Learning Impermanence Through the Permanence of Tattoos

BRiYA Article Blog Post - Learning Impermanence Through the Permanence of Tattoos

Back in my 20s I learned a lot of life lessons the hard way. This was probably due to the fact that I was so hardheaded that it took a good smack upside the ol’ noggin to make anything sink in. Luckily, most wounds have fully healed, although, I have been left with a few scars.

I was never the kind of person who would do anything with my hair. Blessed with thick, long, curly hair that seemed to be fabulous with minimal maintenance I rarely had worry too much about it. However, this led to me not knowing what to do with it style-wise. Other than a strip of bright color here and there, I was fairly conservative in regards to drastic changes.

I was more of the type of girl who would go out and get tattoos and piercings. For some reason, this was more of my go-to when I felt like I was crawling out of my skin and I needed a change.

Only young once

I wanted to prove to myself that I was fun. My motto was: I could die tomorrow. While not the most responsible motto, it definitely led to some interesting stories.

In my 20s I felt compelled to always have a good story and to always be ahead of everyone else. I always wanted to stand out, with an obsessive need to be noticed.
Looking back, I clearly see this intense level of competition that wove its way through my life. Starting early in childhood by comparing myself to my siblings, I grew up wanting to be or have the best, or at least, the most.

I wanted to have the most tattoos or piercings, date the most men, drink the most alcohol, or be the most tortured artist. It was quantity over quality of life.

I made a lot of “mistakes” when I was younger. I use quotation marks because the choices I made that were ill-advised were what eventually led me to become the person I am today, and that, I am happy about.

Maybe they felt like mistakes back then, but now I can see them as tiny little needles that left some color in my life, and which eventually led to a beautiful picture. (That was a tattoo analogy for those who didn’t catch it...)

Who? What? Where?

The most ironic thing about tattoos and piercings to me is their adaptability, or eventual camouflage feature. For anyone who has ever gotten either, you know that in the beginning it’s the most exciting and exhilarating thing. You are distracted for a good deal of time, either from the pain and/or the newness.

However, time passes and life goes on. Your new decoration has now become a part of you and you rarely notice it or even register its very existence in your daily routine.

Something that once brought such excitement has lost its appeal. Other than the rare compliment, I’m barely aware of any of my tattoos. Over time, they no longer stand out, and therefore, are no longer new and exciting.

Whenever someone asks me, “How many tattoos do you have?” I always have to stop and think about it and double check to see if I’ve forgotten about one. Even my piercings fade into the background, unless they’re infected. They have been appropriated into my identity of this body and have lost their shininess (yes, sadly, even the glimmer of the gemstone seems to dull).

Chasing a feeling

Whenever I would get a tattoo or a piercing I was always either running after something or running away from something. I used it as an adrenaline high and a distraction.

There was a long period of my life when I hated the person I was and, quite literally, the skin I was in. I wanted more than anything to escape the intolerable reality that was my existence.

I did this in a multitude of ways: drug and alcohol addiction, tattoos and piercings, relationships, “relationships”, etc. Basically anything that would make my mind shut up for just a minute or two was appealing to me.

Eventually, I learned that my lifestyle wasn’t sustainable. There were certain jobs where I was told I couldn’t have visible tattoos or piercings and so I had to adapt and use some innovative covering techniques. I literally held a hostess job for two years and they never knew I had my tongue pierced because I barely opened my mouth when I spoke.

I like tattoos and piercings. There was a time when I only dated guys who had tattoos. But as I have started to heal the spiritual wounds of my past, I no longer feel the need to go out and get something pierced. I blame, and credit, getting older as an additional reason why I’m less impulsive.
Instead of trying to use tattoos and piercings as a distraction, I actually focus on what it is I’m trying to escape. While less exciting or appealing, it seems to be working for me.

Relatively speaking, I don’t have a lot of tattoos, and most of them are relatively small. I don’t have a lot of piercings either, since I removed most of them. But I can still see the scars of where they were.

My tattoos have a story to tell

Every tattoo and piercing of mine have a story. Like all stories, some are exciting and memorable, and others are stupid. I can definitely say, in regards to

the stupid stories, I wish I didn’t have them. But that’s the funny thing about tattoos: they’re permanent. That is unless you want to pay a lot of money to get them removed.

If I had known that my tattoos would be less exciting and significant over time and more of a deterrent to my acting career, I wouldn’t have the majority of them. They provided me with a fleeting feeling that quickly left me.

They were distractions. With any distraction, it eventually fades and you’re left with what you wanted to distract yourself from. Now that I’m in my 30s, I can look back and not only see the gravitas that each painful moment of my life held, but more importantly, I can see how they all passed.

Time truly does heal wounds. Even from tiny pricks on the tissue underneath your skin. (Another tattoo reference for you.)

Tattoos change with time

When I look at each one of my tattoos, I can recall the emotions I was having at the time. Like the one that’s fading on my wrist that I got in hopes of preventing myself from cutting anymore. Or the one that I have on my forearm to celebrate my one year anniversary of sobriety.

However, I can no longer relate to the intense feelings I had at the time of each of my tattoos. They’re from a different time of my life. However, I have the reminders etched into my skin. They remind me that This Too Shall Pass.

Feelings, happy or sad, are impermanent. They are fleeting. Events in our lives and relationships we have will never stay the same. But we will always have the memories.

I haven’t gotten a tattoo in at least seven years. There is one that I’ve been storing in my mind, waiting for the right moment. I want to make sure that I really want it forever. It’s a commitment to the life that I want to live. The one where “mistakes” seem fewer and farther between. So for now, I’m saving it for a rainy day in Cabo...


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