It started off so innocently. Everyone in my kindergarten class wanted their ears pierced, and I too wanted to join the ranks of those who had gotten needles shot through their ears at questionable mall kiosks. By some miracle, my mom schlepped me the 30 minutes out to the mall and held my hand while some 20-year-old used a gun to stab a needle/earring through each of my little child ear lobes. I thought they were adorable, but sadly my Dad didn’t understand you weren’t supposed to TAKE THEM OUT every time you cleaned them, which to him meant EVERY SINGLE DAMN NIGHT. So, my first piercings closed up after a night spent sitting on my kitchen counter while my father used pliers to remove the adorable little gems of pain from my ears.

Eventually, I was able to re-pierce the lobes at some point and follow up with a second pair in middle school because that was “edgy” to my 7th grade self. These were so different though than the body art I would later fall in love with. The piercings done by real professionals, with real needles, in a clean shop, where you get to pick exactly what goes in your ear--- those are the piercings I have accumulated the most of as of late for my emotional health.

Anxiety has been something I’ve struggled with for a long time, depression became a friend to that anxiety, and somewhere along the way, body image issues hopped on that mental express. When I’m feeling some unnecessary amount of anxiety, I do something called “grounding” where I state facts about my current placement in the world with regards to time, geography, age, or whatever I need to remind myself that I am safe and can calm down. The most extreme form of this though came at a time where I felt like I had so little control over my life and I hated my body more than ever before. I had just graduated high school and was juggling an immense amount of anxiety and emotion over the changes that would soon come and hard decisions I had to make. One day in June after having a great lunch with my Mom and saying goodbye for a few weeks, I walked into a body art shop in Northampton, asked if they did tragus piercings, said I wanted one, and did it--- all alone, with no one else’s opinion or advice solicited. I was 18, independent, and using my own money. I didn’t even text my best friend to ask if she thought this would look good. I just did it because I wanted to; I did it because it was my body. Having the power to choose was an incredible feeling, and even though hours of talking out my anxieties didn’t help alleviate my stress at all, 10 minutes on a piercing table released every tension in my brain and body. I remember the distinct feeling of freedom and control over my own being as I drove alone in my car on a big open highway up to Vermont.

Since then, the value of a piercing to me is more than just a body decoration, it means sanity. It helps me de-stress, love my body, change my body and remind myself that I am in control. The benefits extend beyond the temporary grounding after the immediate act. I also feel as though I am celebrating my body and am reminded of that feeling every time I see my piercings in the mirror. I am reminded that I did this because I love myself enough to de-stress and need to remember just how important it is to do so. To live in the moment, to celebrate your body, is to take control and appreciate life. That is all I can really do, and while piercings may not be for everyone, they help me and I adore them.

I now have nine piercings total, and one new tattoo. Each one is important to me as another way to love myself and my body--- something I have never been able to do consistently. Just know that if you ever see me with a new tattoo or piercing, it's not because I'm trying to improve myself, but rather that I trying to remind myself I deserve love. I deserve to be calm, I owe it to myself, and it is by choice because: my body, my rules.