I got my first tattoo on my 20th birthday. I had spent a year researching designs, how to care for a tattoo, the healing process, and more. I knew what I wanted - a trio of roman numerals representing the birth months of everyone in my family - but I was really nervous about the permanence of it all. What if I woke up one day a year from now and didn't like it? And what if my parents found out?
I thought about it for a long time, and eventually, went to a shop near my house in Berkeley, California with a friend. She held my hand the whole time, since the buzz of the needle freaked me out. I paid $80 for the tattoo and the entire process took just three minutes. By the time it was over, I was hooked.
Today, those numerals are just one of my 11 tattoos. After my first one, I've started getting tattoos after I experience something that drastically affects the person I am. I've been through some tough times, so I get tattooed as a way of taking charge of my own narrative and marking my personal strength and growth.
I got my second tattoo after I went through a serious breakup. I was pretty depressed about it to the point where it was tough for me to leave the apartment, much less go to class. It was hard to be around the Bay Area. So on a whim, I moved to Los Angeles for a social media internship. It was completely liberating to be by myself in a new place, doing a job I'd never done before. I wanted a tattoo to commemorate getting through that period of my life. This was my way of taking that pain and creating something better for myself. I had catapulted myself into new experiences that I probably wouldn't have done if I were still in that relationship. So I treated myself to a tattoo of a lotus flower: lotuses grow in very difficult climates; they have to go through a lot in order to blossom. And finally, I was blossoming.
My mom always told me I shouldn't get tattoos when I'm young because I might regret them one day. But she eventually noticed the tattoo on the back of my neck when I wore my hair up one day. Luckily, she didn't think it was a big deal. My mom and I actually had a pretty rocky relationship up until I was in college, but we're really close now. I went with her when she got her first tattoo, a small rose on the inside of her wrist. And while I was there, I got an "H" (her first initial) near my left elbow. It's one of my favorite tattoos - it's nice to keep my mom close to me, especially since she lives in Taiwan now.
One of my recent tattoos is to honor something my mom said to me four years ago that has stuck with me ever since. When I was 19, I had a gigantic fight with my family. It was really traumatic. The next day, my mom and I were talking, and she told me she knows I'm not very open about my feelings; I keep a lot of things to myself. She said, "If you're harboring deep, dark thoughts and feelings, you're just going to weigh yourself down. You should keep your heart as light as possible. Just let things go, and you'll be so much happier that way." She hugged me - I think we've hugged twice in my entire life. So I just got the word "light" inked on my right arm.
My most recent tattoo is one of my most personal pieces of ink. I was raped a few months ago. I was in shock after it happened, and it took a lot of support and love from my friends and family to get through something so traumatic. I needed to take back something positive from the experience because it was such a sh*tty thing to live through. So that's why I got a little rose tattoo on my hip. Even roses need some kind of sh*t to grow. There are always going to be events in life that shake you to your core and change who you are as a person. My tattoos mark how I've changed into the person that I am today.
The actual process of getting tattooed helps me find closure. I like the feeling. It hurts, but the sensation forces you to be really present in the moment. You have to clear your mind in order to focus on what's happening right in front of you. When it's all over and you leave the shop, you're left with something so special.
Not all of my tattoos are inspired by tough times. There's an elephant on my upper bicep (I still sleep with a giant stuffed elephant every night), a stick-and-poke of California poppies on my right arm (to remind me of home), and a matching cherry tattoo with one of my best friends.
My tattoos don't change who I am or how I feel about my life. They aren't a clutch or a coping mechanism. But with great suffering comes great growth. I'm not exactly the same person I was before I started getting tattoos - and I don't look like her now, either.
You Might Also Like