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“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Maya Angelou

Growing up, there were two things about my body that I absolutely despised. I mean, other than my weight and my lifeless hair and generally not conforming to traditionally acknowledged standards of beauty. Yeah, other than all of that.

The first thing, the one that always bothered me the most, was this birthmark on my right arm. As you can see in the second pic, I’ve had it my entire life. Side note: how adorable was I as a baby?? I think the drool on my raised hand is the highlight for me.

This bothered me for a couple of reasons. First, I hated the comments and questions that I was deluged with all the time when I was younger. I swear, if I had a nickel for every time I heard…

“What’s that on your arm?” “How did you burn yourself?” “Does that hurt?” “Can I touch it?”

…I would already be retired. Some kids even thought it might be something contagious and stayed away from me.

As I got older the questions became less frequent, and I pretty much just learned to live with it. But still, whenever I started a new job or met someone new, the inevitable question would rear its ugly head.

The second reason I hated it was because it drew attention to me. I was painfully shy as a young child, and I’ve grown into an introverted adult. Some people may not believe the introvert thing (and have actually said so), but over the years I have refined my masking skills and can appear just as jovial and extroverted as the next person if I put in the effort. But that effort usually exhausts me and I have to retreat into my introvert cave for a while. In my natural state, I will blend into the background as much as possible. The attention that my birthmark tended to draw was my worst nightmare.

This all came to a head a couple of years ago. I don’t know why, probably yet another person asked me about it, but I decided that I wanted to get rid of it. Or at least make it less noticeable. Whatever kind of laser surgery would have been required to remove it was not even a little bit on the table, especially given our crappy health insurance. But masking it, much like I mask my introversion, was an intriguing idea. I already had a couple of tattoos, so my first thought was to cover it up with one. But after looking online a bit, it seems that there is no clear evidence of whether this is a good idea or not. Tons of people say that they’ve covered theirs with no problem, other folks say it’s not a good idea because then you can’t see if the birthmark is changing in a way that might need checking on in case of skin cancer or something.

Instead, I brought the challenge to my tattoo guy Shane at Tymeless Tattoo in Baldwinsville. I told him that if this thing on my arm was going to draw attention to me, I wanted it to be because it was beautiful and not because it was weird. And boy did he ever come through for me.

Shane took the thing I despised and turned it into this beautiful piece of art on my arm. Now people have no idea that it’s a birthmark. They just comment on the design and the coloring, and they are shocked when I tell them that the coloring is not ink. The addition of “just breathe” was perfect, because sometimes you just need to slow down in your busy and stressful life and take a nice refreshing breath or two.

The second thing that bugged me about my body when I was younger was a mole I had on the left side of my nose. It wasn’t huge or anything, just noticeable. And as I’ve already explained, being noticed for something odd or different was not something I wanted. Being a teenager with any kind of physical difference has always been brutal.

To me, the mole looked like this:

When in reality it looked like this:

This pic was from my college graduation party. I didn’t normally wear ribbons in my hair.

I was able to have the mole removed in my twenties, when a doctor expressed concern about it. And so the mole was gone but I was left with a little scar from the stitches. Absolutely not noticeable unless you’re about six inches from my face, but I knew it was there. Another flaw. Yet another step away from the vision of “beautiful” we all search for.

Fast forward to this week. I had to have a head CT scan, so that required me to remove all of my piercings. For the record, I had six: two in each lobe, plus a left helix and right daith. After the scan came the challenge of getting them all back in. With a little assistance I was able to get the four back into my lobes. Why did I need help with those? Because I don’t have normal post earrings. I can only wear jewelry made of implant-grade titanium, and the ones in my ears are internally threaded labrets. Not easy to work with when you have fat fingers and not the best manual dexterity.

The helix and the daith were definitely things I would need professional help with. So I booked an appointment with my piercer to get them back in. While I was there I asked about a nose piercing, which is something I had been considering for quite some time. I explained about the scar on the left side of my nose, and I told her that I would like the piercing to go through the middle of it. To obliterate it. She did some measurements and it turned out that the spot I chose was a perfect placement. So now, instead of a mole or a scar in that place, I have a beautiful iridescent crystal stud there. These changes may seem tiny to some folks, but they have been huge transformations for me.

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