Fact 1: The person someone is when they are 20 years old is often quite different than who they become as a fully grown adult.
Fact 2: The person who walks into prison is often quite different from the person who walks out.
For one Redditor, both truths applied, creating a perfect storm of problems when he made his moves to re-enter society after serving his sentence.
Redditor "diddiop" spent his most of his 20's wrapped up in gang mentality and violence. Ten years later, despite his disciplined efforts to distance himself from that life style, he carries some permanent impressions.
Traumas and regrets, to be sure. But we're talking literal marks. GANG TATTOOS.
He begins his story with reflections on his past and present.
"I spent 7 years in prison and I got out three years ago. I'm now 30. I was a criminal and a horrible person. I did a lot of f*cked up stuff, most of it related to my gang."
"I currently have a two year old daughter, Mia. Me and the mom aren't married but we share custody of Mia."
"When Mia was born, I was already halfway out the door of the gang and the birth of Mia gave me the push I needed. I moved away with Mia and her mom and we tried our best to start over."
"I love Mia with all my heart. She saved my life."
But physical and emotional relocation can't take care of every lasting mark. Even marks that are literally just skin deep can be the hardest to remove.
"I have a lot of gang related tattoos. And I do mean a lot. They are pretty prominently displayed on me and are noticeable."
"Mia's mother has been after me to get rid of them or cover them up with other tattoos."
The narrator, however, is not so immediately certain that removing his gang tattoos is the right move here. His hesitancy is, at first, hard to comprehend, especially given how proactive he's been to leave that former life behind.
But he does follow up refusal with an elaboration of his motives.
"The thing is, I don't think I want to do that."
"It's not that I'm proud of them, or like them, it's that they remind me of how far I've come and I don't want to forget it."
"I don't want to forget what happened. I don't think I should get to just forget it like that."
But the rationale did not sell the mother of his daughter. She brought her own arguments, also legitimate motives.
The stage would be set for an agonizing conflict.
"I eventually broke down and told her this after she asked me again yesterday about it. She got super upset with me and said that I needed to do it for the 'sake of our daughter' and that if I didn't then that meant I missed 'the life.'"
"She also said that I was putting my daughter in danger because somebody could recognize my tattoos and cause trouble for me."
Lo and behold, his indecisive tension was the very reason the story appeared on Reddit in the first place. He had no interest in agonizing, privately, spinning in circles and feedback loops that break no new ground.
But there would be a second post, a briefer story updating everyone on his final decision. The post makes it clear that Reddit's initial feedback was invaluable.
The whole situation might as well be a PSA about the functional, positive capabilities of the internet and social media.
With the fruits of that crowd-source brainstorm, the tattoo-bearer put together a genius solution. And it is the most wholesome compromise ever.
"I listened to what everyone told me and one person in particular who suggested that I get Mia to draw something to cover up some of my tattoos."
"Well I got her to do that and I covered up some of the most significant ones with her drawings."
The new tattoos remind him of his past, celebrate his new, present reality, and call attention to the transformation in between.
"They have all turned out beautifully and I'm so grateful for the idea."
"I'm working on incorporating my remaining tattoos into a new design, as other people also suggested."
"It's been a work in progress but seeing my tattoos turn into something I love has been a very cathartic experience."
Evidently, the bodily transformation has been a pivotal means for him to accept the past and move on. But the experience has illustrated that he still has some work to do, traumas burrowed too internally to work through with hands or needles or drawings or skin.
"I'm also trying to work through the existing feelings I have regarding my old gang. Mia's mother has been very supportive regarding all this and our relationship has been a work in progress to."
Reddit was LOVING the good news.
"Gang related prisoners have an 83% 5-year recidivism rate, compared to 45% or so for the general public."
"You've done something VERY difficult, and you should be proud of that. Sending good feelings your way." -- HandsySpaniard
"We discriminated against a hire at work once for a gang tattoo straight across his face. I never felt good about it but it was out of my hands."
"The fact you are willing to change yourself for your daughter is all the justification you need, bonus being she is a part of that change."
"People look for that when judging an individual for prospective employment. They want a person willing to better themselves not someone just looking for money." -- BeardedOscar
"I don't mean this in a condescending way, but I'm really proud of you."
"Reading through your last post, you were polite, and were obviously willing to have your original stance be swayed in the face of the debate."
"Being able to humbly accept a point of view different from your own is a great trait that a lot of people don't have, especially those that end up in the prison system. This is a great sign of you being a wonderful father for Mia." -- mynamespaghetti
"I think your decision to transform the tattoos into something your daughter created speaks more about the transformation of your life than simply knowing you no longer live a life embodied by your gang tattoos." -- cuukymberr
"The strong person knows it is not weak to ask for help. You are valued, valuable, and strong. You got this." -- lsp2005
"Holy sh*t this sub actually did what it was meant to do ! Epic wholesome." -- senorpool
The "sub" this Redditor mentions is "Am I the A**hole," an advice-based subreddit where people explain their situation, how they dealt with it, and directly ask if they were an a**hole or in the right.
Other comments echoed this sentiment, showing how excited people become when the internet is surprisingly not evil or composed of only trolls.
"I love that I'm seeing a**hole judgment actually end up well. Receiving the judgment of a**hole didn't close your mind, it opened it. Good for you." -- SubstituteBusDriver
"This is the most Reddit thing I've ever seen." -- Frenchie1001
The narrator, unfortunately, has not posted any photos of the tattoo transformations. I guess the intense originals and the heartwarming changes will both be left to the imagination.