I used to assume that I was the kind of person who’d never (ever!) get a tattoo. There was, and is, some ultra-virtuous part of my character that strives for unending purity and simplicity. It’s not bad to value those qualities, of course, unless—like me—your attachment to them is so strong that it keeps you from getting even a little bit messy in life. If you knew me a few years ago, you’d be well aware that as I reached adulthood I had adapted myself to living timidly. Doing something as daring and permanent as getting a tattoo was out of the question. I’ve never been very good at committing to anything except slow self-destruction.

My attitude toward permanent ink has changed, in part, because of Portland’s influence. In this town, you see scarcely a patch of bare skin that hasn’t been decorated. After so much exposure to them I’ve realized that these inky, fleshy works of art can be incredibly gorgeous. But it’s not just because of a desire for beauty, or to fit in, that I have begun to want one of my own. This may sound masochistic, but I want to mark myself. I’d like to be able to show that life has left a few scars on me, and that I’ve turned them into something lovely: a memento and an inspiration. There’s also the fact that somebody told me last year, while admiring my flesh, that I’d look good with a tattoo. Let’s pretend that I’m not vain enough for that to have affected me.

The idea had been nascent for a while, but turned into a serious consideration a couple months ago. At first, it seemed like an easy decision. I started my research online with an inkling (no pun intended) of an idea, and soon found a symbol whose meaning struck and stuck with me. It occupied my thoughts for weeks as I sketched out patterns, looked up local artists, and told people excitedly that I was going to get a tattoo. This was coming from a place of emotional upheaval, I knew, but that didn’t mean it was a bad idea. I’m a sensible person; I wouldn’t mar myself with anything garish or overly conspicuous. Anyway, having a low pain tolerance, I would need to limit the size of my design. As long as I made a tasteful choice I couldn’t possibly regret it, right?

That said, I’ve taken a step back from my fervid scheming. Although I’d rather not deliberate the tattoo idea for a whole year, as some friends have suggested, perhaps it is best to let it soak in for a while longer. I might have been too hasty, also, in latching onto a particular symbol. In the past, whenever I’d thought idly about getting a tattoo, I had no clue what sort of design I’d want or how to go about selecting one. Surely it’s impossible to devise a single icon or picture that represents all that you stand for and love. That’s probably too lofty a goal. I might, however, like to find something a bit more personally meaningful than a symbol that caught my eye while doing a Google Image Search.

Starting from scratch seems extremely difficult, though. I can think of objects that represent my interests and hobbies, but those seem a little boring for tattoo designs. Even when thinking more abstractly, it’s hard to come up with an idea that will definitely remain close to my heart for years to come. Like I said earlier, I want something inspiring—but not a clichéd sort of inspiring. Shouldn’t I stay away from the kind of designs that “everybody” has?

See, this is getting complicated. But I still feel strongly that a tattoo would look awesome.

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