This year, much the same as the year before it, I’ve had an item on my goals list that has remained unaccomplished: geting a tattoo.
My thoughts and feelings towards getting a tattoo have changed over the years. As a kid, my grandma made me promise not to get one, a request that both unfair and arbitrary. While I respect (and miss) my Grandmother, I haven’t really let that affect my decision in any way. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t in the back of my mind any time I’ve thought seriously about getting a tattoo.
After my accident and subsequent health issues in 2018, the idea of getting a tattoo became more appealing. I believe the desire to do so came from a longing to regain control. My body started to get reshaped and redrawn largely against my will. My legs now bear two long scars from the surgery I had when I broke my left ankle (both of which have faded somewhat in the intervening years). My thighs also bear the scars from the painful, violent skin biopsies that were extracted during my first encounter with IgA vasculitis.
All these scars and marks were being left on my body, but none of them by choice. By getting a tattoo, I would be the one deciding to put the marks on my body. I would be calling the shots. In this small way, I could reclaim some agency and control.
Around this time, Anthony Bourdain committed suicide, and I started learning more about him to see why his death affected so many people. After that, I developed a huge appreciation for him and began to feel a vague kinship in spirit, and that rekindled thoughts about getting a tattoo.
But no matter how much I thought, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to put on my body. The truth was, I never felt like my skin was missing something, and there are very few things that I feel I can confidently say I will still want on my body 40 years from now.
I wanted to get a tattoo that would remind me of what I’m trying to accomplish. Of the kinds of work that I strive to do on a daily basis, and of the world that I want to help shape. Or to put it like The Doctor to “hold me to the mark.” In that spirit, I’ve come up with a handful of symbols that might meet those requirements, but so far I have yet to have them committed to skin.
Truth be told, I’m still really conflicted. On the one hand, it seems pretty clear that I’m not in any rush to go out and get a tattoo, and that I have some serious reservations as to whether or not that’s the right choice for me. I want to get a tattoo because I think that will help me feel in control and serve as a daily reminder; but at the same time, am I thinking that simply because I’m influenced by the thoughts and ideas of others? If I am sufficiently retrospective for a moment, do I really want a tattoo?
There’s also something peculiar about getting a tattoo to remind you of your own personal mission. If you need something to remind you about what’s important, is it really that important to you? Shouldn’t it already be on the forefront of your mind?
But I admit times where my energy levels wane and my resolve wavers. Might it be an actually useful reminder?
In the end, I know the right approach is to be mindful of my feelings. If I begin to feel an urge or a spiritual calling to get a tattoo, I’ll know it’s right; and until then, I’ll continue to wisely resist the impulse to get one just because it seems like a “new thing to do.”