By Veronica Thompson

I have eight tattoos, so I may not be an expert, but, I do have some experience and would like to share a few lessons I’ve learned.

First off is the question everyone wonders: does it hurt? Yes, it does. Anyone who says tattoos aren’t painful probably just has a high pain tolerance.

Tattoo needles are like those pens with multiple colors you push down, except they are all clicked down at the same time, pierce you and get dragged through your skin.

The level of pain also depends on the body part getting tattooed. Sensitive and bony areas tend to be more painful. The closer to a joint, the more the tattoo will hurt. Shading is especially tough because it involves dragging the needle back and forth instead of just in one direction. 

My first tattoo is on my wrist, and it involved a lot of shading. Naturally, it was extremely painful. I was in shock. It is important to internalize that tattoos are painful, so you are not surprised.

But, do not let the pain deter you from getting one. Tattoos last a lifetime, and you won’t be sitting in that chair for the rest of your life nor endure that pain forever — for me, the post-tattoo soreness typically lasted no longer than a few days.

Deciding what tattoo to get can be daunting, simply due to its permanence, but the truth is this: Tattoos do not have to be meaningful. You can get a tattoo of your favorite soda brand’s logo if you want to, because you have free will.

Some people say you shouldn’t get a tattoo if you haven’t considered it for at least a year. As someone who has decided to get a tattoo in under 24 hours, I don’t think consideration has to be that involved.

It helps to have a Google Document or list of tattoo ideas. Research ideas on Pinterest, ask your artistic friend to draw your idea and keep all of these thoughts in one place to refer back to. If you are getting a tattoo with text, spend time choosing a font that speaks to you.

In terms of deciding tattoo placement, I usually just scribble a terrible rendition of my idea on my arm in pen and then see how it looks in the mirror.

I justified my first tattoos to my mom by getting ones that represented certain aspects about me that will never change. For example, one of them incorporates the time and place I was born. This also reduces the potential for future regrets.

But, I also have a tattoo of a teddy bear just because I like bears. It’s OK if bears are no longer my favorite animal when I’m 40 years old, because when I’m older, I can take comfort not in the tattoos themselves but in what they represent. For me, getting tattoos has served as a healthy form of self-expression. Their existence will always be valuable to me.

I hope my advice helps you decide whether or not you will ever get a tattoo. Save up and practice that speech to your parents about how you respect them, but remember that you are also an adult who can make their own decisions. Life is what you make of it. If getting a tattoo would make you happy, go for it, because you deserve to be happy.