up from Cincinnati to visit. The evening of my actual birthday, she brought a box to dinner and over dessert showed us that the box was full of different pieces of jewelry. All of it had been hers at some point, but she had it set aside now to be brought out for her granddaughters’ different “milestone” birthdays. She told me to pick out any of the pieces I wanted, and my attention immediately flew to this one. I loved it because it was a sapphire (my birthstone) and because the band reminded me of the snapdragons I used to play with in our backyard when I was younger. She told me it used to belong to her grandmother, which when you think about it is literally so wild because that’s like four generations that this ring’s been around. So, it also sounds like I’ll be passing it down sometime in the future.
Right Pinkie: Silver band, Summer 2014
In the first two years of high school, I watched Dead Poets’ Society probably twenty-six times. And there’s a scene in the movie where Robin Williams’s character, the private school English teacher who challenges the students and the norms of their prestigious academy, reads aloud a passage from Thoreau’s Walden. I’ve still never read Walden, (but maybe sometime, I have like four copies,) but I have enough general knowledge of what went down in the book and have read a big enough scattering of passages from it that I knew back then I was absolutely crazy for the idea of stripping life to the basics, to only focusing on what matters, and to remembering the importance of solitude every once in a while. I got this simple little silver ring to commemorate that while I was in Massachusetts over the summer—the very state where the events of Walden take place.
As I was doing a little bit of shopping last summer, the woman behind the counter noticed how heavily decorated my hands were and showed me her own beautiful ring collection before joking that “those Hindu goddesses with all the extra arms really knew what they were doing—think how much more space they get to have to accessorize.” I joke all the time about how when it’s time for me to be engaged, I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do about wearing a wedding ring—there simply isn’t any space left, and I couldn’t bear the thought of parting with any of my current rings. But we’ll see—maybe that’ll end up a story in itself.
Image credits: Annmarie Morrison