Yuri Meesen (27), from Brunssum, is a junior journalist at Observant. He wrote the previous 18 instalments in our tattoo series. He has three tattoos himself, the most recent on his thigh. “My friends were shocked by the size of it.”
Okay, take off your pants first.
Good Lord. His right thigh is entirely covered. He got it on King’s Day and is visibly proud of it.
“At high school I was a total slacker. When I got home in the afternoon the first thing I’d do was take a nap. I’d only open my books two days before an exam, but I’d always get a 7 or an 8. I took that attitude with me to university, economics at Tilburg. Based on intelligence, I felt I belonged there, but apparently not in terms of focus. It didn’t go well. After two years I’d only passed fifteen of the thirty subjects. If I was going to carry on that way it wasn’t going to work out, and there’d be problems at home too. So what was it going to be: quit and throw two years away, or work harder? I decided on the latter, together with a group of friends who were in the same boat.
“That way you develop a mentality of: if you work hard, you’ll succeed. It’s also valuable in sports. I don’t always feel like getting up at six am to go to the gym. But if you want it, you have to do it. That’s what this tattoo stands for. The book, that’s the study programme. I did two master’s degrees, the last one in Maastricht. Those give me a strong foundation: that’s the anchor. The swallow represents the opportunities I now have, the freedom of choice. Because look, now I’m a journalist, without having had any special training.”
He has two other tattoos. “Once you start, it’s addictive.” The first is on the inside of his upper left arm: MMIX, or the year 2009 in Roman numerals.
“That’s the year my grandparents died. They were sweet people, and it was my first experience with death. It left a big impression on me. Looking at this tattoo helps: you think about them. Even though – haha – my grandma said I should never get a tattoo. She knew it interested me; I’d seen every episode of Miami Ink three times. That’s how I discovered that they can be beautiful, in all sorts of styles, not just those ugly tribal stripes.”
The second is on his right calf. The word Veritas, Latin for truth. “I pulled a stunt I wasn’t proud of, and I thought: I don’t want to be like that. This reminds me of that.
“That the one on my thigh is so recent has to do with my now ex-girlfriend. She didn’t like tattoos, and you want her to find you attractive. We broke up six months ago. What if a new girl doesn’t like it? Well, if it’s a deal-breaker, then she’s not the right girl. But it does make the market smaller, that’s true. My parents don’t like tattoos either. I haven’t told them about this one yet; I will do before the article appears in Observant. My dad works for the police, so he sees rows of tattoos pass by every day. But it’s no longer just for sailors or criminals. That’s why I enjoyed working on this series so much. You see that tattoos have even made their way into the academic world. I’m well aware of the stereotype that people with tattoos aren’t all that smart; that’s why I put them in places which are not immediately visible. Employers may not like it, so it doesn’t help with job-seeking.”
As for his brand new tattoo, he finds himself looking at it often. “It symbolises my self-conquest. Which will no doubt be necessary again at some point. Say I want to give up on something. Then I think – no, persevere.”