There is so much meaning in that small, little word. Tattoo. So many turns in the road of where your thoughts were going. All resulting from one tiny, yet permanent decision. What turns does your own mind take when you hear about someone getting a tattoo, or see someone who has one?
I have seen and heard many different reactions. Some are good, some are not. Some are indifferent. I can’t say for sure when it was I first made the decision that I liked tattoos. I know it was before I graduated high school. The reasons why are just as blurry now, too. Who can easily remember their own mind 10 or more years ago? She is so long ago now, and I have changed a lot since then. Not everything about a person changes, of course. But the things we like, want, or dream can change as time goes by. And sometimes even the reasons for our dreams change even when the dreams themselves do not. Whatever it was that caused me to like tattoos then, I know why now. I also know why I ultimately decided on the one I got.
I got my tattoo in Maryland, USA, around a year ago now. My friend and I decided to go together, and I agreed to visit her and her husband to get it done there.
My friend had taken a long time to finally decide what she wanted. I had played around with different ideas for a while before this, and I knew for at least a year or longer by the time we actually went. I was pretty set on what I would get. When deciding what and where, the choice ended up pretty simple. I thought about what I would get as if I had no other opportunity to get another. If I could only choose one, what would I get? And where would I want it? I knew I wanted it somewhere prominent. Not somewhere it would be covered up. I was also set on the saying: “Live your life.”
Why this? Tattoos are all subjective, of course. Sometimes I get people who confuse this saying (even my own mother, sadly) with the term Yolo that kids are using now. “You only live once.” This is not that. The saying I chose for my tattoo for me isn’t about using the idea of death as an excuse to live a life without consequences. This is almost the opposite, in fact. This is to live a life thinking strongly about your choices. To truly live, you could never throw caution to the wind so entirely you risk everything and anything.
It is about making hard decisions, and hard actions. It is about doing things, even when they are challenging or seem impossible. Striving to be the best to yourself, and the best to others.
It is being at the end, and knowing you tried as hard as you could–fought as hard as you could–to truly be a person your friends enjoy being friends with, your family love and can be proud of, your coworkers are inspired by, and you yourself can look back and say, yes. There is a girl I am happy in her actions and life. She wasn’t always perfect, but she tried her best to be a decent, good person.
Yes, it is also about not allowing fear hinder you from experiencing life, and sometimes giving into being impulsive every once in a while. It is working towards something you may fail at, or something that may, as an indirect consequence, be dangerous. It is the choice of living without always knowing the outcome to your decisions, and that is a scary thing to do sometimes. Sometimes it would be easier to take less complicated, safe courses in life. Courses you can see miles into the future of. But what is a future without heart in it?
Almost a year and a half later, and I am still happy with my tattoo. It means what it means to me, and that’s why I got it. This is the life I want for myself. It is the life I try to make for myself, everyday. My tattoo is something that reminds me of that challenge.
I have seen all types of reactions. There have been some coworkers who only just noticed it very recently. Some who have noticed it, but have made no remarks. I watch their eye skim over my arm, just for an instance, and then they go on as if nothing had happened. Perhaps they don’t have an opinion one way or another, or perhaps they just rather keep it to themselves.
Some people have made silly, cliche remarks. One coworker once said, “Our little Jamie got a tattoo?”
I have had strangers who, while ringing my purchases up or riding an elevator with me, have said they loved it. Then there are people, like my mom, who wouldn’t speak to me after I got it. Who I ended up having a struggling relationship for 6 months before, thankfully, we finally worked it out.
The world is a complicated, crazy place to live in sometimes. Sometimes, just one decision can change so much. I knew going in this decision would do so. No matter how much we try to improve ourselves–as an individual, as a community, as a nation, or even as a species–there will always be tangible things we associate to identities. Always be judgement by the cover, before the book. Even the best of us cannot help it. Trying to negate this altogether would drive us insane, and a part of being a healthy person needs these kinds of identities in our lives to an extent. Having a tattoo means adding something to that cover, both good and bad.
As for the story behind the cover? Well, I suppose you’ll just have to keep following along with me as I find out.