Piercings have always looked cool to me in the way that balls are cool to every dog out there. They’re sometimes big, sometimes small, sometimes shiny, sometimes matte. Either way, it’s always been a dream of mine to get a conch piercing.

Why a conch? I honestly don’t know. There was something about having a ring near by ear that just made it seem ~that~ much cooler.

So this summer, I mustered up the courage to go BY MYSELF to a professional piercing shop. Normally, I’d take a friend, but those I’d invited were busy that day, and I knew that I shouldn’t let that stop me from getting a piercing. I didn’t, and walked into the shop without fear.

Okay, that’s a lie. There was some fear there.

But, as I waited in line, certain thoughts came through my head.

1. OH GOSH I’M ACTUALLY DOING THIS??!!!

Yeah, you and me both, dearie. I’m not a wuss when it comes to pain, but I’m not usually the type of person who gets piercings. I have my doubles and singles pierced, but that’s the extent.

It took some deep breathing exercises for me to actually step up to the counter. I’m sure that the woman in front of me thought I was going to faint. (I didn’t.) But if you’re serious about getting a conch piercing (or any type, really), you should know how it will change your life for a few months.

2. The better the shop, the better your piercing will be.

I hadn’t even made it to the front of the line after twenty minutes of waiting, and that was actually a good sign, because I could see what everyone was doing. Each piercer available was going through their client’s waiver and treatment BEFORE the actual piercing commenced. They explained the pressure, the needle, the aftercare, everything. I have never been less afraid in my entire life to change something on my body.

When looking into piercings, make sure you’re looking into respectable shops as well. I had to drive an hour from where I was just to get the five-star rating I so desired.

It was SO worth it.

3. If you have questions, you had better ask now.

I went into the shop and practically interrogated (mostly due to anxiety) the attendant at the front desk when it was my turn. Thankfully, she smiled at me, answering my barrage of semi-pointless questions with a patience and confidence that I can only hope to have one day.

I wasn’t sure about the healing process, or how long it would take, or what my actual piercing would be like, or anything like that. But after asking, I felt so much better. It lessened the feeling in my stomach that said I was about to make a spontaneous mistake.

4. You NEED to make sure it’s sanitary!

The place I went to was the CLEANEST piercing shop I’ve ever been to. It could probably rival Emma Pillsbury’s house on Glee. They had me wash my hands twice, pull my hair back, cleaned my ear twice, AND put my cell phone in this tiny little tanning-like bed, which apparently gets rid of all the bacteria on it. They wanted to make sure that I got the healthiest piercing possible, so that it would heal to be the best piercing possible.

5. The waiting is the worst.

I’m an impatient person. I’ll be the first to admit it. However, it’s mostly just because my anxiety runs rampant until something actually happens, so sitting on the sofa whilst waiting for a piercer to call my name was the LITERAL worst. Like, ever.

But if you know you’re gonna have to wait, the best thing to do is to bring your favorite thing that distracts you. My brother has a tendency to watch YouTube videos or Netflix while we’re waiting to sit down at a restaurant, as it’s comfortable for him. I never go anywhere without a book or a journal. My parents always have their phones to play Candy Crush or Blackjack. We each do our own thing, and then we’re completely relaxed during our time waiting.

6. There might be a split-second where you regret your decision and/or want to throw up.

I’m not kidding. There was at least a minute where I thought, “Oh my gosh, I can’t do this. I’m by myself. It’s going to be the worst.”

No, it’s not.

If you’re getting your piercing at a clean and respectable place, chances are that it’s going to be done professionally—as in, by a trained piercer. That’s what you want. If you go and get your ear pierced by someone a la Lindsey Lohan in The Parent Trap, it probably won’t be as safe. And unless you want your ear to fall off due to infection, you need a professional.

(That’s usually a good rule of thumb to follow when doing anything to your body, just FYI.)

7. Any good piercer will talk you through the process before they do it.

And if they don’t, ASK. Better to be safe than sorry.

8. Any good piercer will also talk to you just before they poke you.

I’m the Queen of Hating Small Talk, and my piercer, Kate, was talking to me about Columbus (my hometown) right as she stabbed me through my ear. As thoughts of hating small talk ran through my head, I focused on answering her Cbus questions and I didn’t even really register the pain until it was already done.

And honestly? It was great. I didn’t have to worry about panicking beforehand, letting the anxiety build up until it swallowed me whole. It made my entire process easier.

9. DO. EVERY. STEP. OF. AFTERCARE. (ESPECIALLY IF IT SEEMS DUMB!)

If you’re like me, and hate going to the doctor unless you’re literally dying, then you usually think that, “Eh, I can live with this,” while taking care of a fresh piercing.

No, no. You cannot do that.

I think I mentioned something before about an ear falling off? Yeah, that’s possible.

(Well, not your entire ear. That would take some serious infection.)

But don’t doubt that if you’re not careful, it will get infected. And believe me, there’s NOTHING worse than an infected ear.

10. The soreness is the worst part.

During those first few days, your piercing will be incredibly tender, as your body learns to adjust to this weird, new, invasive thing. The spot might be red, a little bloody or covered in pus. It will hurt at random intervals, and you’ll find that you quickly learn to adapt to NOT hitting the pierced area. Either way, just make sure you’re hydrated and eating well. It’ll help the healing process.

Anything you can do that’s normal for you, keep doing it. Live your regular life, and the healing will happen.

11. Picking out quality jewelry is CRITICAL.

The shop I went to has high quality jewelry, so I knew that no matter what I chose, my piercing would still be healthy. But I’ve heard and read horror stories about bad jewelry infecting piercings. If you want actual pictures, Google it.

You will want quality jewelry for the rest of your life.

Even if it’s on the pricier side, it’s worth it. Think of it this way—you’re probably going to have this piercing for a while, and it’s probably better to invest now than have to buy multiple crappy rings or studs just to keep the hole filled. And, with low quality jewelry, you have a greater chance of getting infected, too, so you might want to add in the cost of a doctor’s visit.

Seriously—just get the good jewelry. You’ll thank yourself later.

12. Your piercing will look DAMN GOOD.

As of now, I’ve had my conch piercing for just over two weeks, and I’m in love. While I don’t think I’ll be getting many more piercings (I only want a double helix on my other ear), I’m more than delighted with my conch. It looks clean, classy, and healthy, and I have to thank Piercology in Columbus for their great work.

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Piercings are wonderful things, a great show of who you are, and I couldn’t love mine more.