There’s this sense of clarity I got on why I believe having something or wanting something for a long time does not determine the success of it. Why I don’t believe relationships have to last forever to be successful or why you don’t have to stick with one thing and only one thing for a long period of time to receive a great outcome out of it.
How did I learn that? Well, I’ll start by telling you the story of my first tattoo (trust me it ties in, I swear!) I was 16 when I booked the appointment for my first tattoo and I had done so much research, looked at countless images online to figure out what exactly I wanted to imprint on my body for the rest of my life. I’m someone who gets bored easily. I’ll want something and I’ll have to do that thing within a certain period of time when my excitement and energy for it is high. For example, with my writing, when I have an idea for a post or the next scene in the novel I’m writing, I have to run towards that idea and get it on paper (or a napkin, or my arm depending on where I am) right away so that it doesn’t fade with time. I’m like that when I know I want to switch up my style. I’m like that when I want to completely revamp my hair. I’m like that with just about everything. When my excitement and energy is high, I have to accomplish the thing fairly soon to get the best outcome from it or else, it’ll fade.
So for this tattoo, I was ecstatic (I mean, it’s a pretty exhilarating thing) and was jumping at the images popping up on my screen that were inspiring me to go ahead. I knew I wanted words (because I’m a wordsy person) and I decided on a certain phrase that I can’t for the life of me remember, and I wanted it written in cursive on my collarbone. Done. Idea set. Time to take action.
When I went to book my appointment and meet my artist, I knew in my mind that I wanted my tattoo to be simple, but of course I was 16 and stupid and I didn’t relay that out loud. So to him, I let him have complete freedom over how he wanted to write the words and how large they would be and what design would surround them. On my end, I knew that I just wanted simple words in cursive on my collarbone but he could probably read my mind and know exactly how I pictured it because that’s how your brain works at sixteen. I gave him the phrase and told him where I wanted it and sent him off to do his work.
On the day of my appointment, I walked around downtown with my best friend before going in. While we were strolling, I was humming the John Mayer song I had recently discovered and had been obsessing over: Gravity. A line in it rung true to me more than anything, which was: Just keep me where the light is. Why? Probably because I was going through a pretty dark period in my life, but of course at the time, I didn’t really know these things. I didn’t look deeper into why certain things clicked and others didn’t. I didn’t look for a meaning. I just did, and I did without much thought. As we were approaching the time of my appointment, I had this sense of clarity that I wanted that line tattooed on me instead and instead of on my collarbone, I wanted it on the side of my ribs. Fuck.
Now, I didn’t really think this was that big of a deal at the time because of course, I didn’t know how much time, effort, and thought my artist would put into his sketch of my tattoo. He was a mind-reader, remember? And he obviously knew I just wanted those words in simple cursive and he probably wouldn’t care if I changed my mind last minute, right? RIGHT?
When I walked in and he came out to greet me, I told him in very straight-forward sixteen year old fashion that I actually wanted a different phrase and I wanted it on a different part of my body and yes, I decided this last moment but I knew for sure that this is right. Of course, that went over really well and he was happy to see my excitement and all was well. Ha. Ha.
He was pretty pissed. He came out and showed me this beautiful sketch he had just finished making that was so completely different from what I imagined in my head and what he was supposed to know I wanted. But it was beautiful and it took a lot of time and effort and thought on his part. But this was also something I knew would be on my body for the rest of my life so in my stubborn talk, I told him it was beautiful, but I wanted something entirely different. So he huffed and puffed (and rightfully so because I was an asshole) and turned to recreate something entirely different for me. After about an hour, he came down from what I imagine was his artist’s layer with a new design of what I wanted. You guys, I feel so bad about this and moreso now than I admit I felt at the time because I know the hard work it takes to create something. Anyways, I gave him my stamp of approval and two hours later, I was done.
We both had a completely different relationship by the end of those two hours, however. 1) Because he was impressed that I didn’t cry and 2) There is no number two. He was just really impressed about my not crying and somehow that made everything okay. I guess that’s probably because I look like someone who cries a lot. Because I totally do. But when it comes to physical pain, I can tolerate quite a lot. Emotional? That’s a different story. Anyways, we high-fived and made up and he told me he hated me at the start and was in awe of me by the end. I know, I know. I don’t understand this either, but this is actually what happened so that’s why I’m telling it like this.
So here is what I learned from that experience and every experience I’ve had since that where I thought I knew what I wanted and understood what I needed last minute. I learned that sometimes to know what is right, you have to sit in the wrong for a long period of time.
To an outsider, it looks like I can’t make up my mind. I don’t know what I want. I don’t stick with things. I’m impulsive. Blah Blah. But to me, after this sort of experience kept happening even as I grew, I learned that sometimes we choose and stick to that choice because we want a certain outcome. For instance, we might get into a relationship because we miss being in love. We might decide on a different hairstyle because we’re sick of the one we have. We decide because we long for an outcome. When we make that decision, however, it may lead to the superficial aspects of that outcome, but maybe not the depth of what you really want. Stay with me. I’ll explain.
So I wanted a tattoo. I wanted a tattoo so badly and I made a choice on one. Was it the choice I put a lot of thought into? Yes. Was it a choice I stuck with for a while? Yes. Was it a choice that I wanted? I thought so. But I wanted a tattoo more than I wanted to understand what I needed that tattoo to be. In regards to relationships, sometimes we choose a partner because we want a relationship and to be in love again more that we want to understand what we want from it. In these scenarios, you get the tattoo or you get the relationship, but is it the right one for you?
Sometimes we believe that to obtain success in something, we have to stick with it for a long period of time: a relationship, an idea for a tattoo, a goal, etc. But sometimes we focus too much on the shape of the outcome itself rather than the depth of it. And sometimes, we have to sit with the wrong to know what is right. And sometimes, what is right will hit you in the head last minute after you’ve been determined and headstrong about what it is that you really thought you wanted.
That’s the job of clarity. It hits you in times when you believe you really understand how to go about something. It hits you when you believe you really understand what you want. And it tells you no. It tells you the opposite. You might have sat with something for a long time, and clarity might have come last minute, but the time you spent stuck on a certain way of thinking doesn’t determine its success. A relationship that lasts forever doesn’t mean that it is successful. It could be very unhealthy and destructive and partners can be together more so for the comfort than their own happiness. Just like a very brief relationship can be very successful and could have taught you so much about yourself.
What I’m trying to explain is that I think we are too integrated into the concept of time. We think that if we do something or want something for long enough, we can prove that it is better and right and successful.
But changing your mind doesn’t necessarily mean you are flaky or that you don’t stick to things or that you are lost or confused. It could, but it doesn’t have to. Changing your mind doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re impulsive or don’t know what you want. Sometimes, changing your mind means that you respect your own judgment. You respect your own truth and you respect that time does not dictate the worthiness of something. Time doesn’t equal value, but truth does.
I’ve never looked back on that decision I made for my first tattoo or the ones after that.