When I was 18 years old I got 3 tattoos. At the moment I only have 1.5 of them left.
The first one I got I had wanted for most of my teen years, and once I turned 18 I could finally get it: a compass. I had it done as soon as I went to college, in brown ink. When I was 16 I was very sick with a number of things that hit me at once – a perfect storm the doctors called it. To keep it short, between running varsity cross country and riding horses, I was bitten by a tick and got Lyme’s disease, that autumn I also got mono. I didn’t know I had either of them at the time, and one week it all hit me like a wall, the perfect storm had turned into meningitis and encephalitis. It was a very difficult time for me and my family, and I only fully recovered about a year ago.
My recovery led me through a lot of motivational books, some I chose but many were given to me. One that really spoke to me was “The Compass.” This book is filled with insights, quotes, and just really motivational and spiritual goodness. Also fueling my want for a compass tatto was that my senior year at the Peddie School I took a class called “The Great Explorers.” This course was so cool, we read serious literature, went on nature walks, and had interesting conversations. That was it, I became a self proclaimed explorer.
What the compass tattoo represented to me stems from a quote that I can’t quite find but says something to the extent of, “So long as you know where your feet stand on the ground, you will never be lost.” Because I went through so much at such a critical time in the development teen years, I often felt lost in my finding myself – was I still an athlete? was I still me, or was I the “sick girl”? So much came up, and the compass proved to me that no matter how lost I felt, I could always orient myself on Earth. As I’ve grown, this concept stayed with me, and my love for both physical travel and spiritual growth have blossomed even more. The brown ink has held a lot of importance in that it represents a softness to me, this tattoo is not meant to be harsh or stereotypical but rather very kind and natural, for some reason the brown ink spoke out to me.
My second tattoo, which has since been lasered off. Was the word “fearlessness” in Sanskrit. I had been given a necklace by my aunt with this inscription, when I was sick, and I wore it every day. When I was in college a friend of mine got very very sick with a life threatening condition and I gave her my necklace. I then had that inscription tattooed onto my wrist in thin black ink. It was no more than an inch long and half an inch high. The meaning of this tattoo still stays with me. The ink of the tattoo was not applied very well, and it began to fade quickly, I started to get a lot of questions like “Did you do that yourself?” or “Is that your locker combination”, you get the idea. So I had it lasered off. This cost $250 per laser session (even though it only took about 5 to laser this spot), and required 2 sessions.
The third tattoo I got was a very random decision. I felt that, “well, I already have two, what’s another?” So I chose a gnome… I had gone into the tattoo shop intending to get the word “Life” inscribed on the back of my neck, but being a horseback rider I was required to tuck my hair up into my helmet, and then my parents would’ve been able to see it, so I opted out. I’ve always loved gnomes (ironic I’m now moving to Scandinavia), and told the artist “I’d like a tiny gnome peeking out from behind my ear.” He certainly did this, only it was a bit larger and more visible than I’d intended. After a few years with the gnome, and many more misguided questions, I decided the gnome wasn’t for me, only it wouldn’t be that easy. I have had the gnome lasered 11 times, and he is still visible. I didn’t know that only black “really” came off easily. So, about 4 years ago I gave up on removing him, now I have a truly ghosty little gnome behind my ear! I think it’s fun though, and reminds me that even when things don’t go your way you have to just laugh it off.
My advice to anyone looking to get a tattoo is: make sure it is very meaningful. If you get the right one it can be very empowering and freeing, if it’s the wrong one it can be very embarrassing and expensive to remove.