What is it about change that scares us so much? What about permanence?
Tattoos are technically permanent, but we invented a way to get rid of them – just in case.
You’re unhappy with your hobbies, your job, your relationship (or lack thereof), but you don’t do anything to change it because you fear the unknown more than the familiar pain you already have.
Change is inevitable – being alive guarantees that change will come to you, whether you welcome it or not.
This Tattoo Story is about the good side, and the bad side, of change and starting over (again and again).
Tattoo #4: Art Deco Apple + Starting Over (Again + Again)
(please enjoy my very non-professional photo of my own tattoo)
- Age When Tattooed: mid-20s
- Tattooed in: San Francisco, California; USA
- Body Location: Inside of my Right Forearm
- Time to Complete: 45 minutes
Every person I meet that sees this tattoo is instantly in love with it. I can understand. I felt the same way when I got it.
Let me set the scene: less than 12 months before getting this tattoo, I had moved across the width of the United States – from Connecticut to San Francisco, California – for the first time (I would end up moving cross-country 3 more times, but those stories are for another time). This was the furthest distance I’d ever lived from my family and the region of the country I was familiar with.
Oh, did I mention that I had only visited San Francisco ONCE, and that was 7 years prior?
I make some crazy fucking decisions sometimes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Back to the tattoo. Six months before moving to San Francisco, I began writing full-time. I loved words and verbal expression as a kid, but I never imagined that you could make a living at writing. After moving to San Francisco, my writing work increased rapidly and I was working with some incredible companies and organizations that I never could have imagined.
It had been at least 2 years since my last tattoo, and I wanted something to commemorate my first big relocation, as well as the beginning of my love-hate relationship with professional writing (I could write a whole blog series on just that, haha).
Thanks to the internet, I had found an artist in Brazil named Rubens LP. In one of his older pieces, he had this green apple that reminded me of a blend of 1920s Art Deco style and futuristic, work-in-progress lightspeed travel. It felt old and new. Aged and unborn. It felt like a perpetual oxymoron.
After a few months of thinking it over, I e-mailed Ruben to ask for his permission to get the green apple tattooed on me. He quickly said yes – all he asked for was a photo of the tattoo.
Without telling my then-boyfriend, I found a tattoo artist in the city, shared the design with him, and went to get it done. This was the first time I had gotten a tattoo by myself (yet another first).
If I thought that I knew how painful it was to get a tattoo, I was willfully ignorant. The inside of one’s arm has some VERY sensitive spots. I know that now.
When my then-boyfriend saw my arm all wrapped up later that day, he thought I had been assaulted. The look of anger on his face was both adorable and horrifying. When I explained that it was a tattoo, he quickly became jealous that he wasn’t there when I got it done. Some people you simply can’t please.
Nearly a decade later, this tattoo still brings back many vivid memories, particularly the emotional rollercoaster that was my time in San Francisco and being a full-time writer.
On a larger scale, this tattoo reminds me of the first time that I took control of my own life.
Before that, I was coasting – no direction, no passion, no hope. Moving to San Francisco was a conscious choice to push myself out of my comfort zone, start something new, and accept all of the consequences that came with such a strong action.
Since then, I have started over many more times: when I moved back to Connecticut, then to San Diego, then back to Connecticut, then to Brooklyn, then back to Connecticut, then to Austin, Texas (where I am now). After I graduate with my Bachelor degree in a few years, I’ll be moving to Japan.
I say that I “started over,” but that’s not accurate. Every time that I moved; or started a new business; or a new relationship, I was shedding parts of my personality that were hindering my happiness. Sometimes, you need to create a physical separation to do that, but you are never truly “starting over” – you’re simply starting the next chapter. You can’t eliminate the chapters that came before, but you can learn to accept the lessons they provided.
On the negative side of that coin, “starting over” also helped me continue to isolate myself from creating meaningful relationships, or trying to understand myself on a deep enough level to appreciate such depth within another person. (Good news: that’s changed)
Being on the inside of my forearm, I see this tattoo multiple times a day, and EVERY time I see it, I think one thing: fucking do it.
Try a new hobby? Do it. Take a class? Do it. Pay off all your debt? Do it. Explore a new city? Do it. Introduce yourself to a stranger? Do it.
I don’t care what it is. If you want to try it, try it. If you don’t have the money or time, fucking make the money or time.
If you don’t prioritize new experiences, you won’t have any new experiences, and your life will be wasted.
You might fail. You might get hurt. You might find out something you wanted to enjoy is not right for you at all.
Experience is better than What If. Every. Damn. Time.