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Piercing and Overwork

I am so grateful to be a body piercer. There is nothing in this world I could envision doing that is a better fit for me. I can still vividly remember what it was like getting my nostril pierced for the first time, and the joy and elation it brought me. How confident and beautiful I felt with that new piercing in my nose. The sensation of looking in the mirror and for the first time in a long time not seeing my acne or my glasses or the shape of my face- just seeing that glittering piece of metal and loving it. Feeling beautiful. Feeling confident. It was magic.

Now, I get to provide that for others. I get to share in these incredible moments of intimacy and vulnerability with clients every day. To do a little girl's first earlobe piercings and watch her light up in the mirror, feeling brave and proud of herself for overcoming the fear of a piercing. Celebrating a divorce with an older client who is getting the nostril piercing he has wanted for over 20 years, but his partner never allowed him to have. Doing genital piercings for a trans client that not only visually helps their genitals align with their gender identity, but creates new functions and sensations. Getting an email thanking me for revolutionizing their sex life, and making them feel at home in their skin. To be a piercer is to have the incredible honor of providing these amazing experiences for others, to get to help people learn to love their bodies, honor the skin they are in, and express their truest selves. It’s incredible. It’s magic.

And most folks who pierce are aware of this magic. We are so humbled and so grateful to get to do something like this. For not only the amazing things we can provide to our clients but also the freedom that this industry provides for us. The ability to look and dress the way we want at work, the opportunity to travel, the more flexible scheduling. There is so much to be grateful for when we do this. But above all, the experiences we can provide for our clients, the fact that we get to do something we love so much every single day. We are all so, so very fortunate.

But, (and there is always a but), this often leads to many piercers wanting to pour their entire selves into piercing. And with good reason- most of us are incredibly passionate about piercings and modifications, and very aware of how difficult it can be to break into this industry. And many of us have or have had a boss quick to remind us how replaceable we are. There's a steady influx of apprenticeship hopefuls in the studio every week who are happy to work long hours and late nights for this. So we are grateful for ever being given the opportunity, and we are just so excited to be doing this day in and day out. So, we work. We work long hours. We work 5, 6, even 7 days a week. We answer messages on social media before, during, and after work. We come in on our day off to help a client that needs it. We do our supply orders and social media prep outside work hours to focus on clients while we are at work. We answer messages about a piercing on vacation. Actually, scratch that, because we very very rarely take vacations. We are too worried about being away from the studio- what if clients need help? What if someone loses a bead? What if something happens?

And why would we take a vacation? We love our jobs, we get to do something so magical every single day- something we are so grateful for. Especially as apprentices and young piercers, we are reminded constantly how fortunate we are to even be in the industry. How there will always be someone else who wants the spot we have- so we better work extra hard. We are replaceable. So we work- we work the long hours and the late nights and the extra shifts. We don’t even consider taking a vacation, and when we do we spend it answering messages and stressing about the studio, and thinking about the orders we have arriving.

We feel guilty about taking an extra day off, about leaving early to go to a concert, about coming in late for a doctor's appointment. I had a cancellation the other day at the end of my night and a friend was in town, so I left the studio an hour early to meet them for dinner. I spent the entire time I was out checking my phone, just in case there was an emergency. In case someone needed me, in case a client showed up. I was sitting in a restaurant eating tacos with the anxiety levels of someone being hunted for sport, because I left work an hour early with no appointments on the book.

No one needed me. There were no emergencies. My clients were fine even though I left an hour early. The world did not end because I was not in the studio. There were no appointments- I would have sat there editing posts for instagram or sorting barbells.

Today, I am writing this at work and it's been a wonderful shift. Full of great clients, good experiences and interactions, and a solid reminder of why I love this job. I am having the best day, and the studio is alive with the magic of piercing. And in a quiet moment cleaning my room I realized that this is how I get trapped. I find this magic here in the studio and I decide that it's more important than the magic of seeing a sunset on the beach. More important than the magic of a night in cuddling up with my partner, the magic of an amazing view on a hike, the magic of seeing my best friend. Of even relaxing or taking time for myself.

And this is how I fell into the trap of working 7 days a week 12 hours a day, for years. It’s how I volunteered to build an entire online store during quarantine rather than take some time for myself, learn to bake bread, walk in the woods, nap.

And don’t get me wrong, I love the magic of piercing, I love being at the studio, and I truly love all of my clients. But I also love reading a good book. I love seeing bands I like playing music. I love hiking and kayaking, going on road trips, and seeing my friends and I love so many other things in life that aren’t piercing. And it doesn’t mean I love piercing any less. It doesn’t mean I don’t respect and honor the art form and what it can provide. But I can give so much more to clients and show up as the best version of myself when I am rested, when I’ve taken time for myself, and when I enjoy the other things in life that I love just as much as piercing. And I wish it didn’t take me almost 12 years in the industry to learn this. I wish I had learned this so much younger, and not spent virtually the entirety of my 20’s working and piercing.

So I am writing this piece for all the other piercers and apprentices and apprentice-hopefuls out there, as a reminder. That you can love piercing with your whole heart and soul. And you can still take days off. You can work very hard at work, and still go on vacation. You don’t have to answer that message right away. You are allowed to take breaks, to enjoy time away from the studio, and to have a life. You don’t have to give up everything you are, and everything you love, just to be in this industry. You deserve balance, and it doesn’t make you less of a piercer to find it. Piercing is incredible, and you can be grateful to be in this industry and doing what we do, without it costing you everything.

You cannot pour from an empty cup. Take the day off. Go on the vacation. Turn off social media for a bit.

The studio will not burn down. Your clients will understand.

You deserve rest. You deserve a life. You deserve to celebrate the magic in all of the things, piercing and the rest of your life.

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