It’s true. I was a naïve, young woman when I walked into Iron Age – a tattoo and piercing parlor aptly named for the metal-studded individuals entering and leaving the joint. I honestly believed I was going there for friendship’s sake, to be someone’s moral support as they did something rebellious. It’s also true that deep down, I was jealous. I wanted to say that I had done something rebellious in my otherwise chaste life. It’s not that my life had been boring or without mistakes or silliness, but a tattoo would be out of character, surprising even. Unfortunately, the one thing that halted any tattoo plans, the one thing that frightened me more than snakes and public speaking, and the one thing that would require divine intervention for me to ever get over, was my fear of needles.
It hadn’t been just any tattoo that I’d wanted, and before I realized that getting a tattoo would mean facing my biggest fear, I had seriously researched every aspect of my dream-design. The mark I’d hoped on getting permanently inked on my skin was a symbol of my most passionate belief: destiny.
A simple Chinese character depicting the idea that things happen for a reason, that the things that are supposed to happen will. Regardless of worry, regardless of any amount of planning, regardless of how badly I wanted something else to happen: things just happen.
So meticulous was my research, that I had cross-referenced several Chinese symbol books to ensure I wasn’t getting a character that meant, “I’m a tattooed idiot who can’t read Chinese.” But needles were inevitably involved in this plan, and so the dream died.
Until, one spring day, when most of my college friends were on vacation enjoying their own acts of rebelliousness, a friend called and pushed the wheels of destiny into motion. She just happened to have also been left behind over spring break, and she just happened to have made an appointment to get a tattoo. She asked if I would be her moral support. She didn’t need me to hold her hand during the procedure; she wasn’t nervous about needles. But she did want someone to check out her design one more time before it was too late, and I agreed. I could handle a little artistic consultation. A little more than an hour later, we walked into Iron Age for her appointment and met a large, bearded, totally tatted dude with an ink gun.
While we waited for him to finish piercing some girl in a place nobody should want to have anything sharp, I casually flipped through the booklets of sample tattoos and tried not to think about the pain she must be feeling. One quick turn of the designs, and there it was. My design, my Chinese character, my dismissed tattoo, or at least pretty darn close. If I told you bells rang and a light shone down from the heavens, I would be lying. But time did seem to stop for a second while I considered what this might mean. Destiny? It seemed certain when just a few moments later, an appointment happened to open up – they were usually booked for weeks. With just a little bit of convincing from my friend, I too had a date with a tattoo artist. Who was I to mess with destiny?
The actual moments of tattooing I’ve forgotten. Perhaps I’ve blocked it out because it was the most painful thing I’d experienced up to that point (and second only to delivering my first child nine years later), or maybe time dulled the act of defiance as I tried more risky things later in life (like skydiving and marriage), but what I do remember is this: as soon as the inky needle touched my skin, I was calm and collect. My friend, on the other hand, passed out, had to be hauled to the back of the parlor, never regained her desire for the tattoo experience, and later claimed, “It just wasn’t meant to be.”
I’d like to believe that the reason I ended up with a tattoo at all, the reason I apparently forgot my fear of needles, was because it was meant to be for me, because I’ve found that the most amazing things in my life have just happened, as spontaneously as that tattoo.
A last minute opening at a job fair with a school I had never heard of before led me to a career that I absolutely love. A random Friday night out with old high school friends (even though I really wanted to stay home), led me to my future husband, and later a precious baby boy. Two people that I now couldn’t live without.
Though I don’t know what the rest of my life will be like, I do know one thing: things will happen the way that they are supposed to – this I believe.