The Healing Practice of Tattooing


The Healing Practice of Tattooing

Sometimes I forget it’s there, until I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror or someone points it out. I did that on purpose, a small piece that would almost have a hidden quality, practically invisible, but with incredible meaning.

I got my first and (currently) only tattoo on my 19th birthday at a hole in the wall tattoo parlor while my sainted mother held my hand. Truth be told, I’d always wanted a tattoo. The idea of having a permanent piece of art inked onto my body intrigued me, though I didn’t have the slightest clue of what I wanted. That is until I lost a close family member to cancer, and I started seeing dragonflies.

In my family, we believe in the little things. The little signs that might otherwise be looked over hold an immense amount of meaning. After the death of my loved one, I started seeing dragonflies, everywhere. Not just in nature but in drawings, jewelry and other renderings. I began to search for something to solidify this sign, to mark the memory and comfort I derived from it. However, I simply couldn’t find anything to satisfy the permanence I needed. So I decided to get my first tattoo.

Nearly two years later, that tattoo brings me comfort. It reminds me that while this person is no longer on this earth, I am never alone. A small black ink piece gave me the closure I needed to move forward and allowed me to honor the memory of my loved one. It’s a conversation starter for sure, but I feel like the conversation it began in my own mind is equally as important. I am constantly reminded not to take myself too seriously.

I know that I am not alone in this feeling either because I have seen numerous friends and family members who may not have associated themselves with the “tattoo crowd” decide to get a permanent art piece. To me, it’s a beautiful picture of how the world is changing and our ideas of beauty are beginning to broaden slowly but surely.

Think of it as a priceless piece of original art, that instead of hanging it in your home for a few people to appreciate, you are opening up the opportunity for the world to experience it. A tattoo can represent a political or social statement, heritage pride, a powerful memory, or a spiritual enlightenment. While the standard tattoo experience still exists, many parlors are seeing a whole new crowd seek their talented artists for personalized creations with a wide range of inspiration.

Maybe you’ve been considering a tattoo for a while, or perhaps the idea isn’t really your forte. Either is perfectly fine, and I would encourage you to really be sure before deciding on a permanent piece. Even after realizing that the answer to my search was a dragonfly tattoo, I analyzed the actual design for weeks. The wait was worth it, and the pain was fleeting, but the meaning will last me for a lifetime.

featured image by The Balanced Blonde

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Sarah Clifford

Sarah Clifford is a writer and theatre actress from Charlotte, NC. She is currently a 3rd year Theatre major at Seton Hall University. She enjoys travelling (she's spent the past two Summers teaching in Italy!), dancing, cooking delicious vegan food, and snuggling her Terrier, Marty.

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