I Never Could Have Known


Most ridiculous stories start with one of a few lines. “Remember our last night in Morocco…?”  “So it seemed like a good idea at the time, but…” and “When I was eighteen…”

When I was eighteen.

I got this tattoo on my back on my eighteenth birthday.  Fourteen years ago.  My mom cried.  No wait… she didn’t cry.  She called me a masochist.  I wonder if she remembers that.  It made me wonder what she knew about masochism.

I got this tattoo on a whim.  Mostly because I could and I did.  No wait… it was more than that.  I felt like the only way I could express my individuality was with a Japanese character  I picked out of a plastic-coated tattoo artist book.  I undoubtedly employed phrases like “this just feels right” to convince myself and calm the nerves of the best friend I coerced into ditching 7th period with me.

This tattoo is the first in a long string of impulsive things I could do and did do as an adult in the world… including but not limited to: dropping out of college before even starting, moving to Vermont with a single suitcase and $973, that one thing I did on that bridge, and all the ridiculous things my Dad should not know about, ever… thanks.


This tattoo isn’t really a Japanese character to me anymore.  It’s a sign of this impulse that lives inside me.  The impulse that packs up and moves to Miami.  The impulse that runs recklessly through a thunderstorm (though one should never involve oneself with the words reckless and thunderstorm).  It’s the impulse that totally knocked that drink out of your hand while we were dancing.

It’s the outward expression of I’m sorry/I’m totally not sorry.

On a scale of 1 to tacky…. it’s totally tacky.  Let’s just be real.  I’m sorry sometimes… but I take it back, because it’s just me.

wtf baguette!

You know what’s amazing?

When you add it all up.  The moving here and there and there, the friends come and gone, the text books, the early morning baker’s hours, the scrapes, the scars, the dinners and drinks, and flights and fights.. the big loves, that thing on the bridge… when you add all up, it’s so weird that the sum of these parts is a bad tattoo, a cat, baguette, and this space on the internet.

I never could have known.

photos by lani trock

ps.  The lip ring I had? … That’s a whole other Oprah.

182 thoughts on “I Never Could Have Known

  1. Thank you for this! I got my tattoo at 16 and hate it now. I did it to prove I was brave and an individual. I like hanging onto that symbolism instead of feeling regret that I did something stupid!

  2. this is probably one of my favourite posts you’ve written!

    we should all live and do things just because we can.

    2013 has been all about living on impulse for me after I managed to end my horrible, turbulent relationship. I have now booked a one way ticket to Bangkok to travel with my best friends for 6 months+ through South East Asia and Australia – all on impulse!

    Life is too short not to be impulsive.

    Natasha xx

    Ps. I have an impulsive tattoo from when I was 16 but I can look at it and smile because it too symbolises that ‘i can do what i want’ mentality.

  3. The first thing I did when I turned 18 was get more piercings on my ears (adding a few more holes to the first two I got when I was five). My parents were totally strict and wouldn’t dare sign the papers that required a parent/guardians’ signature. So I had to wait til 18. Nice post!

  4. Love the post. I got my first tattoo when I was 16 for reasons similar to what yours were. Because I could. And have had gotten a steady stream ever since, including work done to my half sleeve as recently as 6 mos ago.

    But everything you wrote about being impulsive, doing things on a whim at times, and never could have known…yes, I can definitely relate and I’m sure most people can. I always love these posts with glimpses into your life, Joy. Thanks for sharing :)

  5. Hi Joy! I just discovered you a few days ago, and I love your site!! Great post!
    Greetings from Barcelona!!!

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