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I regret my tattoos. I never wanted to be one of those people who hated their tattoos, but there it is, I regret them.

My tattoos are in no way boring or clichéd. In fact, they are very distinctive… partly because I did them all myself with a safety pin and India ink in true jailhouse style. I’ve never been incarcerated, I’m not quite that much of a rebel, but for most of my teenage years I sure felt like I was doing hard time and I decided to give myself the tattoos to show it.

I no longer remember exactly why I decided it would be a good idea to lock myself in my mother’s bathroom during the wee hours of the morning to tattoo ‘Kill Fuck Die’ on my left forearm, or why I thought that a biohazard symbol and an inexpertly-rendered pinup would be an attractive addition to my left shoulder. I have other tattoos, I do actually like a few of the smaller ones, but those three are the worst and the ones that I honestly cannot believe ever seemed like a good idea

Like most people, I spent my teenage years trying to be someone I am not and never have been, but unlike a lot of girls who try their best to be perfect and popular, I went in the opposite direction. Between the ages of fourteen and seventeen, I tried my damndest to tread upon the sense of propriety that my parents had instilled in me, to avoid traditional beauty, both my own and that of others, and to systematically attempt to ruin every bit of the small amount of privilege and opportunity I had been lucky enough to be born with.

I made my first attempts into self-tattooing when I was fourteen and my success was very limited. None of the how-to guides I found on the internet mentioned how important it was to wrap the needle with thread, and I ended up with a lot of blurry disasters that were fairly easy to ignore despite the fact that they were of such poor quality.

When I was sixteen, I started hanging out with a lot of train-hopping travelers who taught me to do stick-and-poke tattoos properly. Suddenly my whole body was a canvas on which I could express not the beauty I so desperately wanted to see, but all of the senseless rage I felt towards the world for not understanding me. …And the rage I felt towards myself for not understanding the world.

I think, on some level, I knew I would grow up and grow out of my angst, but on another level I didn’t really want to and maybe I saw tattoos as a way of freezing myself in time, forcing myself to never change because–despite the fact that I was miserable–I was also sure that any change would only be for the worse. If it was this difficult to go from being a child to being a teenager, how terrible would it be to go from being a teenager to an adult?

I did change though, and I would say I changed for the better. At the ripe old age of 22, I’m mostly comfortable in my own skin, the only things holding me back are the old blue tattoos that have made my transition to adulthood so much harder than it had to be. Because of them, I’ve held very few ‘normal’ jobs; instead I’ve worked as a prostitute, an artist’s model, a phone sex operator, and a stripper. I don’t regret my career choices by any means, and I probably would have pursued such work regardless of what body modifications or lack thereof I possessed but I do wish that I had kept other doors open for myself.

Eventually I will have enough money for the very expensive removal process but, for the time being, my tattoos broadcast the sentiments of an angry child to the world. I’m neither angry, nor am I a child any longer. I look at a series of photographs I took when I was fifteen and I don’t just see the scared little girl scowling from under my mop of black Joan Jett hair, I see my blank white skin and I wish with all my heart that I had given my future self a chance and never chosen to cover my body with pointless and impotent rage.