Why I get tattoos

why i get tattoos

I was thirty when I got my first tattoo. It wasn’t when I was drunk. It wasn’t after a big night. It definitely wasn’t impulsive. But, it also wasn’t one I had been thinking about for a long time.

I was on a solo road trip and although months before, I’d been contemplating getting a tattoo, I was uncertain about what I wanted. During this solo trip, with lots of time for introspection and reflection, I came across something while googling. I looked up hummingbirds and the symbolism attached to it. Freedom. Independence. Living life. I knew at once it was what I wanted. I had reinvented my life in the year or two prior to turning 30 and this was a perfect reminder. I booked an appointment with a tattoo artist while still away {I did do my research online!}, and got it done the day after I returned home.

What I didn’t realise then was just how addictive this could get.

Fast forward five years ahead, I’m now thirty-five and just last week, I got my sixth and seventh tattoos. I’ve heard different things about me getting tattoos – I’m brave, I’m a daredevil, I need to stop, I’m going to run out of room {that I kinda agree with!}

But, I don’t get tattoos because I’m brave. I don’t get them to show off. I don’t even get them because I want to be rebellious. For me, every tattoo tells a story. It represents a time in my life or a value I hold dear. It describes how I want to live my life. It serves as reminders when life seems bleak.

The koi fish on my ankle? It reminds me of my value of courage. Of fighting to swim upstream despite the angry tides. Of my fight for my own independence and reclaiming myself after a few years of being broken.

The dandelion on my ribs with the phrase ‘perfectly imperfect’? It tells me that even the most imperfect things can bring joy and beauty in the most perfect way.

The waves beneath my collarbone? While they symbolise my love for the ocean, they are also a reminder of me having ridden the waves of anxiety and depression and reaching back to shore. They remind me that despite the blackness depression can bring, no matter how deep a hole I fall into, I need to sometimes accept and surf those waves, practice self-care, challenge the thoughts when I can, and eventually, things will settle again.

Life changes. I change. I grow. I face challenges. I fall. I rise.

Just like words on paper, the tattoos on my skin tell a story. They tell a story about me. About my life. Unlike words, not everyone who sees them knows what they mean. They don’t have to. Because in the end, my tattoos are stories for me.

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  • Vanessa
    19 June 2019 at 9:56 am

    I always find it interesting to hear the stories behind tattoos of others (others’ tatooos?). Too many s’s.

    Anyway, I find it interesting that I like to hear the stories because I can’t ever see myself getting one. It feels like a contradiction.
    Vanessa recently posted…I’ve Got A Little SecretMy Profile

  • Joanne Tracey
    20 June 2019 at 8:27 am

    I have one – a 40th birthday present to myself. It’s a koru on my right hip and it’s there to remind me of constant transformation and growth. I’ve been contemplating a second – a lotus flower – for the same reason, but am yet to decide what and where. I totally agree with your reasons – they echo mine. My tattoo is for me & no one else. My 21 year old daughter is looking at getting one & my husband hates the idea (& has never liked mine) but as I tell him, it’s her body…
    Joanne Tracey recently posted…Lemon Drizzle CakeMy Profile

  • Rachna
    20 June 2019 at 12:40 pm

    Ah that’s interesting. Your tattoos tell a story about a phase in your life. I say do what pleases you. Tattoos must also be making for good conversation starters?
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  • Obsessivemom
    20 June 2019 at 4:16 pm

    I have often wondered why people get tattoos. I mean the process is painful and the result is permanent, that scares me. You kind of clarified it for me – it’s like wearing your life’s philosophy on your body, right?

    You do write beautifully Sanch.
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  • Ramya Abhinand
    20 June 2019 at 7:38 pm

    I love every bit of the reason behind reach of your tattoos. There is an element of honesty and individuality to each one of them. So long as it makes you happy, why bother what people have to say ,isn’t it?

  • asha
    20 June 2019 at 8:35 pm

    You’ve written a really solid essay on the reason for and significance of your tattoos. You did such a nice job of anticipating and then answering reader questions in the first paragraph, before setting the reader up for the story behind your tattoos. You kept the history leading up to your first tattoo concise, and linking to a previous post was a clever way to include more information without using up your word count. The time jump to the present was natural and well flagged, so the reader makes that leap with you. Again, detailing the critiques of tattoos (why does everyone have an opinion on what we do with our bodies?!), and then addressing their significance to you encouraged empathy from the reader — we were all rooting for you and mentally telling your critics to shhhh. Choosing specific tattoos to give details in design and meaning of gave the reader a more intimate glimpse into both the tattoo and into your life (also, I did not know that koi swim upstream!).

    On an entirely personal level, I’ve been pondering getting a tattoo for years (I don’t have any yet). This year, at 50, is my year and this post gave me both confidence to do it, and so much to consider (as if I haven’t been entirely unable to decide what to have inked because meaning is important lol).

    There were a few minor errors in punctuation, and grammar which pulled me out of the flow, and another round or two of proofing would have sorted that out. You finished strong by drawing the comparison between the stories told by your ink, and the stories told by your words, and by delineating between stories for others and stories solely for yourself. The reader was again reminded of the intimacy you established in sharing this essay.

  • Shailaja Vishwanath
    20 June 2019 at 9:29 pm

    Okay, I am a wee bit intimidated that I am commenting after Asha on this post. 😉

    That said, I loved the symbolism and parallels you drew between each tattoo and its place in your life. The one about the waves especially had me.

    I am still a bit coy about the idea of getting tattoos myself, but I have immense awe for those who do. Of course, you, personally, are pretty awe-inspiring and I’ve met you as proof of that 🙂
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  • Margaret
    20 June 2019 at 9:37 pm

    As someone who has none, this was a wonderful window into the “why” of getting tattoos.

  • Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar
    21 June 2019 at 6:16 am

    I don’t have a tattoo but makes sense when you say they are stories of you, your life. Great piece here!

  • Jen Mierisch
    21 June 2019 at 8:44 am

    I love that you chose tattoos because they are personally meaningful, rather than as show-off pieces. I am the same way. I got my first tattoo to celebrate my 40th birthday (midlife crisis? haha) and my second one a few months ago, both on body parts that I can hide if I so desire (stomach, upper arm). I have been meaning to blog about them at some point. It’s nice when tats are about philosophy as well as art. I really like your description of the wave tattoo … a lovely metaphor for the ebb and flow of life in general.

  • Shalini
    21 June 2019 at 3:05 pm

    Don’t bother about what others say. You do you! I love seeing your tattoos and hearing the stories behind each one of them. Way to go, Sanch!
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  • Vinitha
    22 June 2019 at 12:02 am

    I like the stories you shared behind each of your tattoos. I understand – Some significant moments that we faced and survived, we feel a need to etch them on our heart forever as a reminder in an everlasting way, what better than this never fading ink to honor those remarkable memories and moments. You are awesome, Sanch!
    Vinitha recently posted…Six months into 2019…My Profile

  • Parul Thakur
    22 June 2019 at 12:22 am

    I would like to get a tattoo one day but like you I want to reach a place where I believe that a particular permanent tattoo is the one for me.
    I loved this post for how you shared the stories behind your tattoos. It kept me intrigued and wanting to know more. I have told you this before I will repeat. You inspire me. Hugs!
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  • Rajlakshmi
    23 June 2019 at 9:10 am

    I love how your tattoos have a story behind them, and in all those stories you emerge victorious, beating all odds. I loved the wave… It is so meaningful and pretty.
    Rajlakshmi recently posted…Yoga day with my DadMy Profile