|Not many people know this, but I'm planning on getting a tattoo of the solar system on my inner left forearm in a few weeks. I've thought on and off about getting a tattoo for a while now, and I was always dissuaded by my inability to choose a design. My uncertainty led me to hold off on the idea altogether, since getting a tattoo isn't a requirement. My mind was changed somewhat gradually and recently by my advancement in age (35), my choice of topic, and my dissatisfaction at being undecided.
I chose the solar system for a few reasons. One is that it's a symbol of humanity's knowledge, specifically knowledge about ourselves and our place in the universe. The structure, order, and motion of the solar system was really one of the first things we learned using the scientific method. We knew how the planets moved way before we knew nearly anything about the human body or the history of the earth. So the solar system is a symbol of knowledge, and of science. But it's also a symbol of perspective. We used to think we were the center of the universe. Later we discovered that our planet isn't even the center of our own solar system. Our solar system is just one of many, which instantly elicits a sense of smallness. We're tiny in the grand scheme of things, and that's important to remember.
Deciding to get a tattoo presented a surprisingly unique challenge: Predicting how the future me might feel about a tattoo, the design of it, and its placement. No other choice, action, or event has the same type of emotional baggage attached to it. I don't worry about whether future me will like the t-shirt I just bought, or will be pleased with my current choice of hairstyle. I don't worry about how future me will feel about my upcoming vacation plans, or the car I bought, or my current job duties. I guess you could say choosing a mate might be a similar decision, but at least that involves the feelings of another person. A tattoo is all about me, and how I imagine my future self will feel. It's a difficult thing to predict.
As far as placement, I went with the inner forearm because it's readily visible to me, but not all that readily visible to other people. I didn't want a tattoo on a body part that I would rarely see on myself, like my upper thigh or my back. I also didn't want to have to take off my pants to show people my tattoo. I'm not too concerned about how my tattoo placement will affect me professionally or socially. If it comes down to it, I can wear long sleeves. I have a hard time envisioning a situation where (a) I would be forced to wear short sleeves in a setting that forbade tattoos, or (b) tattoos are even forbidden in the first place. The meaning of tattoos has changed over the years, as has the types of people who get them. I am slightly concerned about people asking me about my tattoo and why I got it and what it means. It's more likely people won't even notice in the first place.
To be perfectly honest, I'm still concerned with (1) getting a permanent mark on my body (2) of a topic or design that will be forever relevant to me (3) in a location visible to other people. My feelings and concerns on the matter haven't really changed, but I've decided to take a risk. I don't know whether that's good or bad, but it is what it is. #lifestyle