My friend Lynsey and I have know each other nearly 10 years. The fact that it’s been 10 years since University makes me feel just slightly sick, so we’ll just move on from that…
In that last decade, we’ve both changed a hell of a lot. Our lives have taken completely different directions to what we originally presumed they would. As with most people in their 20s, I’m sure, we have had new careers, new relationships, lived in new places, made new friendship groups and discovered who we were and what we wanted from life. When we got together this February for a long catch-up weekend, it was clear we were both in a similar mental place. We were both taking care of ourselves, trying new hobbies and enjoying the important things in life.
Lynsey’s been following the Inkluded blog closely, reading every word I write and telling people about it. The day we met, I didn’t have a single tattoo, nor did I think about tattoos, but at this present moment, they are such a big part of my life. Even though our circumstances have changed so much, each time we meet up, we feel and act exactly the same as we did a decade ago (eating our body weight in chocolate brownies, throwing money at gambling machines, acting like idiots, stumbling home with chips at 3am…). On Saturday evening (just before the 3am chips), we curled up in front of a log fire in Oxford, and got chatting about the meaning of tattoos…
‘You haven’t changed to me, Rimmer,’ she said ‘Not at all. Despite all your tattoos, how different you might look now, you’re still the same person to me, completely the same person, with the same values. Reading all your blog posts, it’s clear what one of the messages of Inkluded is – tattoos don’t change people. You’re always still you.’
Lynsey knows my personality deep down (the one that hasn’t changed over the last 10 years) and she can see how these traits had created my desire to get tattooed. She has never asked me about each tattoo, what it means or why I got it. She has just seen my journey from afar, from someone with no tattoos, to someone with lots of tattoos. Through this, she understands exactly what emotion is at the heart of making that decision to get inked. She didn’t need to ask why, and I didn’t need to tell her. Someone was sitting opposite me, completely ink-less, talking so eloquently about why tattooed people get tattoos. One of the missions of this blog in action.
But there was one other good thing I took away from it all. I had spent the last decade being dedicated to “creating myself” – travelling to new places, making changes, discovering what I liked and inking it on my body. Loving that process so much I decided to create a blog about it. Then to hear someone say that you haven’t actually changed, and you’ll still always be just you, not matter what you put on your body… is an amazing feeling and realisation. You do get absorbed in the world of ink and it’s hard to take a step back from your tattooed identity when it’s staring at you each morning in the mirror, and remember who you are on the inside.
Your ink is an enhancement and addition to your already wonderful existence. You and your artist define your ink, it doesn’t define you. I came away from my catch-up with Lynsey having realised that… ink or no ink, I am still always just me.
Photo and tattoo by Paula Castle