They have existed for thousands of years, and have served as an indelible part of many cultures. From the Far East to the Aztec tribes, along with the peoples of the Pacific islands, the whole world has used ink to communicate their religion, status, belonging to a clan, or used it for protection. And yet, nowadays, they still somehow manage to remain a taboo, although a very loved one and an increasingly popular choice of self-adornment among people of all ages and personalities.
You can easily spot a grandma flaunting a sleeve tattoo, and a war veteran covered in ink, while kids as young as 18 do their best to sport their inked look as openly as possible, thus re-affirming their rebellion. But the significance of tattoos is so much more than skin-deep, and for those who have, or wish to have one, understanding their purpose is essential.
Meaning, memory and creativity
Yes, there will always be folks out there who choose to get tattoos on a whim, in the spur of the moment, and without careful consideration, and yes, some of them will regret it later. On the other end of the spectrum are those who spend years conceiving the image of their first tattoo, drawing it, planning it, perfecting it, to fall in love with it as soon as it becomes engraved into their existence.
They can embody the most crucial moments of our lives, warn us of our own failures, or remind us why certain things in life, of life itself, matters. We’ve all seen the semicolon tattoo trend that has surged in the past years, and considering its purpose and meaning, we can all derive a worthy lesson from such a gesture.
It’s a way of facing our fears, defeating our demons, and another way of expressing our self-love, self-resentment, and all other self-directed, complex emotions we have. And if plastic surgery is so common-place to be allowed in every office in the world, why should tattoos be any different?
When regret sets in
Beautiful or not, tattoos can often become one of our biggest regrets, but unlike throwing away a pair of jeans that we no longer like, removing a tattoo is more complex. Nonetheless, it’s perfectly possible in the 21st century, which wasn’t the case for our grandparents who got inked and had to consider their life-long decision carefully.
After a divorce, a breakup or a different life-altering experience, a tattoo can sometimes become a symbol of something we used to be, but no longer resonates with our truth. That is why so many people regret having tattooed their ex’s name and opt for laser tattoo removal, which is the safest way to get rid of an image that has no place in our present.
Another reason that leads people to remove their skin ink can be as simple as the fact that their skin reacts poorly to the process, often leading to irritation, swelling (hence the bumps), or even infection depending on the ink content. On the other hand, they might help boost our immune system, our healing abilities and give us an unexpected reason to not give up our love for ink, after all.
Profound life-long purpose
Removed, improved, embellished, or abandoned to fade away and stretch out, the ink under our skin is another way we communicate ourselves, our beliefs and our convictions to the world. You may not like them, or you may be covered in them, but for all intents and purposes, they could be mine, or someone else’s life-saving symbol, or a deep-rooted desire the world may never fully understand.
The fact that you’ve been designing it for years is no guarantee that you will not regret it later or love the final outcome. And the fact that you may have opted for an image while perusing through the catalogue after a tipsy night at the pub also doesn’t mean that you have to hate the end result.
As long as we strive to remove the stigma, and start appreciating the person behind the ink, tattoos will remain an invaluable insight into our minds and our bodies – and if the semicolon project is anything to go by, they can also be an incredible way of making a difference and changing our own as well as other people’s lives for the better.