What I Wish I'd Known Before I Got My First Tattoo: 7 Students Tell All

What I Wish I'd Known Before I Got My First Tattoo: 7 Students Tell All

Ever since my grandfather passed away, I’ve thought about getting my first tattoo in his memory. However, I know that there are things to consider when getting a tattoo because–of course—it’s permanent. I’m worried that it may look unprofessional to my future employers, that it will hurt when I first get it, and that it could look less attractive when I get older. In an attempt to give myself some peace of mind, I expressed my concerns about getting a tattoo to my fellow College Fashionista community members and friends and asked them to share their experiences and first-tattoo advice. If you’re on the fence about making the plunge, here are some stories that will hopefully help with your decision.

Research a shop, ask around, and start small instead of jumping into something crazy and realizing it’s not what you wanted.

“I always knew I wanted a tattoo. I have two tattoos currently; my first one was my zodiac constellation on my hip, and my second was a lightning bolt on my side. The first one was unique to me because it related to my birthday, but the second was just for fun. Honestly, I feel that if I like it, it doesn’t have to be super meaningful. I definitely recommend talking to your tattoo artist beforehand, no matter what you are getting. Most people I talk to about getting tattoos only ever regret not researching to find a good artist. Really think about what you want, but also remember not to get overwhelmed. Research a shop, ask around, and start small instead of jumping into something crazy and realizing it’s not what you wanted.” — Kayley Meden, University of Utah, Class of 2020

I wish I’d known that pain wasn’t a huge concern.

“I decided to get a tattoo about a year ago and was sitting on the idea of it for about six months before I actually got it done. I wanted a tattoo of something that would always remind me of my time here at Flagler College, and I wanted something that was specific to the atmosphere here but not so obscure that no one would know what it was at a first glance. So I decided to get a shell. I did not have a consultation, because I found my tattoo sketch online. I got it done the first time I went into the tattoo parlor, but I spent a ton of time with the artist mapping out the exact placement and size of my shell. Looking back, I wish I’d known that pain wasn’t a huge concern. If you’re scared of getting a tattoo because of the pain, don’t even worry about it. Personally, I thought it was bearable, especially because I knew I was going to love it after all was said and done. I also wish I would have known to not be freaked out when I didn’t know exactly what I wanted. Most artists are very patient with you when you’re figuring out where exactly you want your tattoo placed. Take your time in figuring out the details, and don’t stop until you are 100% pleased with where it will go. A piece of advice that I would give to anyone getting a tattoo is to make it memorable and sentimental. Tattoos are eternal, and removal is expensive. Let the idea sit for a considerable amount of time rather than getting it on a whim.” — Kate McKinney, Flagler College, Class of 2019

It’s a permanent reminder of something important to me.

“I got a tattoo because it’s a permanent reminder of something important to me. I didn’t get a consultation first; I just decided to get it as a birthday present to myself. I’d thought about my tattoo since I was 15 years old and finally decided to get it at 21 because I was sure, by that time, that I wouldn’t regret it. The best advice I could give is to think about placement—not only because it may hurt, but because it could affect potential jobs or important events in your life.” — Shakira Leon, Virginia Commonwealth University, Class of 2018

Don’t stress about whether you’ll absolutely love it five or 10 years from now.

“I have one tattoo that I got the summer after my first year of college. When my older sister graduated high school in 2009, she and my mom got matching tattoos of a butterfly design that’s on a jewelry box that belonged to my great-grandmother. They wanted me to get the same tattoo when I graduated high school, but I wasn’t crazy about the idea of having a butterfly tattoo. However, I wanted to honor this bond, so I decided to get their butterfly tattoo on my right hip. I made an appointment and went to the tattoo parlor with my cousin. I showed the artist a picture of my sister’s tattoo, he scanned it, and we all went into a room. He used the print he made of the picture I’d given him to stamp an outline of the tattoo. It took about an hour and a half from start to finish, but the time flew by. When the tattoo was done, I felt really good; for me, it was weirdly cleansing. The only annoying part about the experience was that I couldn’t wear jeans or anything tight for about a week, because it would irritate my skin. It’s been almost a year and a half since that day, and I have absolutely no regrets about it. I love that I can hide it easily when I feel like I need to, but I can also show it off when I want to. My advice to anyone considering getting their first tattoo would be to get one that you know means something to you now, but don’t stress about whether you’ll absolutely love it five or 10 years from now. If your tattoo means something to you at this point in your life, then it will always be a reflection of some version of you, whether that version exists in the present, future, past, or any combination of the three.” — Molly Hoffman, Flagler College, Class of 2019

The tattoo reminds me of my core values.

“I got a tattoo about three weeks after the election last year. A group of people on campus posted in a Facebook group about going to get peace-sign tattoos together as a way to symbolize our beliefs in wake of the election. I decided this would be the perfect opportunity for me to get the peace-sign tattoo I had been wanting. My mom has the same one in the same place, and she got hers while she was in college as well. To me, the tattoo reminds me of her and of my core values. The whole experience went very smoothly—the parlor was clean, and I simply provided the image I wanted. The actual tattooing only took 58 seconds, and the pain was very manageable. I have no regrets and definitely plan on getting more!” — anonymous, Kent State University, Class of 2020

I was a lot less nervous because I had met the artist and knew what I was getting into.

“My brother and I had talked about getting matching tattoos for a while, kind of as a bonding thing for the two of us. He found this simple design that we both loved, so we started calling places to get pricing and see if they were taking walk-ins. The artist at the parlor we chose ended up being great, and once I sat in the chair, I felt 100% comfortable. We decided to get four symbols that stood for ‘God is greater than the highs and lows.’ I got it on the inside of my foot. I love the size of my tattoo and where I decided to place it because it can be hidden if needed and because it’s so simple. I also like it because when people notice, they often ask what it means. My advice for people getting their first tattoo would be to do it the right way. Go to the shop, get the consultation, and book the appointment. Make sure it’s planned out. I did that for my third tattoo, and I was a lot less nervous because I had met the artist and knew what I was getting into. I would also recommend being absolutely certain of what you want and of its placement.” — Alessandra Pelitera, Canisius College, Class of 2018

 I wish I’d known how addicting tattoos are before I got my first one.

“My first tattoo was a very spur-of-the-moment decision. I knew what I wanted, but I had no idea I was going to get it at that time. I got it my freshman year of college because I really wanted a tattoo—it really has no sentimental value. Surprisingly, it only took the parlor two minutes to do. Honestly, I wish I’d known how addicting tattoos are before I got my first one—I’ve gotten two now, and I’m already thinking about what I’m going to get next. My advice to anyone wanting a tattoo is to do your research. Go to different places and get a feel for how they do things, ask for an estimate of the price, and look at the artist’s previous work.” — Megan Smith, Flagler College, Class of 2019

Do you have any advice for someone considering their first tattoo? Let us know in the comments below!

Featured photo by Edith Brooks.

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