How to Decide on a Tattoo

by Jessica Brookman in ,

Less than 3 years ago, though, I was someone who claimed that she'd never get a single tattoo. 

Yet, I'd tell anyone who asked (and some who didn't) thatI had "decided" on a quote from the operaTosca e' lucevan le stelle - as what i "would" get for my first tattoo. 

Now, with my third design in the works, here's what I have to say about tattoos....and why you should probably JUST GET ONE. It's a story about how I got over my fear of commitment and rejection...and got all tatted up in one fell swoop. 

onward tattoo.jpg
I was moving to a new city. It was the end of an era! So I did what any self-respecting Brooklyn veteran would do to commemorate it: I called a tattoo place and booked the next appointment.

There are so many people with tattoos these days. As more people move out of traditional (and oppressive) office environments and into independent careers, seems like i know more people with at least some art than people with none.

But then again, I live in Silverlake, so my perspective might be a bit biased. 

I may live in Los Angeles now, but it wasn't always the case. Before 2010, I had always considered New York City my home...even when I wasn't living there. It was the only major city I ever cared to live in. I still think it's one of the greatest cities in the world.

But I was moving to a new city. It was the end of an era! So I did what any normal, jaded Gen-Y would do to commemorate it: I called a tattoo place and made an appointment. 

But when the time came to sit down in the chair, I did something else impulsive. Instead of the Tosca quote, I hand-scrolled the word ONWARD for the artist and calmly offered up my left arm.

Deciding to leave New York City was so exhilarating. I remember thinking, "Am I really doing this? I'm just going to...leave the BEST city in the world?!" So, I capitalized on that instability and momentary impulsivity to get over my fears. The second tattoo - the Tosca quote - came only a few months later. 

Now, with my third design in the works, I was able to pinpoint what had kept me from getting my first tattoo for so long.

Here's what I have to say about tattoos*....and why you should probably JUST GET ONE: 

Before I got a tattoo, I worried about picking something eternally meaningful, I always opted to hold off. They’re forever, right? I was also concerned about offending the sensibilities of some person or group I "needed" to be able to get a job, date, etc. I needed to "keep my options open."  Right? 

Anyone who is creative and is or has worked or lived in a way that feels inauthentic to them has felt this frustration, I'd imagine. Why do we need permission to be awesome or show our individual brilliance?

I had been keeping my options open by keeping part of my personality - the way I thought, what I believed in, what I loved, and how I looked - a secret. It felt bad. My favorite megalomaniac, Kanye West once said:

“Your whole life everyone always tells you….be humble….be humble! When’s the last time someone told you be amazing? Be awesome…be awesome!”

Why is there a passport system, gated channels, difficult titrations of behaviors, events, check-boxes of life events that *might* eventually get you into a position or job where you can make your own statement rather than work on behalf of someone else’s? Why do we have to look and act some part before we're allowed to we are granted permission to talk about who we actually are? 

Want to make a change in your life?  Just start doing the work. Start making your statement. 

elucevan le stelle tatoo.jpg

What you want is more likely to meet you half way if you take the first steps towards it. Don’t look for permission. Don't wait for a magical day when it's OK to move forward with what you know you need to do to be happy. If you wait for that day to come, it’ll probably always be a long work week for you. 

It's no coincidence that when i finally pulled the trigger to get tattooed came at a time of extreme growth and progress for me. Whether you are covered in tats or you have virgin skin, you don’t need permission to cultivate your own identity, talents, and ideas. You just have to be willing to make a statement. 

Do you have any tattoos? What do they mean to you? Do tell.


* This is an in-part re-publish from One Girl No Diet.