Several years ago while waiting for a flight I saw a girl in the waiting area covered literally in head to toe with tattoos. I didn’t think much of it at the time really, they seem so common, not having one now I think makes you more “rebellious” or “unique” if that was the goal at one time.
One tattoo though intrigued me. Across her neck it read “SURVIVOR”. There was also a characteristic scar from a thyroidectomy the tattoo could not completely hide. It looked like her surgery had been some time so I went up to her and asked “Did you have thyroid cancer? Papillary thyroid cancer?” She responded she did and had her tattoo-parlor owning husband create the tattoo on her 5-year anniversary of having surgery. She felt compelled to tell me what some of the other tattoos meant, none of which seemed as compelling as having thyroid cancer at age 16.
Recently I was reminded of meeting her with a quote I saw that read something like “The nicest people I’ve ever met were covered in tattoos and piercings. The most judgmental people I’ve met are the ones who go to church every Sunday.”
Not sure I could qualify that statement completely but historically I do not talk to strangers, tattoos or not. More recently I have made attempts to, whether at a restaurant, on an airplane, waiting to pay for your coffee at Starbucks.
With little provocation, the stories are amazing. Some tell you they were adopted, lost a sibling in childhood to cancer, dropped out of high school or fought in Korea or Iraq or Afghanistan. Some started businesses out of their parent’s garage, lost a spouse to death at a young age or were let go from their “dream job” last week and looking for work. Others are excited about their child’s upcoming wedding or graduation or moving out of the house they started their business in.
While not everyone has it emblazoned in ink across their neck, everyone seems to have a story, and most will tell you, among the people that you meet.