What is my obligation?

As a human that works with the public in my tattooing there are often judgement calls that I need to make in regards to priority. Is it more important that I honor an appointment? Or stay home and take care of myself?

There are times when that type of choice is simple and clear cut. If I had a contagious illness, I wouldn’t come in and try to tattoo anyhow. There would be a risk to the client and it wouldn’t be worth it. But how “under the weather” do I need to be in order to take care of me?

A couple weeks ago I tanked emotionally in a much worse way than I have in a very long time. My depression started running the show. I did cancel an appointment with a good friend (with much guilt) and went out and spent some time in the woods alone. It helped tremendously (and yes, I know that time alone is not good for a lot of people that are in the midst of a depressive episode, but it works for me).

I honestly had some feelings of panic and dread (that go along with that whole nonsense) that felt pretty overwhelming but I came to work anyhow. Then I was able to take a painting workshop Friday, Saturday and Sunday which distracted me in the most perfect of ways. I got to be around other sensitive artists types, laugh, visit, make some art and learn a ton. It felt really good.

I came into my workweek still feeling a bit fragile but renewed and better.

I was blindsided by a problem client (not my client, actually the client of another artist) who has made some demands of me that I am not able to fulfill.

I wanted to run and hide. I contemplated just walking away from a 30 year career. Believing that my inability to handle humans like this is indicative of me having maxed out on the entire thing. To try to figure out how I can walk away from tattooing and spend my time at home with my kitties making art and maybe making a living out of it.

But really, I don’t want to.

Most days I really love my job. I truly love the artists that I work with. I have a client base of amazing humans who bring joy and light and laughter to my days that I would never get at home (even with the kitties). My clients bring me inspiring projects and push me to extend my repertoire and my creativity. I love tattooing. I love a good number of the humans that I tattoo. I am INCREDIBLY fortunate to be where I am in my life. I hope that I will be able to continue tattooing for a really long time.

In light of that, what is my obligation to the client with the problem? Do I put my mental health and well being on a back burner because these people want to “destroy” me on the internet? Do I bend over backwards and give up my days off for people who have made it incredibly clear that they will not be happy no matter what I do for them? Or do I tell them to fuck off (in the politest way possible) knowing full well that there will be repercussions to my business and people that I care about? While the answers to these questions seem to be obvious to people I try to talk to, they aren’t always obvious to me. There is an internal discussion/battle. How do I best protect my people? What will the client feel like? How much empathy is too much? Is this person being demanding or unreasonable? Does it matter? How much of me am I willing to give away? Where do I set my personal boundaries in relation to my business? No matter what I wind up deciding all of this internal debate takes up a lot of brain space and energy.

Simply put. I am tired.

Once upon a time in my tattoo career I got to make people happy. I made their tattoo dreams come true. They picked something off of the wall or brought me an idea and I made a tattoo for them. They left happy. Now I spend so much of my time telling people no. “That design is too small to hold up.” “That tattoo won’t have the contrast it needs.” “I can’t get you into my schedule.” “I’m sorry, I’m booked already.” “We don’t have any appointments that day.” “I won’t duplicate someone else’s tattoo.”
It’s exhausting.

I do still get to make the clients happy that I get to work with and that interaction is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. I love that part.

But some days it doesn’t seem worth it anymore. The toll to my mental health and the way that clients now talk to us is too much sometimes.

How much is too much? When do I walk away? How much longer can I do this before my depression intersects with one of these clients in a way that I am not protected enough from? No one is going to take care of me but me. Today that means that I need to upset some people. People who in a very real way intend to do damage to my business if I do so. Which ultimately is going to hurt me as well, but hopefully less than giving myself away in pieces will.

dammit. I just want to make pictures. Same as I always have. How did all of this get to be so complicated?

~ by justteejay on November 17, 2022.

One Response to “What is my obligation?”

  1. Teejay I think you’ve already stated the answer. This client is not going to be happy or satisfied no matter what you do. They will be angry and bitter and you can’t change that no matter how much you bend. So do what is best for you. The internet is powerful but one disgruntled customer (especially when you can have your say as well) won’t be the end of your professional career. At least if you don’t let it. Take care of yourself and the rest will take care of itself… ❤

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