Something happened that I hoped never would.
I'm switching studios.
It didn't take me long to get too attached to Ned's little seafront biker tattoo studio. At first I was all about the tattooing, but after being treated so well by the biker community I felt like I finally had a home and a family after so many years of drifting between things, jobs, and lives that just didn't click. I was always a square peg in a round hole until Ned took a chance on me by taking me on as an apprentice tattooist.
I swore I'd never leave.
I swore fealty.
I was loyal.
I was a workhorse.
I pulled my weight.
I earned a shilling.
I knew I would be no more than that.
I accepted it.
For so many years I couldn't handle people or society as a whole. I had become somewhat of a hermit and I just figured that I wasn't meant to be the light of a party, I was only ever going to be a wallflower, but becoming a tattooist and an old lady gave me a lot of confidence. I finally looked forward to the parties and the socializing. It became something of an institution for me, for us. It's our lifestyle. I've been to enough parties to understand that when you put your glass down as your friend finishes telling you that same joke again, you still laugh anyway, shift your gaze awkwardly to notice that there's only two other people left at the bar and you have that weariness behind your eyes that warns you that you'll be staggering after the next double vodka... perhaps it's time to go home and sleep it off.
That's what happened at our studio.
It was a great ride with amazing people, it was the hub of the local seafront gossip, there were crazy stories that would begin with "Do you remember when"s that originated from this time in the studio's history. It was a family. It was a clan. Then Luke left. Luke was the real life of the party, he could have passed for Ned's son. Losing him destroyed Ned, who was our metaphorical glue. He lost his taste for the studio and ended up doing other things. Then Feenie went on maternity leave. Then it was just me and Jay. The studio was now just a shadow of it's former glory days. We lost the glue that bound us together as a little family and Jay and I found ourselves as custodians of an empty husk of a tattoo studio. It was time to go. I was no longer working at the same studio that I had started in. I couldn't watch my beloved first and only studio decay and rot away any more.
At this point, the only thing I knew to do was to go back to my original plan of learning to be the best damn tattooist I could ever be, but I had little access to other studios or artists' knowledge and experience. I knew that in order to move on I needed more brains to pick, friends to make, styles to imitate, designs to try out. So I asked for Ned's blessing to go to another studio. I got it.
I approached a studio that I had held in the highest of regards. I respected their work, their ethics and attitude. They were all about learning, bettering themselves and their studio. They were making a name for themselves and were garnering much respect and loyalty in the process. Every time I would see a post or announcement by them I would sigh to myself and think "wouldn't it be amazing to work somewhere like that!" So I approached them for some advice. How do I get another job? Where's a good place to start? How can I progress? What do I do now?
I never applied for the part time position... but I got it anyway.
I start tomorrow.
It's been a long couple of weeks organising the move. I am still devastated that Ned is no longer my boss, that this studio is no longer my home, my key has been handed back over... but it's not my fault that the place changed to a point where I knew that if I had stayed, I would have become miserable, I would have stopped caring, I too would rot inside. In retrospect the wheels had already been set in motion by others and my eventual, reticent exit stage left was inevitable.
The party stopped a while ago.
I owe it to myself and my customers to be better.
To shine brighter.