Since I was thirteen, I dreamed about getting a tattoo. When I was sixteen, I got my first henna tattoo at a fair in Canada (high school field trip). It caused an uproar within my family – not in a good way. But that was my rebellious year the year after the forced abortion – when I acted out and got into all kinds of trouble. A few months later (summer), my younger brother convinced his friends to help him get a real tattoo (something he lorded over me for years and used to make fun of me when I got other henna tattoos).
In college, I learned discovered a severe nickel allergy through a bacterial infection (nickel plated earrings) and a rash (metal-framed glasses and buttons on denim jeans). Some research told me that people with nickel allergies couldn’t get tattoos because a) most of the inks had traces of nickel in them; and b) the stainless steel needles had high levels of nickel in them. That was between 2000 and 2004. Between then and now, various cosmetic permanent makeup artists and tattoo artists refused to talk to me about either option because of my nickel allergy.
On the good side, there had been improvements to inks and needles so that people with minor to moderate nickel allergies could get tattoos as long as they didn’t mind the increased risk of allergic reaction and infection. That was about 3 years ago. And yes obsessing about getting a tattoo helped keep me sane when life got really bad. I even tried contacting Native American and other cultural societies that had different ways of tattooing (not using metal needles/inks, etc.) without success.
Two years ago, I moved to my new apartment in a small city/town southwest of where I grew up. On my first visit to look at the building, I got lost. Instead of apartments, I found a 1950’s diner inspired storefront that looked interesting. It turned out to be a tattoo studio. Then, the realtor found me and helped me to the apartment building. Not perfect, but it had everything I was looking for at the time. After 2 weeks of consideration, I signed a lease. And kept thinking about tattoos in a diner. Eventually, I looked up the tattoo studio. The owner had 30 plus years of experience and only did tattoos – old school style. We exchanged emails; I met him face-to-face once.
But I had a downswing in finances and physical health just as I got ready to make the appointment.
Last Saturday, I finally got my two tattoos in black/gray ink: a turtle and a Tibetan Endless Knot aka Chinese Wisdom Knot. Turtle on left inner forearm near elbow. Endless Knot on opposite position. My dream finally came true. Since then, I’ve been so happy that I managed to sleep every night – real sleep through most of the night.
Then I went to work today and shared my tattoos with friends and close co-workers who know my story. They were happy for me; full of acceptance, joy, respect even though some did not like tattoos (especially on females). Some asked me what they meant and listened with appreciation as I described the meaning. The head of our division even told me to wear my tattoos with pride in the office too. i.e. I won’t get in trouble for leaving my arms uncovered at work.
I was and am overwhelmed. I feel happy, sad, anxious, guilty, shamed, unworthy, joyous, content, safe and unsure how to cope with the happy feelings inside of me (hence the negative feelings worming in). I know how to cope with negative, neutral, and mildly positive feelings. I don’t know how to cope with this, and it’s making me feel edgy. Especially with an extra heavy workload and other big things coming up.
Thanks for reading