Friday, 11 May 2012

Bad Decisions Make the Best Stories

Once in awhile it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to. –Alan Keightley

This quote suddenly sprang to mind a few hours ago as I lay on a hospital bed, listening to a doctor and a nurse debate the stupidity of one of my decisions.  To explain, we’re going to need a little back-story…

I decided to celebrate my freedom from the military by getting a single-point piercing (also called a “microdermal”) on the top of my wrist. After so many years of only being able to wear certain colors of nail polish, having my hair a certain way, and blending in with everyone else, I wanted to do something different. Goodbye uniform, hello permanent stud in my arm!

Courtesy of Deanna Wardin @ Tattoo Boogaloo on Flickr,
A sing-point piercing.

After researching a reputable establishment and finding a well-known piercer, I went for it. The initial act itself hurt less than an ear piercing, and I’ve been happy with my decision ever since.

Fast forward to now. I’m preparing for a 5-week adventure, mostly involving beaches. Beaches mean sand and sun, neither of which bode well for an internal implant. My recent trip to Malta was experience enough to tell it me it was time to let the piercing go.

In this situation, one would typically find a licensed piercer and have them remove the implant. If you’re the right mix of brave and stupid, you can remove it yourself (don’t Google how to do that, it will ruin your afternoon).  Seeing as there's an ocean separating me from my piercer, my options were a bit more limited, so I opted for a medical professional.

Courtesy of Edgeofdefeat, from Wikimedia Commons
This is the part that's implanted under the skin.

In my rural English village, no one has ever seen a piercing like this before. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been approached with a look of horror and curiosity, quickly followed by a slew of questions involving how, did it hurt, and why. For the most part, I enjoy this easy conversation opener and am happy to answer any questions.

My nurse today was the grandmotherly type—I imagine her home always smells like fresh baked cookies and she coordinates her tablecloths with the holiday seasons. Needless to say, she was not impressed with my reason for surgery. As she ranted about how insane my piercing was and why it should be illegal, the doctor kept reminding her that everyone does trendy things in their youth and that I can handle myself. Exasperated, she launched the end-all of accusations at him: “What would you say if it were YOUR daughter coming home with a piercing like that?”

The doctor smiled at the idea, looked calmly up from his work, and reminded her that there’s such a thing as being too sensible, and that it's perfectly fine to have some adventure in your life. These adventures make you stronger.

There’s such a thing as being too sensible in life. As much as she was trying to help, all of the nurse’s chastisements were starting to make me feel embarrassed, and the doctor made a valid point. Is going to a tattoo parlor and having a piece of metal permanently implanted in your arm the smartest move? Probably not, but I don’t have any regrets. I achieved my goal of separating myself out from the camouflage-colored crowd, and I added one more story to the “experience” column of my life.

My adventure partner has borrowed my habit of writing down meaningful quotes on index cards. He left this one by Mark Twain next to the computer:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones that you did.  So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Today may have been painful, but I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. So go out there and get that crazy ass piercing or tattoo if you want it. Make a mess of things, question the status quo, and have a bit of fun.  Now is your chance to make some bad decisions and have some stories to laugh about in the future. Whenever I look down at my arm, I can rest assured that no one else is going to have a scar quite like this one.

I’d like to leave you with my favorite quote by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In an effort to explain himself and his reputation for being an 18th century sexual deviant, he wrote a fabulous tell-all autobiography called Confessions, which was published posthumously. He opens his story by saying:
I have studied mankind and know my heart; I am not made like any one else I have been acquainted with, perhaps like no one in existence; if not better, I at least claim originality.
I proudly claim my originality and the stitches to prove it.


  1. It's just a scar. But it's an experience. That's what I've learned about life - it's about the little things, the experiences - and like the quote from Mark Twain - it's about the things you didn't do than the ones that you did!

    Have fun on your travels!

  2. You come from a long line of prudes, thank god it didn't stick to you. Enjoy your life to the fullest, and if anyone makes rude commets tell them an old lady said do it

  3. Not two days after I realized my ugly tattoo would never be fixed to my satisfaction I bought a Groupon for tattoo removal. My life got remarkably better once I stopped being terrified of doing things and worrying about everything that could possibly go wrong.

  4. The Road not Taken by Robert Frost comes to mind.


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