Some People Change Their Hair After A Breakup, I Got A Tattoo

Atikh Bana / Unsplash

There’s nothing like a breakup to prompt us into making a change. But while some people simply use a breakup as a motivator for focusing more on themselves and making small life improvements here and there, others opt for more drastic physical changes, like a new hairstyle or even a whole new workout regimen. Me? I got my first tattoo after a particularly bad breakup. Here’s how it all went down:

Yeah, it really was a bad breakup. 

I’ll get straight to the point– I thought I was in love, and he did a bunch of terrible stuff to me which ultimately culminated in him leaving me for someone else. That was bad enough, but the whole situation was worsened by the fact that we still had to work together and shared a lot of the same friends. One night came along when I asked some friends to hang out, only to find out they were unavailable because they had already made plans with my ex. It was on that night that I went to get my tattoo.

It was not a totally random decision. 

Don’t get me wrong– I had wanted a tattoo for years. In fact, even as a child I had always known I would one day get inked up. I thought I’d first get one in college, but after seeing a lot of friends and acquaintances getting really bad ones I decided to wait until the age of 25. Of course, life happens while you’re making plans, and 25 came and went. I got dumped a couple months before my 27th birthday, and I guess it was the motivator I needed to finally go for it.

Just getting to the tattoo parlor was an adventure itself. 

I live in the Rocky Mountains, and good tattoo shops are not exactly just around the corner. The closest ones to me looked really sketchy (one was being operated out of an old, rundown motel room for chrissakes). So, I decided to drive about an hour to go to one that I had seen before, looked clean and had consistently great reviews. I went alone, and the closer I got to my destination the more excited I got. I was a bit nervous (as I suppose most first-time tattoo recipients are), but once I arrived I knew there was no turning back.

Ironically, a fellow customer was also there because of a breakup. 

There was one other person in the waiting area when I arrived. After chatting with them for a bit, I was amused to discover that a breakup had also prompted their arrival. However, in what should be a lesson to us all, they were actually there to get their own ex’s name covered up.

My tattoo was the first thing I’d done for myself in a while. 

Looking back, I realize that I basically got manipulated into being the giver of the relationship. Things started out very evenly, but he gradually withdrew while I dug in further and hoped that by making more effort on my end, he would eventually go back to being the guy I fell for. I actually didn’t realize just how much I was ignoring my own needs and wants during my relationship until I got my tattoo. The experience prompted me to start focusing more on these things, and the tattoo itself now serves as a visual reminder to never sacrifice that much of myself in a relationship ever again.

I completely forgot about my breakup while I was getting it done. 

From the moment the tattoo artist started prepping my skin to hours after I got home, I didn’t think about my ex or my breakup at all. It was glorious. Even better, by the time it did occur to me again, the whole situation didn’t seem so bad anymore. This was the first indicator I had that I was going to end up okay, and this awareness helped get me through the remainder of my emotional recovery period.

It made me realize I’d forgotten what it was like to be happy. 

It’s true that getting a tattoo releases endorphins, and so like many people I felt absolutely ecstatic while getting it (and actually for hours afterward). But even though the extreme level of happiness was caused largely by brain chemicals, the feeling caused me to have the sudden realization that I hadn’t been happy in a long time. Even worse, I hadn’t realized this before because I’d actually forgotten what it felt like to be truly happy. It’s a feeling I never want to be deprived of again, regardless of whether or not I’m in a relationship.

It was the start of a new me. 

Getting a tattoo post breakup has since prompted me to act more aggressively on other things I’ve long wanted to do. From little things like redecorating my apartment to bigger ones like actively pursuing my dream career, I’ve finally become the proactive person I’ve always wanted to be. Now whenever I do think about my time with my ex, I barely recognize that timid pushover of a girl who let her personal goals fall by the wayside. I’m going to do my best to make sure she never comes back again!

Oh, and my ex’s reaction was priceless. 

Since we did run in the same circles, it was only a matter of time before my ex found out about my tattoo. While I definitely didn’t get it as a means to shock him (or prompt any kind of reaction from him, for that matter), I won’t lie about how good his response made me feel. After all, he had always gone kind of quiet whenever I had talked about getting a tattoo before and would then change the subject to something about himself. When a friend finally mentioned it in front of him, my ex was utterly shocked and said, “Wait, you got a tattoo? I didn’t know you had it in you.” Well guess what, buddy, I did have it in me the whole time. TC mark

Brianna graduated from The College of New Jersey in 2012 with a BA in Journalism and Professional Writing.

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