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Under the Needle: Why I Chose to Ink

Before you ask me, because I know you probably want to:

  1. Yes, it did hurt (not as bad as I thought it would, but still, it’s like a hundred needles going into your skin at once so- it hurt)

  2. The first guy on the left was my tattoo artist. He had an awesome mustache.

  3. No, I’m not going to regret it.


And here is why. Gather around everyone: it’s story time.


I have had a life motto for almost as long as I can remember. It all starts with my mom.


When I was younger, I absolutely hated reading. I thought I would never enjoy a book. My dramatic pre-middle school self was reading to give up on reading at the ripe age of 8 or 9.


Then my mom introduced me to The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton, and my entire life changed.


This was the first book since the beloved Skippyjon Jones of my childhood that I can remember loving. The Outsiders was the first book that made me feel understood; a book that feels like it was written just for you, where you read it and can’t help thinking “Oh my GOSH I didn’t know other people thought that way,” or “If this isn’t me I don’t know what is.”

This one book started a fire for reading I have no way of putting out. Reading has become one of my absolute favorite hobbies, and books have become some of my closest companions during the hardest times.

And what made it even sweeter? It was one of my mom’s favorite books from when she was young, too.

If you’ve never read The Outsiders,

First of all, how did you survive middle school and high school?!

Second of all, read it.

Thirdly, I’ll try not to spoil the plot, but my tattoo does require some plot explanation to get the full meaning.


The Outsiders deals a lot with having to grow up too fast, trying to save your innocence, and keeping hold of what truly matters throughout your life.

It’s summed up as a Robert Frost poem and a following conversation in the novel. After watching a sunset, one of the main characters, Johnny, remarks that he wishes the sky would stay that way forever. The poem is then brought up by Ponyboy (and yes, if you’ve never read the book, that is the character’s real name.)

The poem goes as follows:

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963

Nature's first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf's a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

The main characters of this novel go on to discuss what this poem actually means. The poem represents the inability of anything to stay the same. It shows the inevitability of change, of losing innocence, of the childlike wonder disappearing as life continues on.

But as the novel ends, Johnny finally gets it. And in a last attempt, he explains the poem in the best way anyone ever could:

“I've been thinking about it, and that poem, that guy that wrote it, he meant you’re gold when you’re a kid, like green. When you're a kid everything's new, dawn. It's just when you get used to everything that it's day.Like the way you dig sunsets, Pony. That's gold. Keep that way, it’s a good way to be...You still have a lot of time to make yourself be what you want. There's still lots of good in the world. Tell Dally. I don't think he knows.”

And, in the ever famous quote, Johnny says:

“Stay gold Ponyboy. Stay gold.”

So therein lies the origin of the quote I now have permanently stained on my body. But the decision to get inked was more than just loving the quote and what it stands for.

My tattoo is done in my father’s handwriting. As I am writing this article now, I am sitting in an airport in France, waiting to come home after 3 months of studying abroad, and he has no idea I even got a tattoo (I’m as interested as you are to see how that is going to go).

(my tattoo directly after it was done)

“Stay Gold” is all about rebelling against the things that normally come with age. It is about keeping that innocence alive. It’s about keeping your youth throughout your life. When you are young, you feel like nothing can touch you. You dream as big as you want to, because the world is brand new and waiting for you to explore it. You love with a ferocity you don’t understand, and you love often and keep daring to love even after people let you down. You live each moment as it is, because each moment is exciting and has something to offer, and you’re just happy to be alive and experiencing the world.

To me, my dad is the embodiment of all of those things.

He always jokes that he’s just a big kid (which I 100% agree with), but I believe that’s one of his most admirable qualities. Even with every hardship he has faced in his life, he has managed to keep that youth alive, and he inspires me to do the same. He encourages me to dream those impossible things and continue to try something new, to live in each moment, because life is too short to do otherwise.

And lastly, this tattoo closes with me.

I have always felt the need to keep going, to push on, to grow up and begin life. And let me tell you, that is exhausting. It is terrible for your mental health and completely draining. Over the past 2-3 years, I have slowly but surely learned that life happens in between those goals you set for yourself, and if you only keep your eyes on the prize, you are going to miss all the little brilliant things along the way.

In my study abroad experience, I have learned more about myself and the world around me in 10 weeks than I ever could in a semester at University. I’ve learned life is about more than school, more than grades, more than the career you are striving so hard to achieve. Are those things important? Absolutely, yes, they are. But they aren’t life. They are just a part of it. But if you focus only on those, you’re going to miss it. The sunsets, the smiles, the travels, the new places, the people, the adventures: the moments you feel truly alive. The “gold” in life.

The past 10 weeks have been solid gold. I have taken the world between my hands and under my feet and it has been so good to me. It has taught me lessons, but given me so many blessings. I have felt more alive than before and I now have moments and memories to last me a lifetime. Things I never want to forget.

And I refuse to miss those moments anymore.

So here’s to you, mom, for starting it all.

Cheers to you, dad, for inspiring me and encouraging me to chase after each sunset and moment like it is my last.

And here’s to this life: for youth, for love, for the courage to look at the beautiful things in a dark world. For change, for new things, and for every adventure waiting for me. I can’t wait to meet you.

To those reading this article, never forget:

Stay gold, friends.

Clemson University Her Campus Senior Editor
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