One of the writer's tattoos

People who know me know I absolutely love tattoos and flip my lid over good artwork. Just the other day I saw the cover art from the podcast “S-Town” and the first words out of my mouth were “I want that as a sleeve.” I have two tattoos myself, one on my forearm and the other on my ankle, and I definitely aim to get more as I become a “real adult” (meaning I’m making a salary because, let’s face it, I’m broke). I’m also going into education as a secondary English teacher.

The judgement that comes along with having tattoos and piercings in the workplace stems from the conservative, traditional value that all workers must be straight-laced. It’s clear I have no interest in adhering to that rule, and most people my age don’t either. In fact, more people than ever are entering the workforce with tattoos and piercings. It’s becoming commonly accepted that most applicants either have or will have tattoos. It’s long becoming a criteria of the past.

For many people, tattoos and professional careers are still thought to be mutually exclusive. I’m not sure I quite understand that reasoning because approximately 73 percent of employers say they would not discriminate against someone with tattoos during the hiring process and only 4 percent of people with visible tattoos or piercings report facing discrimination in the workplace, according to stapaw.com. When you compare those numbers to the 76 percent of people who believe tattoos and piercings will hurt your chances of landing a job, the disparity is evident.

When I got my first tattoo, I was told by many people that I would never get a job, especially with a tattoo on my forearm. First of all, it’s not like I put a giant satanic symbol on myself. My tattoo says “Choose Joy” and features a small balloon. It’s a symbol to myself and to the people who see it to choose a positive attitude in the midst of pain. It’s incredibly meaningful to me and the people who see it generally respond well. Yet, apparently, my symbol of strength and perseverance would exclude me from the jobs I want. I tend to disagree. How am I supposed to mentor, inspire and teach students when I am holding back parts of myself?

I personally have been told by people from family to students that my tattoos make me less desirable as a teacher or generally as a person. My tattoos and my desire to have more are part of what make me a unique person with unique qualities. My appreciation for the art and talent of tattooing makes me better equipped to appreciate artistry, skill, and talent in my students, no matter what form it takes for them.

Tattoos are a way to express individuality. Each piece is a new and different reflection of the person they belong to. When people bring that individuality, that appreciation of art to their profession, it means they are invested enough to love themselves and bring that love to their work.

The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch.

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