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I walked into the tattoo shop at 18 because I wanted to remember the waves on the lake


By Brenna O'Donnell
29th Mar 2018
I walked into the tattoo shop at 18 because I wanted to remember the waves on the lake

A huge, sterile needle gliding through my nose is not what I expected of my day when I woke up this morning. But here I sit, with a spire sticking out of my left nostril and my friend’s hand gripped tight at my side. The Ink Factory is the closest and cleanest piercing station next to our college. I’m perched on a chair upstairs, while my other friend lies flat on her stomach downstairs, getting the bells of Ireland engraved into her forearm in black ink. I switch places with the friend next to me, so she gets a piercing gun through both ears. And I swear we only went out to get coffee, originally.

I’m a firm believer in the spontaneity of permanence: impromptu piercings, tattoos you didn’t know you were going to get, and hair dye that calls your name when you only went to the store for crisps. Maybe this is my total lack of impulse-control talking, but it’s one of the simple pleasures in life to apply unpredictability to your own body autonomy.

The day I got my first tattoo, I left my first-year dorm with every intention of just going out for a walk. Cut to 30 minutes later, and I have a tattoo gun hovering over my rib cage and I’m bracing for the pain. When I came back into my room and lifted up my shirt to show off the curvature of my new wave symbol, my roommates were shocked. A chorus of “what!”, “when?” and “where?” exploded around me and I got a kick out of the shocked surprise theirs and my own.

So much of the argument against tattoos is that “you’ll regret it later,” but I think the misunderstanding behind that point is the value of personal meaning behind it. It’s hard to feel regretful over something that meant a lot to you at the time. If in 40 years’ time I were to hate the sight of the wave tattoo on my ribcage, I could never “regret” it. It would be a reminder of the time when I was 18-years-old and walked into a tattoo shop because I wanted to remember the waves on the lake that day. And because I could.

Some of the most genuine meanings to be found behind tattoos are the ones born in the moment, rather than the ones brewed over and second-guessed for weeks on end. They remind us that there was a time when we were young and didn’t need to plan everything out.