T is for Tattoos

I like tattoos. I have 6 and would love to have more. For the most part, they’re hidden because I know that there is a stigma associated with tattoos and I haven’t reached a point in my career where I can comfortably let them “bloom”.

My newest tattoo is on my forearm and dedicated to my daughter, Liana. As someone who overthinks each and every decision in my life, I naturally took over a year to decide that I would get it in a visible spot on my arm. I created a Pinterest board to piece together the concept and asked for opinions before contacting an artist and making an appointment.

Those of you with tattoos: you know the moment right before the artist touches you with the needle? That last chance to change your mind? I literally started sweating because I worried that this was a mistake. But a couple hours later I was looking at my new artwork and so happy that I went through with it.

Fast forward a few weeks to my mom (love ya Mom!) seeing a photo of my arm. I think I got the reaction I expected to be honest.

Why there? Why so big? What are the people at your next job going to think?

The last question had popped into my own head. I admit that I add a lot of value to others’ opinions of me. I always have. Oddly enough the timing of this tattoo wasn’t random. I got it the week after I busted my ass to complete a huge grant application. I got it then because I saw a new side to myself. Completing that application despite a lack of support from my (then) boss was a huge confidence booster. He wasn’t a fan of my ideas, but I was, so I pushed through. It didn’t hurt that I got plenty of positive feedback from others. So even when he did some shady stuff, I pushed through. Not to prove anything to him, but to prove my intelligence and competence to myself in a new way. I DID THAT.

I’m a strong person, that also happens to be a black female scientist with tattoos. You may see those other things first, but my strength will be what you remember. We all value different things, so how can I expect people that I come across to understand everything about me at first glance?

What’s funny is, I changed jobs before ever finding out if I was awarded funding for my project idea. At the end of the day, it just wasn’t worth staying. But that accomplishment will stay with me. Others may see some huge random tattoo on my arm. But I see my amazing daughter. I see my strength that I hope will make her proud. I see a unique me.

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