As a child, I’ve always been a huge fan of tattoos while growing up; ever since watching shows like Miami Ink and, later, LA Ink on TLC.
The problem was, I always imagined them to be extremely painful and the imagery was always in a style that I was not really into—ie. American traditional, or those “cartoon/sticker”-like tattoos that are meant for bikers. Personally, I’m more of a fan of the anime look, because… well… that’s what I grew up on.
Despite always being told that tattooing would be extremely painful, on Boxing Day of 2018, I decided to give it a try. Aptly preparing myself beforehand with numbing cream, I thought, “well, how bad could it be?” The truth is, once I was actually getting the tattoo done, it hurt a lot! The numbing cream had worked, but not to the effect of not feeling the tattoo gun at all. In the end, I left there thinking, and saying, “wow that was so painful, it felt like getting my skin ripped off the entire time.” Though, as I’m typically one to stare truth right in the face to discover the reality of the situation, in order to see if it was actually painful or just my mind standing in the way of me getting more of what I really wanted, I was back in the chair just four weeks later. This time, with a new outlook and additions to my original design that I had in mind.
Surprisingly, I found that it did not hurt nearly as bad (though, it still did kind of hurt), but I was using it as a means to exercise my own ability to “meditate” through a situation, as well as face the thing that I was afraid of most of all; yet, really wanted at the same time. Coming away from that session, I realized, “huh… it might not actually be as bad as I had previously thought…”
Two weeks after that, I was back in the chair. Two weeks after that, I was in the chair again. And four weeks from that day (this upcoming weekend) I will be back in it.
The realization after those first few sessions, especially the third one, was that, though it might hurt a bit—it didn’t kill me. It was actually more of a nagging irritation versus something as excessively painful as I had first imagined during my initial visit. Imagine if I had never gone back after the first session? I would have lived the rest of my life with not only a random tattoo on my arm (the sun-moon, if you can differentiate it in the first photo, above), but also the fear that I could never amount to getting another tattoo ever again.
The truth is, I really like tattoos. They present with them (at least, the reason why I get them) a life narrative of things that I have done, as well as a reminder of what I aspire to.
My tattoo journey is not over, it has only begun. That’s not to say my entire body will be covered in tattoos by the time I’m 40, it just means that I’m not willing to do something out of fear-based decision making; rather, because I truly enjoy the outcome of the less-than-terrible experience.
So, if you’re thinking about getting your own tattoo, but are afraid of the pain, or the after-care (which isn’t really bad at all) afterwards, I would say get a small one using numbing cream to see how you handle it. Personally, I still use numbing cream even though it doesn’t work as effectively as I had hoped. Because, for me, it’s not about the experience or the bravado of getting the tattoo—it’s about the art and the story behind it.