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Permanent things come to those who wait

I began my body modification journey 9 years ago; a young, impressionable girl having to save up biweekly pay cheques from a part-time job at the mall just to have enough for a piercing here and there. Over the years, I've never hesitated when it came to getting a new piercing; part of me always knew that I could remove it if I didn't like it and live with the scar/memory that it left.

I always knew that getting a tattoo would require much more thought, and so I patiently waited for "the inspiration". That strategy proved to be wise at the time because any of the tattoos that I wanted to get back then are simply not the kind of tattoo that I'd want now.

However, as the years dragged on, I waffled back and forth so many times between ideas that I started to wonder if I'd ever settle on something "perfect". Without forcing myself to sit and carefully think about it, I was procrastinating on the decision, treating it like homework I didn't feel like doing.

During the last four months of my graduate degree, my life changed dramatically. My boyfriend of almost 6 years broke up with me, and the aftermath of that breakup continued for another half a year. I also graduated from school, which brought upon another major change in my life that I didn't feel ready for. Without a job or money, I was forced to move back in with my parents. Simply put, my self-perceived perfect world crumbled around me without warning, and I was left wondering where and how to begin picking up the pieces.

It took over a year to re-discover myself and begin figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I started with small things; throwing myself into my new job, taking painting lessons, moving out again into my own apartment and finally taking care of my health by exercising and fixing my nutrition. As the days and months passed, I finally felt like I had come back stronger than before. And it was during this time that I decided that I was ready to historically document this transition phase in my life on my body.

Then came the decision of what to get and where to get it. I wanted to start off small, because I have sensitive skin and had no idea how I'd react to getting a tattoo in the first place. Tattoo placement was easy; lower right hip. More visible tattoos would follow, once I knew that I could successfully heal it. Deciding what to get, however was, expectedly, much more challenging. I gave myself a month to decide what I wanted. That was almost a year ago.

Fast forward to this year, and I watched a lot of my "keep busy" efforts take shape. I found out late last year that I'd be participating in an art show. I ran my first race (10K). I began training for a half-marathon. All the while, I struggled to keep up with work. I realized that the key to getting success could be represented by one thing: balance.

Balancing my work, love, and active life is something that I never want to lose sight of again. My previous "life" has always been about pleasure and hard work only when necessary. I used to allow weeks to go by without doing anything and then wallow in self-pity for feeling under accomplished or bored. After spending weeks contemplating what could possibly encompass all of these things, it occurred to me that I didn't really have to look too far: my date of birth classifies me as a Libran. Librans are often described as artists at heart, who take a lot of time to come to a decision (does that sound familiar?), but can follow through with decisions reached with conviction. I felt that this was the perfect introductory tattoo for me.

The Image After doing some searching online for images that I liked (I wasn't keen on the standard symbols that normally represent Librans), I finally stumbled across "the one". I will liken this discovery to wedding dress shopping (not that I've gone wedding dress shopping, mind you). You see a lot of possibilities, bookmark a few, knowing that you probably won't return to them... and then finally crossing paths with the one dress seems so perfect for you, that everything else pales in comparison. This image was different. It didn't look computer generated, it was so simple, it looked like someone had half-hazardly painted it in a rush. It almost resembled Chinese calligraphy, and its asymmetry made it perfect. Balance to me, is about accepting that not everything occurs according to plan – but that the outcome of adjusting your actions to facilitate the best possible outcome is the key to success and happiness.

The Place I already knew that I would go back to the same piercing / tattoo shop that I got the majority of my piercings so the question of where I would be getting it done was a nonissue. At my first visit to the tattoo shop, I asked some questions about aftercare and the process itself. I just wanted to get the full story and ease myself into the idea. The second time I went in a few weeks later, I brought my picture and asked them for help to invert it (I tried to do this in Photoshop and failed). Finally, I decided that I would get my tattoo on the day I ran my first half-marathon. Since I had to take a rest the week after the race, I decided this would be an ideal time to get it done, and the race was only a month away so I could still sit on it and make sure that I did want to go ahead with getting the image I chose tattooed on me.

The Anticipation I spent the next few weeks excited for both the race and my new permanent addition. When the race/tattoo day finally came, I woke up in the morning feeling nervous but ready. The race went really well and I finished it knowing that I would be running another one soon. After a quick lunch, I finally made my way over to the tattoo shop. I started to fret about the placement and how well the image would transfer onto my skin. I knew I loved the image but I was worried about how it would translate on my skin. There's only so much you can leave to the imagination when you're putting a stark white piece of paper up against your skin.

The Experience The girl at the front desk referred me to the first tattoo artist that happened to be available. However, he gave me full assurance that it could translate it well. He even gave me some suggestions on how to make it not look so "crisp" and even more organic. My heart started to beat faster as I listened to him describe what he'd do and I knew that I was already resolved. I was going to get it. I went up to the counter and paid - and then went for a 20 minute walk just to calm down my nerves.

When I returned to the shop for my appointment, my friend who had come with me tried to keep me distracted to calm my nerves down. I felt like I was 16 again, getting my first piercing. I was excited, yet terrified. When he finally called me up, we walked up the flight of stairs and he expertly applied the tattoo stencil onto my right hip. I don't even know why I worried about the placement because he knew exactly where to place it. Even though I knew it would be fine, I had promised my friend that I'd show him the placement first so we went back down, I showed him quickly and then we went back up to get started. The tattoo was small enough that the whole process took around 20 minutes.

He told me to lie down on the bed (which made me feel like I was about to get a physical at a doctor's office) and he promptly got started. He told me to let him know if I needed a break – but I knew that stopping and starting would only make it harder to keep going. I remember the music was playing really loudly in the background and I wondered if that was the artist's preference, or if it was meant to serve as a distraction from the noise. Although I wanted to watch him work, I felt like it might hurt more if I did, so I looked away and bit on my lip the entire time (in hindsight, that may not have been the greatest idea). In terms of how it felt - I would compare it to feeling like someone with a knife was scraping repeatedly on your skin. The first few seconds were shocking, the next few minutes were painful, and then finally I started to settle into it and adjusted to the pain. By the end of it, I felt strangely calm, and almost sad that it was over. But I couldn't wait
to take a look at it! It was gorgeous. A bit red around the edges, but exactly what I wanted. Not so perfectly done that it looked like a carbon copy (which is what I said I wanted) and just the right size and placement. After a quick look in the mirror, he covered it up and sent me on my way.

The Aftermath I was so exhilarated at the time that I didn't hear a word he said about aftercare. I grabbed a hardcopy of their aftercare instructions and figured I could easily substitute products at the drugstore for the healing process (as I was often able to do with my piercings in the past). Much later that evening, I panicked and realized that I had no idea what to get. I knew that they recommended a very mild soap cleanser, and a non-scented lotion for after a few days, but they also recommended using tattoo goo for the first 5 days - something I had neglected to buy earlier that day. By the time I was shopping for aftercare products, the shop was closed so I knew I had run out of options and would have to get something at the store. I ended up buying an antibacterial lotion and used it that night and the next morning after cleaning it. I was really confused by all the conflicting tattoo aftercare advice online that I just decided to ignore it all and adhere to the instructions that my tattoo shop gave me. I felt so nervous about not having "tattoo specific" products that I decided to ease my mind by just investing in one later that day. I've sometimes heard that these types of products can be gimmicky, but I don't believe that they can be harmful either, and the fact that it was my first tattoo made me more inclined to be safe, rather than sorry.

By the time I got back to the tattoo shop, they were closed, so I ended up buying tat wax at a nearby tattoo shop. Not my ideal scenario, given that I'd rather give money to the place that tattooed me, and also feeling bad for only buying product at another place but not actually using their services... but I didn't want to wait until the next day to get aftercare products.

I had heard from a friend that his tattoo bled heavily the first two days so I was expecting to see at least a little bit of blood. Luckily, the only thing I've experienced so far was the skin that was tattoo being raised and tender to the touch. Some of the ink came off the next day, but I never saw any blood. It has now been five days and my tattoo looks a little bit cloudy but I read a few experiences online and I'm pretty sure it's just dead skin peeling off. It's still a bit red around the edges, but the discomfort is so mild that I'm not worried. If my tattoo looks funny after the process is over, I'll just go back for a touch-up.

So there you have it. All of that for a tiny tattoo that is no bigger than 1.5 inches. But the implications of my tiny tattoo will stay with me indefinitely. I'll never forget my first experience, and I know that this is only the beginning for me.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 02 Nov. 2009
in Tattoos

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