The Enemy Is Urgency

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by Brianna Albers |

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In 2019, something wonderful happened.

I got bit by the tattoo bug.

If you’ve followed my column for a while, you’ll know my first tattoo was a big deal. First, it was finding an artist I vibed with. Then it was finding an accessible parlor — no mean feat, given that most tattoo shops are downtown. Then it was scheduling, confirming, and watching the clock tick down. Time couldn’t move fast enough.

I’ve spent the past three years chasing the high of getting tattooed. The COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in things, but that didn’t stop me from cultivating a Pinterest board full of tattoo ideas. Every couple of months, a friend would text me lamenting how much she wanted another tattoo. We’d commiserate and talk about getting tattooed at the same time, but it was never more than a dream, something to get us through the dreary months of quarantine.

Late last year, I’d pretty much given up. Finding an artist with availability was next to impossible. The odds of my scheduling with an artist I liked at an accessible venue were slim to none. I was tired of trying — searching, scheduling, and crossing both my fingers and toes.

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Meant to be

You can imagine my surprise when an artist I’d been emailing with said he was available for a last-minute appointment. It was the definition of short notice — I’d be getting my tattoo three days after he initially emailed me — but it was the design I wanted with an artist I loved. The parlor wasn’t fully accessible, but my folding ramp would get me up the short flight of stairs at the entrance. I’d have to find someone to drive me downtown, but other than that …

It felt meant to be.

I replied to the email with an enthusiastic “Yes,” then spent the next hour trying to figure out transportation. I was determined. I was hopeful. Finally, after years of failure, I was making progress.

Then my mom asked, “Are you sure you should be going downtown given omicron right now?”

It’s not that COVID-19 hadn’t crossed my mind. I knew from years of research that tattoo shops have strict COVID-19 policies — some even require proof of vaccination. Because Minneapolis recently reinstated its mask mandate, cases were going down. It was a risk, to be sure, but I was reassured by the protocols in place. Ironically, getting a tattoo was probably safer than going to Target.

But the more I thought about it, the more anxious I became. My mom had a point. It was a risk I was willing to take, but it was also an unnecessary one. I didn’t have to get my tattoo right then and there. I didn’t have to drive all the way downtown in the bitter winter cold. I didn’t have to drop everything for this opportunity.

Lately, I’ve been meditating on urgency — why things feel urgent, and how that urgency affects us in our everyday lives. As someone with a progressive disease, I constantly feel as though I’m running out of time. There are so many things I want to do and experience. I’ll never fit them all in, but that doesn’t stop me from trying, from pushing myself to the brink in order to beat the clock. Urgency isn’t some philosophical concept. Urgency is tangible, and it beats in me like a second heart.

Friend and foe

There was an urgency to my tattoo dilemma. I’d spent years trying to get an appointment, and finally, miraculously, I did. I wasn’t just avoiding the disappointment of rescheduling — I was afraid that if I gave up my slot, I’d never get one again.

Illogical? Maybe. But it was that fear that drove my decision. I wasn’t excited about getting a tattoo anymore; if anything, I was dreading it.

Urgency is normally my foe. But this time, it was my friend. If anything, it helped me realize that something wasn’t right. In true me fashion, I had a cry about it. And then I emailed the artist and asked if he had any availability in April.

Just like that, the urgency in me ceased.

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Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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