Tattoos; you either love ’em or hate ’em.
Isn’t that what it really boils down to? Some people see them as a statement, a way for you to decorate the one thing that is entirely yours in whatever manner you desire. What good is having the freedom of expression if you can’t put it to use? Others only see them as something tacky that you’ll regret at some point down the line – your body is always changing after all.
I’ve always been a fan of tattoos, although I never really had a very strong opinion on them until recently. Getting one does that to you I suppose. It’s like a defence mechanism, a way to convince yourself that you made the right decision, even when others around you are questioning your judgement. Not that I need to assure myself of this.
Although I’m less of an outgoing person than I’d like to be, I’ve had a habit of expressing myself in fairly bold ways ever since I was in sixth form. Back then it manifested itself in wearing bright colours, including chinos in every shade of the rainbow. I’m not the most stylishly-minded individual (though at the time I thought I looked good) and there are certainly outfits I wore back then that make me cringe, but it was a way for me to express myself at a time when I was trying to work out who I was. We all get a bit confused when we’re in our teen years.
It’s safe to say that that identity crisis continued well into my first year at university. New city, new people – new start. It was an exciting opportunity, but the need to fit in was greater than it had ever been back at home. You don’t tend to overthink your friendships when you start school as a child, and most people tend to go through their early years with those friends by their side. University is a whole other playing field, and suddenly you’re having to make connections as an awkward, nervous teenager. It’s hard!
The fact of the matter is that I was in a state of mind where I was eager to find my identity, but also to conform to those around me. Fast forward two years and a lot of that self-doubt and need to impress others has faded. I’ve gone through the highs and lows of forming and losing friendships and finally surrounded myself with people who not only make me happy, they accept every weird and occasionally wonderful part of me. The bizarre fashion choices have long been put to bed and replaced with a toned down (but far from plain) wardrobe, leaving a space open for a new way to express myself.
My first tattoo.
Looking back, it’s safe to say that the nerves far outweigh the pain of the experience. The fear of the unknown is what puts off a lot of people, because once that needle touches your skin you can’t back out, not really. I often liken it to riding a rollercoaster, something that I never plan on doing again. I’ve had friends pester me to get on one before, always insisting that the drops aren’t that bad. Unfortunately, having had a traumatic experience in the past that I wasn’t able to get out off, I always put my foot down and say no – the unknown is too daunting. It was that feeling that had me pacing the floors of the studio two years ago while I waited for my turn in the chair.
To be honest, if it wasn’t for my best friend Sarah going in for her first tattoo at the same time, I might not have gotten one to this day. The whole thing was extremely spontaneous – very unlike me – and for most of the time building up to it it didn’t feel real. It was, though.
And it was great.
Yeah, there was a fair bit of pain and the next few hours weren’t particularly comfortable, but my fears were unnecessary. I don’t have the highest pain tolerance and I’ve managed to withstand getting three tattoos. Funnily enough, the first one was the biggest and required the most work, which sort of goes against my philosophy for tattoo virgins. Something small but meaningful is generally the best way to test the waters, but somewhere in the back of my mind I was obviously telling myself to go hard or go home. At least it meant that the next two were a lot easier to handle.
The three tattoos that I have are located on both my arms and just above my right ankle. The latter is where I received my first inking, a Pacman scene featuring the titular character and two of the ghosts. I got this back in November 2015, and just two months later I was in the studio again to get some text on my left arm. The quote “Did loveless hearts build the world, only to tear it apart?” originates from the song ‘Loveless Hearts’ by British singer Dido. The pessimistic view of the world that this song has is very reminiscent of my writing which is often dystopian in nature, hence the appeal of the quote.
My final inking came a few months after that when I was enticed by a special offer they were having on Pokémon designs. Sarah and I went together again to get ourselves marked with our respective tattoos – hers a Togepi, mine an Omanyte.
It’s now coming up to a year since I last visited that studio and the desire for more is definitely still there. People aren’t lying when they say that getting inked is addictive; I’m always thinking of what I want done next. My current plan is to add more Pokémon to the one I have already so that they wrap around that part of my arm. For the last few years I’ve been coming up with ideas for a gaming sleeve to go on that side of my body, and rather than do it all at once I’m looking to add to it bit by bit. It’ll be completed eventually.
So why did I choose to talk about this today?
I feel like tattoos sometimes get a lot of stick and for no good reason. People see a design on someone’s body and they question why they had that done and what was the point of it. I know there are people out there who would see my Pokémon tattoo and say its childish or stupid, or look at the quote on my arm and ask why that of all things. At the end of the day, what I put on my body is my decision, and just because it’s there for the world to see doesn’t mean that other people’s criticisms of it are justified. It certainly doesn’t impact on my ability to work, despite the strict stance a fair few employers take on having tattoos.
I’ve talked a lot in this post about self-expression and feeling comfortable with who you are, and that’s exactly what these designs represent. I’m massively into video games and I love my music, and those are things that are never gonna change. Maybe one day I will regret getting a certain tattoo, whether that be in a few years or a few decades, but I’m very much about living in the moment.
Without meaning to end this on a dark note, I could die any day, we all could, so why worry about a future that’ll never come. While I’m not advocating getting a tattoo for the sake of it, if there’s something you want done then go out there and get it. Never mind what you’ll think of it later, just live for now!