I have this tattoo. I have several, actually, but there’s this one in particular.
It was my second time going in to get tattooed. The first time, I had finished designs ready. The second time, I had what apparently looked like a finished design. It was a rough draft actually, but I went to the same artist as before, and he assumed it was finished like the others, and I was too shy and scared and intimidated by, basically, the world, and not in a good head-space for sticking up for myself at the time due to lots of screwed up things that had been happening in my life, and basically, well, I got the tattoo anyway, even though it wasn’t right.
Of course, this not-quite-right tattoo is the one everyone sees all the time; out of five tattoos, this one is the biggest and in the most visible location. People always comment on it, and every time they do, and every time I see it out of the corner of my eye or in the mirror, I’m reminded of that time, and how it isn’t what I wanted, and how I didn’t speak up about something so permanent and important. It’s a reminder of who I never want to be again.
In one week exactly, that tattoo is getting modified and expanded into something I do want. I’ve spent about five years (give or take a year) waiting for this moment — that’s how long it’s been since I got it in the first place, if I’m remembering correctly. I’ve spent all that time thinking about exactly what it was I wanted in the first place, and what I want now, and finding images and writing plans over and over so that I can get exactly the right thing this time.
Today I stopped by the tattoo shop with the best reviews, and talked to an artist there. We talked over the ideas I had, he sketched a few things out and took notes and pictures, and we kept discussing it until we both felt sure we were talking about the same thing and both getting excited about the concept. He has a week to design something beautiful, and will send me pictures to approve before my appointment.
That is the experience I should have had five (or so) years ago. That is the experience I wasn’t capable of having five years ago. The fact that I can do it now — even, especially, when I’ve been feeling depressed and anxious and lost and burnt out — proves how much I can and HAVE changed and grown. Even when I feel like I’ve gone backwards in my growth and stability, I’ve proved it’s not as far back as I think.
This new version of the tattoo will be a reminder of this lesson, a constant beautiful image that strength and growth can’t be taken away, even by ourselves. It will be a reminder that something amazing can come out of something unfortunate. It will be a reminder that mistakes don’t have to be forever, and they don’t have to define us.
Stay strong, even when it doesn’t feel like strength. Some day, it will.