14 Inspiring Tattoos (And The Stories Behind Them)

WARNING: THE READING OF THIS STORY MAY LEAD TO THE BOOKING OF A TATTOO APPOINTMENT

08.17.16

“I worry about getting something I’ll regret later.”

That’s what I told my friend Tabby a couple years ago over beers, while on the topic of tattoos. She was bowled over by this idea. “Wow, I’ve never heard that before…” she said, puzzled. Just kidding! “You’re probably not the type to get a tattoo then,” she deadpanned, before moving on.

She had a point. As a compulsive thought-gardener (I think shit into the ground in my free time), I’m not exactly the ideal candidate. My fear of regret — a theme that informs nearly all of my decisions — was hardly worth acknowledging in this context for one reason: that’s the entire point. Tattoos feel special because they’re predicated on the very idea that we can’t know what’s next but we can take action anyway, if we want to. We can acknowledge the unknowability of our future lives and selves and still make permanent decisions. Such is the beauty of freewill and independence and the throwing of caution — where? — TO THE FREAKING WIND.

I have a couple tattoos now (they’re teensy) and I’ve found this underlying principle — of embracing the pure and present tense — the most compelling. They’re not for everyone, of course, but they’re for some people. So we found 14 of those people and asked them to pick a tattoo on their body and tell us what it means. Click through above to learn about what they found most compelling about the act of marking their bodies forever.

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.

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