I resisted getting a tattoo for a long time, because I felt the pressure to design something profound with long-lasting, regret-proof significance. But now, just a couple weeks after getting inked, I’ve grown to recognize that “meaning” is multifaceted, dynamic, and ever-changing.
To me, the design I chose (two koi, yin and yang) embodies the duality that exists in nearly all things, including myself. They also symbolize the potential for balance within all conflict. I find calm in this concept: when I feel anxious, I look at this image, and it tells me to breathe and surrender to the flow of life.
Truth be told, I landed on this design just a day before the needle breached my skin.
I was in Maui. While my boyfriend had intended on getting a tattoo on our Hawai’i vacation, penciling it into our itinerary weeks in advance, I didn’t think I’d get one, too. I assumed that when the time came, I’d chicken out. I’m not the type of person to get my first tattoo on vacation from an artist I know virtually nothing about—or at least that’s what I told myself.
Before this trip, I often defined myself by who I wasn’t and what I couldn’t do. I’m not adventurous, I told myself. I’m not a risk-taker. I’m not spontaneous. But after two weeks of exploring waterfalls and volcanos, swimming with manta rays, and catching sunrises and sunsets—pushing myself out of my comfort zone on several occasions—I realized that these ideas I had about myself weren’t hard truths. I didn’t have to keep living by them if they no longer served me. So by the time we walked into the tattoo parlor to see if they had openings for the final day of our trip, I thought not in terms of what I could or couldn’t do, but what I wanted to do.
This tattoo is proof that I’m capable of so much more than I give myself credit for. It’s also a reminder that no matter how much (or how little) I plan, life will find ways to surprise me; and no matter how well I think I know myself, there’s always more to uncover.
In short, this tattoo contains multitudes. Each day, it offers something new to me, and I can’t predict what it will mean to me in the years to come. Surprisingly, I’m okay with that.
I suppose permanent ink has helped me come to terms with impermanence.
As the saying goes: the only constant in life is change. And sometimes, change is a blessing.