I have a broken heart. It's been etched into my existence for 24 years. Over time, it has lost its once vivid color, and the memories associated with its genesis have faded. Faded, but not disappeared. And now, after nearly two and a half decades, I've decided it's time to finally rid myself of this wound.
I'm getting my tattoo removed.
Like most hormonal teenage girls facing their first heartbreak, I thought I was dying when Joe broke up with me. When I found out that, while I was loving him, he was busy loving Ashley, the agony doubled and I felt the need for drastic measures. I wanted a daily reminder not to let my heart get stomped on. I wanted a way to remember that hurt so I could protect myself from ever feeling that way again.
A few days later I was in a tattoo shop, dropping trou so a stranger could ink that reminder onto my left buttock.
As much as I thought I knew everything there was to know about love at the tender age of 14, I had a long road of failed relationships and love lessons ahead of me that the tattoo neglected to shield me from.
When my marriage ended in divorce, it occurred to me that this tattoo wasn't the beautiful, artistic reminder of inner strength and independence I intended it to be. Instead, I can only see it as an ugly scar that does nothing but remind me of the poor choices I've made throughout a vicious cycle of the wrong men coming into my life at the right times, from the first love who inspired the tattoo to my last love who inspired me to remove it. The tattoo had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. And it was time to end the cycle.
After throwing around the idea of covering up the tattoo by blending it into an additional one and brainstorming ideas with a few experienced tattoo artists, I realized I'd never be fully satisfied unless it was gone. Covering it wasn't good enough. I would always know it was still there lurking beneath the surface, unhealed and taunting. I didn't want a Band-aid on my broken heart. I wanted it gone forever.
So I decided to go through the painful and expensive process of getting it removed. When I walked into the laser tattoo removal clinic for the first time and looked at the photos on the wall of the progress of other people's tattoos essentially being burned off their bodies, I knew this was one decision that wouldn't lead to regret.
My initial consultation, in which I was assured I was a good candidate for tattoo removal, was brief. After signing paperwork, attempting to process aftercare instructions through my nervous haze, a few flat jokes about my wild child days, five minutes of sitting on an ice pack, and less than a minute of intense pain, my first laser treatment was complete. And as I walked to my car afterward, slightly woozy from the sting, I felt relief wash over me. I had taken the first step in this cleansing process.
Once I make a decision to do something, I want that something to happen immediately. Naturally, I was disappointed to learn my tattoo removal process will require six to ten treatments, with at least six weeks of recovery time in between each session. What took about 20 minutes to create is going to take nearly a year to erase. But I guess it's true that it takes time to get rid of a broken heart.
Divorce allows people to hit the reset button and start their lives over again, reinventing themselves after learning from those failed relationships and harsh love lessons. As I continue to reinvent myself after my divorce, I'm excited at the prospect of breaking a pattern that clearly wasn't working for me. I'm also looking forward to never again having to answer the question, "Why did you get that tattoo?"
Armed with forced patience, time and a high tolerance for pain, I plan to embrace the healing process as my broken heart disappears one laser treatment at a time.