When I was 18, and it was three days before I went out of state for college, I did something I never expected to: I got a tattoo.
Don’t get me wrong. I always found tattoos to be really interesting, I just never thought I’d have the courage to get one myself. But then I got one, and next thing I knew, I couldn’t stop myself from getting more.
Today, I love ink. I love finding new designs, I love going through the process of getting a new tattoo, and I love knowing that whatever I choose to put on my skin will always be there.
What I don’t love is the stigma that comes with tattoos.
There’s this notion that a tattoo is a huge risk: that somehow, by getting a visible tattoo, you’ll make yourself unemployable or come off as “rebellious.”
Most people who have tattoos will agree with me when they say that this idea doesn’t make any sense.
When I get a tattoo, I get it for many different reasons.
I got a compass because it helps me remember all the wonderful people in my life who steer me towards the right path.
I chose a small airplane because it was my first time in London and my first time traveling solo, and I wanted something to remember the trip with.
I picked a world map because I’ve wanted to travel the world ever since I read a book about backpacking when I was 14.
These are all examples of the stories and reasons behind my tattoos, but none of them make me bad or untrustworthy or unfit in any way.
My ink is a part of me that I love. Every single tattoo I get is a memory that’ll always stick with me; I can always tell you where I got it, when I got it, and why. I’ll smile and fondly remember the friends I was with or the incredible tattoo artist I had who made sure I was comfortable throughout the process.
However, what these tattoos don’t tell you is what I studied or what my experience is. They don’t tell you what my personality is, who and what I care about, or what I’ve gone through in my life that determines how I act.
It’s time we move away from this idea that tattoos are bad or always mean “trouble,” because the truth is that you can only learn a very tiny amount about a person from the ink that’s on their forearm or neck or ankle. You won’t be able to figure out if they’re the best fit for the job you’re applying for or if they have the personality traits that make others want to be their best friend.
When it comes to a human body, a lot is already pre-decided for us. The organs, the eye color, the height, and so on. We can’t change much. But what we can choose to change is something like adding a tattoo. We can make our bodies a little different or unique by adding something that sets us apart.
For that reason, I refuse to let anyone ever tell me that my tattoos are a risk to me or that I should stop getting them just to please someone else.
My tattoos are a part of me. They’re an essential and unique part and one that I’m proud of. But they also don’t define me.