Why I Got My First Tattoo

Growing up, my parents were pretty chill with what I could do to my body. I could pierce my ears and do whatever I wanted to my hair, however, getting a tattoo was off the table.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted a tattoo. I thought and sketched out millions of different ideas of what I could get. I jumped around from idea to idea, but something that was always central to the ideas was that they had to be for me and about something that I would never regret.

After my 18th birthday in August of 2016, I made a list of things I wanted to do before the end of the year. It was no small list and included things like skydiving (which I sadly had not gotten the chance to do just yet) to getting my nose pierced (Did it!) to like you may have guessed, getting a tattoo.

Come the day before NYE and I got to thinking, why not just go get a tattoo? Something small and something that would remind me to keep kicking ass in the new year. It took me less than five minutes to remember a Gaelic phrase I am extremely fond of, “Bíonn siúlach scéalach,” or “Those who travel have tales to tell.”

Amidst the confusion I sat down and decided to write out exactly why I wanted a tattoo, why it was important to me, and what it would symbolize. With meaningful words on the page I finally felt confident and prepared.

On my way home from a friend’s house, I began telling my mom that I was thinking about getting a tattoo. Unknown to her at the time, I was thinking about getting it that same day. She was on board but warned me that it was something I needed to think about and really know that I want before I get it.

After a few hours, I decided that it was now or never; I needed to decide if I was going to get my first tattoo. In a quick breath, I looked at myself in the mirror and smiled, there was no way I wasn’t getting the tattoo today. With a little bit of convincing, soon enough my mom, my sister, and I were on our way into the city so I could get a tattoo.

Once I finally got to the tattoo parlor, I told the tattoo artist what I wanted, and he proceeded to show me a lengthy list of different fonts and scripts I could get it in. I peered over my shoulder to my boyfriend, mom, and sister with the fear of god in my eyes. A million thoughts went through me: maybe I should wait, maybe this is a mistake, maybe I need more time. Ultimately I turned around and started looking for the perfect script.

When I finally found the perfect font, and I was sitting in the seat, the tattoo artist told me he was going to take it slow since it was my first time getting a tattoo. He said since it was going to be on my neck, I needed to be as still as possible and not move - this became the hardest part for me. Though I put a strong face on, I thought I was going to puke, pass out or die. Maybe even a combo of the three. I wanted a tattoo so badly, but I was so nervous.

The actual process of getting my tattoo is still a bit of a blur. The artist was incredibly cool and ended up making the whole process super memorable, in the best way. Every time the needle came off of my skin I was tempted to look up and talk to whoever was sitting next to me, which led him to lean over and whisper “Shut the f*** up” with all the love in the world and it made me giggle.

The pain was essentially non-existent and it took less than fifteen minutes for him to complete the piece. I heard that tattoos were painful. I closed my eyes as I waited for the needle to start moving on my skin, but when he started, I was barely phased. I remember looking up at my mom with a perplexed look like “Wait, is this it?” When I left I was stoked about my new ink and ready to show it off.

My boyfriend and mom alternated sitting next to me, and they were sure to get candid photos of me along the ride. Overall, I could not be happier with my decision.

The most important feeling for me, however, came directly after I walked out of the shop. It was a moment where something changed inside me and I realized it was okay to be unsure of something, but follow through with it anyways. I finally listened to the voice in the back of my head and could feel a weight lift off my shoulders.

My tattoo now stands for so much more than just my ability to overcome difficult days. It's a symbol of taking risks and experiencing the feeling of doing something so uncharacteristic that it breaks down the expectations you have of yourself. Everyone always tells you to do one crazy thing in your life that makes you step outside of your comfort zone. I guess I never realized that doing so would make me stronger than I could've ever imagined.

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