People often say, “Tattoos are permanent.”
I disagree. Nothing is permanent.
But this was only an attitude that I have come to have after the existential aspects of my life settled into my consciousness. It was a time when I had been more angsty as the person I am now and without the means to channel my angst in a productive manner. I, too, had the same reservations when getting my first tattoo, which was in the fall of my sophomore year of college. It was a particularly sad period of my life but before I had integrated absurdism within my intuition. And, being the socialized individual I am, I seriously applied such conceptions of permanence to my lifestyle choices such as getting tattoos.
But then I came to understand the nature of my existence, and I no longer held the same conceptions of permanence. Sure, tattoos stay on my body forever, but what is my body but a temporary vessel for my essence? And, what are the implications of the separation between mind and body if they are both ephemeral? If the average life expectancy for an individual in the United States is around 80 years, which I would assume would also apply to me discounted for various other instrumental variables such as levels of education and socioeconomic status, and I get my tattoos in my twenties, then how does 60 years of my life qualify as ‘permanent’?
The ancient Greeks used to believe that the form we take on Earth would define the form we take in the afterlife. I’m not sure what Christianity has to say about astral projections in heaven, but from what I have seen in movies, it seems to take form of an ideal self. Therefore, if their religion turns out to be ‘right’, then I would truly spend the rest of my eternity with the tattoos that I have in the moment. I would wander the fields of Asphodel for the rest of time with my tattoos. Then, it would be truly permanent. But, seeing as I do not subscribe to any Hellenic religions, I do not have fear that my tattoos would be true to the definition of permanent. If I did, then I would have other aspects of my lifestyle to be concerned with.
I have this weird sensation after I get a tattoo. The feeling resembles regret, but regret would be an inaccurate assessment to my sentiment. I suppose it is one of longing for the skin that had existed untouched by the drilling tattoo needles. Because, despite my appreciation of the art, the skin that is untouched has the most potential to be beautiful, and once the skin is tattooed, it no longer has the infinite potential to be art in the same way that an empty patch of skin has. And so, I suppose what I am feeling is a sense of longing for the possibilities that have now been taken away.
I suppose, in a way, such a sentiment reflects the nature of my life. Despite being comforted by my sadness, there will always exist a part of me wishing I could return back to my childhood self and relive my life in another way. My formative years have much passed, similar to me covering my body in tattoos, and there is so little room to create in the same way that I once did. Similar to how there is no more room to tattoo certain areas of my body, I can no longer create further conceptions beyond what I already have. Those are the parts of me that have already been defined — one through tattoos and the other through experience.
A chunk of my latest tattoo did not heal properly. The darker areas became too dry and peeled off early, leaving a discolored patch of greenish black in an otherwise collection of dark lines. At first, I was distraught. Obviously, I was concerned with the appearance. But, after reflection, I realized that this would be the color the tattoo would take eventually. Of course, I could retouch the discoloring with another artist, but why would I? It is just a reminder of how finite my existence is, and I consider it to be a glimpse into the future. And, in the face of the passage of time, I no longer look upon it with fear, although it would be hard for me to say that I feared time at all. Easy come, easy go.
I have no idea how my tattoos would look like when I am reaching the end of my life. I suspect not well, but I will also be old and with wrinkles, and I will also be looking not well. I have the body to pull off tattoos right now. But, when my metabolism slows down later on, and I started to accumulate fat, I will no longer have the youthful stature to allow my tattoos to extenuate my youthfulness. I would just be a wrinkly old man. But, I would imagine, by then, that I would care even less about other people’s opinions than I do right now. I will be afflicted with loneliness as many old people are, and I would hope that I have larger problems to be concerned with than the opinions of others.
Then I will die. All traces of my body will eventually dissipate. All traces of my identity would evaporate. All traces of my existence will disappear, including all traces of my tattoos.