I got a tattoo. The week of graduation I made a decision that will literally follow me forever. It’s about 7 inches long by 3 inches wide and it’s on my right forearm. The process was only mildly uncomfortable, very rarely ever being truly painful. From start to finish it took about 2 hours. If you count the time it took from the conception of the idea to the completion of the piece the process took about 3 days.
Because of its placement I am looking at it as I write this. I will always be able to see it while writing. It is a quill in an inkwell. After all, The whole point was to forever remind myself I want to be a writer. Sitting in the shop as the stencil was laid seeing the piece come together and finally being able to see it, completed, in the mirror was exhilarating. The feeling of jumping head first into a decision like that, making a commitment of this magnitude, was something I was not fully aware of at the time. I don’t regret it. I can’t imagine I ever will.
I can’t recall if the thought “what if this turns out completely hideous?” crossed my mind. That probably would have been something good to weigh. But to run through all the possible hypothetical situations would have led to an immobilizing fear. I’m a pretty creative person and could probably have come up with some doozies. I do remember choosing not to over think it. I remember consciously making the decision not to get caught up in the “what if’s?” I don’t remember ever really taking into account how vulnerable I was in those moments. After needle hit skin I was completely at the mercy of the artist. Alongside the vulnerability though I don’t think I ever really examined the trust I had in my artist. Trust, after all, is the counterpoint to vulnerability. Trust makes being vulnerable ok.
Heading into this internship I have never really felt vulnerable. I have, however, felt complete trust in those on both sides of this process. Here in the US and in South Africa. But now, I am faced with the realization I leave in less than a week. For the first time, since my first conversation about this in February, I am scared. I still have complete trust in those waiting for me in Pietermaritzburg and those that I leave here that will support me. But I am scared. For some reason, this finite time I will spend in a foreign country, with a substantial team of people who will love me and support me scares me more than sitting in a chair and indelibly marking my body in a place that is all but inconspicuous. Why? And why now? I have had months, almost the same amount of time as I’ll be gone, to feel this way. Why now?
What I feel isn’t paralyzing. It feels sobering. It is the kind of fear that heightens the senses and makes you more aware of your surroundings. It is the kind of fear that seems to slow down time. It is exhilarating.