This is the design I drew for my first tattoo. The whole image is symbols; nothing in it has no meaning.
The tree is specifically a white oak tree.
The white oak tree is the reason the Americas were settled. Forget what you learned in school about gold and the Fountain of Youth. In that time, ships were made of white oak. The constant naval wars between Britain, France, and Spain caused the white oak tree to be harvested nearly to extinction. When explorers came to the New World in search of the things like gold, they discovered millions of acres of untapped white oak forests. Their kings and queens paid for settlers to go, as long as they shipped back the lumber.
The tree, then, represents two things to me: First, the Golden Age of the Sail, which is one of my favorite periods of history. Also, it represents to me the fact of hidden history; the real whys of the world.
"Live Deliberately" is a very truncated version of my favorite quote in the English language: "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
This quote changed my life; or rather, it solidified my existing views. The truncated version has a meaning all its own: Live deliberately. Don't let life happen to you; affect change wherever you can. Your life is your own, and only you can change it.
I am, at my base, a very angry person, and I have learned mostly how to control it through a fusion of various emotions and logic. The Celtic knotwork here represents that control; a shield, if you will, that I put up every day to protect my loved ones from that anger.
That shield is the roots of the tree that is who I am. I have built who I am upon the accomplishments made because I have made that shield.
I left the root system bare to remind myself to look at how things are fed; more of the "whys" that I spoke of earlier, for it is far easier to understand the world if you understand the motives behind the actions.
Finally, the three symbols in the roots, from which the tree of my life is fed:
A pentacle: it represents my time as a Wiccan, where I developed most of my shield, and learned the Wiccan Rede: "An Harm Ye None, Do What Ye Wilt"
The Boy Scout logo: Where I developed most of my personality. If not for the BSA, I would not be the person I am today, for better or worse. It is in the center, at the taproot of my tree, because it had the largest influence on my life as a whole.
A cross: Represents my time as a Christian, as a Catholic, and, being of equal lengths for all four arms, represents my studies in other world religions.