I'm 26 years old. I have two university degrees and teach children for a living. Primary school children. I spend my days going through everything from ABCs and times-tables to how to read and write, cutting and pasting, singing songs and doing artworks.
Bet you're all picturing a Miss Honey from Matilda type, yeah? Well, keep the knee-length dresses and cardigans, but add in some tattoos. Yep, that's right, someone out there has allowed this gal, with tattoos on her arms, legs, hands, back, ribs and feet, to mold the minds of the young. Amazingly, it doesn't make me any less of a person or terrible with children. Crazy, huh?
If you had asked me when I was 5 years old what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have most definitely told you I wanted to be a teacher. Did I imagine myself standing in front of 30 kids with some large, visible tattoos? Not a chance in hell.
As a child, I only knew one person with tattoos, a friend of my father's. Man, was he scary looking. I remember deciding he had probably just gotten out of jail before popping over for a beer with Dad. I also imagined him riding a motorbike and being on the run from the law. Let's blame 'childhood innocence' and a spirited imagination. Truth is, the guy was an electrician, and as far as I know, was a law-abiding citizen with no known bikie affiliations.
I also grew up with a mother who, despite being absolutely wonderful, absolutely despised the idea of tattoos. (Still does, but she tries to pretend seeing my tattoos doesn't make her nauseous). She had a bit to do with the little voice in my head building these naïve judgements that I carried with me through childhood. I honestly believed people with tattoos were just downright bad. Let's face it, tattoos 20-30 years ago were the ultimate definition of rebellion, and I was a goody two shoes.
Then, at 14, punk rock found me. Just the thought brings a smile to my face. So did dressing like a boy, a bad fringe, studded belts and the ultimate desire to rebel against the total bore and drag of a mainstream society. My exposure to people with tattoos multiplied quickly and, to my mother's horror, I was obsessed with the idea of growing up to cover my skin in tattoos. I can still hear her panicked voice, reaching a pitch only dogs could understand and raving about "ruining my skin" and "not under her roof", when I first mentioned getting a tattoo at 18.
Believe it or not, I 'waited' until I was 23 to get my first tattoo and I thought long and hard about it. I was at uni and very, very aware of the implications of getting tattooed. Could I still be a teacher? What would people think? Would it be something I regretted? I knew all too well the stereotypes and strong opinions getting a tattoo would bring with it.
Ultimately, I reached a point where I made peace with all the what-ifs. Since then, I've continued to get tattooed, for a range of reasons, but mostly because I like certain things and I want them on my body. I once read a quote that said: 'Some people hang art on their walls, I put it on my body'. And that is why I do it. Just call me an art collector.
Having tattoos in 2015 is a way easier existence than it would have been 20 years ago. Tattoos have moved away from being a sign of deviance or rebellion. Long gone are the days of a big, burly bikie scratching on a heart with an arrow through it in a dingy late night tattoo parlour.
Tattooing, as an industry, is more popular than ever, with tattoo artists earning respect as some of the most creatively talented people on the planet.
This jump in social acceptance is all well and good, but there are a hell of a lot of people out there who will still give a disapproving look when faced with inked skin. I been offered opinions or overheard conversations that have caused me to raise a (non-tattooed) eyebrow.
Take, for instance, a lovely woman I once worked with. She told me all about how her daughter wanted to get a tattoo and how she felt that tattoos were for criminals and drug addicts and the best way for anyone to ruin their body. Then, realising who she was talking to, she said: "Oh, but, they suit you!"
Or, when I was discussing my ambition of being a school principal with a family member. "But you have tattoos?!" SO WHAT!? I'm sure some of you are reading this thinking, ha, this chick is tattooed and reckons she'll be a principal. And I'm asking you, why can't I be? I'd be a damn good one.
I could not care less what people think. I am happy with who I am, I'm beyond proud of the tattoos I have and that I sat through the hours of torture to get them. Most importantly, I'm proud of the job I do and the positive impact I have on the kids I work with.
Do my tattoos override all the positive things I have done with my life? Am I putting out a negative statement about myself? Of course not! But I guess your answer to those questions comes down to whether you're okay with judging a person by their skin or not.