When I got my first tattoo, I was terrified beyond belief of the pain and permanence of the art. It can turn terrible and ugly with just one wrong move. It’s on your body forever — well at least until you get a cover up or laser removal. It’s scary, especially for your first time.

Gradually, I got over all that fear with each tattoo.

I find tattoos are just simple additions to the mosaic that is you. Recently, I added the newest element to that mosaic; I got my newest tattoo from Frank Armstrong at Carter’s Tattoo Company in Bowling Green.

I feel that through my experiences, I can help others who might be interested in adding a new body masterpiece. So, for all the folks who are looking to spend some of that holiday cash on fresh ink, here is what going under the needle is really like.

To start off, tattoos hurt like hell. It’s a needle, or a bunch of needles with shading, going into your skin and placing ink inside.

Pain is temporary, but even so, tattoos take a long time. My tattoo, a rose bouquet in the American Traditional style, features thick lines and a lot of shading, and it took over two and a half hours to complete.

When you’re under the needle for that long, you get a bit antsy. I was faced with a choice: to talk or not to talk. A tattoo artist can be very intimidating. They typically have many more tattoos than you and have a rougher demeanor. I had to gauge how long I should talk and when.

But you also have to think about when you should just sit there. The sound the tattoo machine emits provides a sense of zen that can soothe anyone. The need to fill any void of conversation is very strong and compelling, especially when facing cool individuals like tattoo artists.

Tattoos are rewarding, regardless. There’s a reason that they have become mainstream. They can be beautiful works of art that will hold memories for all of your life. Since tattoos have traditionally been symbols of unprofessionalism and anarchy, the recent shift to them being popular and acceptable has made getting tattoos easier, safer and generally more fun.

 So long story short, I have terrible anxiety when talking to tattoo artists or anyone — but something that helps me overcome this anxiety is my tattoos. I feel empowered by my choices and my self-image anytime someone asks me about my tattoos. They are a part of me forever — and that’s for a reason. My tattoos tell stories that I could never tell so well; they make mountains out of molehills.

Whether you like it or not, tattoos are becoming more common. Your mom, your estranged aunt, your best friend are all getting them. They can be anything from a beautiful flower bouquet or a semicolon against suicide.

But most importantly, a tattoo is defined by you and for you. You make the story and you build your own canvas. That’s what it is really like getting a tattoo.

@carterstattoo frankarmstrongtattoos@gmail.com #americanatattoos

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