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My 12 Year Tattoo Journey

e gotten four tattoos over a period of 12 years. In these 12 years I have learned a lot about the process and about myself. Perhaps my experiences will help someone contemplating a first tattoo. My first tattoo I received when I was 19. This was a fairly typical experience. I was a dumb, college kid who thought I knew everything. I felt I needed a tattoo immediately to prove I was a rebel, cool, etc. I went to someone's house, got a small tattoo on my ankle in this woman's living room. All things considered, it turned out O.K., but looking back I realize I was lucky that the experience wasn't a lot worse. I put no thought into the design, artist, location. I hardly even paid any attention to healing it, just a little lotion. My second and third tattoos were a lot better. At least I went to a shop. I had thought about the designs, and picked flash for the artist to start with, and then we adapted it to fit me. I spent more time and energy into the selection process, but still wasn't satisfied. I decided my next tattoo was going to be an experience that touched my soul. This one was going to be no casual experience though. I was going to put the time, money and thought into this one that had been lacking in my others. I was lucky to have the internet at my disposal. I could research designs, artists and get opinions from others by just lurking on bme or the newsgroup rec. arts. Bodyart. I decided on a Celtic piece, and after much thought decided Pat Fish in Santa Barbara was the artist for me. Over 6 months I saved a little bit from every paycheck. This was going to be an important event in my life. I finally was able to do it, I got vacation from work and made my journey west. I had thought a lot about the design, and Pat had hundreds of samples for me to look through. I picked out some favorites, and she incorporated various elements and drew my own cross. For several months I knew I wanted this to be colored, and had chosen red and blue. As I am hopelessly inartistic, I didn't even know if anyone to capture the design in my head. Pat did almost immediately, and the funny thing was it didn't even seem like she tried that hard. Although she took about two hours to draw it the day of my appointment, I didn't mind waiting as she had captured the essence of what I wanted. Of course it hurt, it hurt probably worst of all my tattoos. It is a pain I don't mind, though. Something to do with an endorphin rush from what I understand. Red ink does seem to hurt more than other colors in healing. The tattoo healed great though. I just put a little lubriderm on it when it felt dry. I skipped the A&D ointment I had used previously, and don't regret it. I don't feel I lost anything in the healing. I am glad I had this experience. The difference between getting a thoughtless, spur of the moment tattoo and thinking about one for over a year is almost indescribable. While I was hanging out in Pat's shop, I watched the endless stream of U.C.-Santa Barbara students come in, picking a piece of flash out, and getting it put on by the other artist in a few minutes. I didn't feel superior to them, because I once was them, but happy to be beyond that stage. One always hears about people who regret tattoos. Part of this is no doubt because of the herd mentality some young people have when getting a tattoo, 4 or 5 coming in at once, picking designs almost at random. This may start them on a lifelong love of tattoos, it did me. However, it may be a decision they deeply regret.
By waiting until I was older to get bigger, more visible pieces, I feel I was ready. Once you get a piece people see everyday, you will get many negative comments. Also, some people will judge you different. I ran into an elderly man who I worked with at a restaurant this summer. He introduced me to his wife as "that woman has the tattoo I was telling you about." It didn't bother me at this stage of my life, but I probably wouldn't have had the self confidence when I was 23 or so to handle all the different reactions. I know many people don't understand my love of ink, in fact my standard reply is "I am a freak. Deal with it." I don't consider myself a freak, but it is easier than to try to explain why I love tattoos to those who don't understand or want to judge. People can't see my tattoos when I have pants on, so if they meet me in the winter they think of me one way. Then I put shorts on and all of a sudden I fall into the tattooed category, like my personality has changed all of a sudden. Being tattooed has enriched my life. It has given me confidence in myself, and I am glad I started on this journey when I was 19. I don't plan on ever getting tattoos I can't hide with clothes easily, but am interested in seeing where the next decade or two takes me in my bodyart quest. I am sure it will be fun.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 20 Feb. 2000
in Tattoos

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Artist: Pat+Fish
Studio: Tattoo+Santa+Barbara
Location: Santa+Barbara%2C+CA

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