Sunday, January 26, 2014

Embracing Regret

I have two tattoos.

Even writing that sentence fills me with a sort of cringey embarrassment.

Not because I would judge anybody else with a tattoo, not at all.  But because it is just such an inaccurate representation of who I am - and even who I was when I got them.  

What it does represent is a girl still working out who she was and who she wanted be.  A girl who naively thought a tattoo might somehow aid or embellish that definition.

What led me to feel this way?  Who knows.  Youth?  Beyond merely the tattoos I do recall feeling quite strongly at that stage of my life that physical things made a difference, clothes, trinkets, possessions. 

And I guess they do, right?  Or at least that is the message we are told, that if we look a certain way or own a certain thing we can create an identity out of that.  

And of course we actually do project a certain image based on how we present and style ourselves, don't we?  Rightly or wrongly we judge and are judged on that basis.

It's just that I realise now that attempting to ink your way into living a certain lifestyle or becoming a certain person is supremely silly.  Perhaps we all do this to greater or lesser degrees, trying out different fads and fashions.  I recall a brief flirtation with Gothicism, and also a deep if fleeting love of fluro.  Not to mention the obligatory mid -90's piercings.   

Fortunately for me piercings are relatively easily reversible as are eyeliner and glowing ankle socks.  Thus such affectations remain immortilised only in photos for my kids to eventually ridicule me about in the years (or weeks) to come.

The tattoos however I wear daily as a constant reminder of my less mature self.  Not that I need it, my less mature self is frighteningly close at hand.  This only highlights the irrelevance of the body art.

The irony is, when I got my first tattoo it was a symbol of living life without regret.

So admitting that I regret it now is well, humbling.

The dilemma is this.  On the path of self acceptance, and in the spirit of that eager and insecure girl who was all about no regrets (without, I realise it now knowing what that actually meant) should I try to just embrace the tattoos as a part of me, all be it out dated, silly, niave, deluded even.  Should I accept them?  

Or should I go through the pain and expense of removal?

Be free of these markings that I feel have no relevance to my life anymore.

I almost feel like to remove them is cheating.  Since I made the poor choice in the first place, perhaps I should be condemned to bear it out, see it through and not allow myself to squirm out of it.

But then I wonder, who is setting these austere rules?  It's like my life is under some sort of fascist regime.  Why do I need to punish myself for a youthful frivolity?  Why so punitive?

My life, my body.  I thought I wanted them.  I was wrong.  Is there really any reason to feel shameful or embarrassed about that?  Even regretful or retaliatory?

No.  There isn't.

I can dilute the regret, even embrace the decision.  And yet the desire to remove them remains.  And that's okay too.  It doesn't need to be an admission of fault.  In fact it's feeling less and less like that.  Rather it's an understanding and an embracing of not only where I am and who I am right now, but who I used to be.  (She's never that far away after all.)  And an acknowledgment of all the mess and indecision, wrong thoughts and silliness that includes.  For that's all it is.  And that's nothing to be ashamed of.

Yes, I'm felling better about my tattoos.  But that doesn't mean I want to keep them.

What are your youthful regrets?  Have you made peace with them?

Listen to: Fleetwood Mac Landslide

Image Licensed Under Creative Commons


  1. I wonder if a tattoo is like any regret really? Memories of past relationships or moments of unkindness are things that we may regret, that we want to get rid of too. Our greying hair, the deeper lines on our faces are signs of a life lived.

    I regret lots of things too…but I have to keep reminding myself to be present. Forgiveness after all is far more important than regret.

    Our digital footprints are like tattoos, no matter how one might erase photos or posts from somewhere they will remain somewhere else. Why can a scar can be worn proudly, it’s another story to tell, but a tattoo be different? Is it because you had a choice in the decision.? We leave our mark in so many ways these days on ourselves and the world at large. We live so many lives in one as we grow, adapt and change (ever changing).

    Perhaps it is as much about embracing the way we choose to live rather than the consequences thereafter.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Kristian. I love that you take the time to comment here!

      And this one really made me think too.

      I think my tattoos are certainly like other regrets, but while some battles scars we might feel really contributed to the people we've become, these instead feel like a bit of a misrepresentation.

      And I do feel like I'm being mean to myself in not allowing myself to move on from them.

      So there can be a kindness and acceptance in amending the action too - like apologising for an act of unkindness, maybe?

      But I also think that regrets come in layers and I've realised that my tattoos are not a major life regret (not like some other really poor decisions I've made!) more like a youthful wrong thinking, and that's okay. I don't feel too bad about it, but I don't love that I did it either.

      It all boils down to what you so rightly say, that it's about being present and being in forgiveness rather than regret. I love that. x

  2. If it were me, I think it would depend on whether the tattoos would affect a job or other relationships. If yes, I'd probably have them removed. If not, I think I would keep them. Your past is who you are too. Reminds me of a Poi Dog Pondering lyric "you should wear with pride the scars on your skin; They're a map of the adventures and the places you've been."

  3. Thanks so much for the comment Christy. And I love that lyric. Gorgeous.

    It's funny that the opinions of others, whether business or personal haven't even entered into my decision making. And in a way I think that's a good thing. It means that the decision is based solely on my own thinking.

    And it's also funny that I can agree with what you and Kristian are saying about wearing our scars with pride, totally agree - and yet still have desire to remove the tattoos.

    I guess it's just one of life's complexities. Or one of my own many contradictions!

    So glad you stopped by and hope you'll do so again. I'll be sure and check out your site too.