Nine needles inject ink into my skin for over an hour. But, the outcome is far more desirable than an immunisation. What’s coming out of this needle doesn’t protect me from a troublesome flu, irritating virus, or debilitating disease. No, this defines me and reminds me of who I’m striving to be.
When I decided to get a tattoo, I knew it would have to remind me of who I was and who I want to be. It couldn’t be a Japanese symbol, company logo, or popular phrase. If this was going to be with me forever, it had to be timeless. After thinking for over a year, I knew what I wanted.
I first got the idea from a Japanese manga. It’s called an ouroboros. It depicts a serpent eating its own tail. Dating back as far as ancient Egypt, it slithered its way into countless cultures including Greek, Norse, and Swiss. Its meaning is similar to that of the phoenix – that everything comes back to where it began. I didn’t want to get the exact same design as the one in the manga so I browsed the web, I found one that spoke to me.
Two dragons instead of one serpent. One of flesh and one of bone endlessly circling each other, wings splayed out on either side. This represents my idea of life and death, as an endless cycle with the living world on one side and something unexplainable on the other, both starting where the last ends. This idea came to me in an epiphany one day so I decided to get a tattoo so as to remind myself of it.
As I walk into the parlour, my hands shook violently. This is actually happening! As I finalize the design with Alex, the tattoo artist, I feel fulfilled. So much effort put into planning, convincing my parents, and working up my courage is finally paying off. This is the first permanent decision of my life. My first step in becoming an adult.
“Seen any good movies lately?” I think that’s what he’s asking at least. Keeping my mind off the pain is grueling work. “Uh yea The Lone Ranger was pretty good.” Each line of ink drives its way into my skin, tweaking every nerve in my shoulder. After what feels like ages, he finally tells me “Go ahead and see how it turned out.”
Still bleeding from my shoulder under my shirt, I walk out of the building with a confidence I never had before. I didn’t just get a tattoo to look like a tough guy. I didn’t get it because everyone else was doing it. I got it, because it made me feel whole.