The Story Behind My First Tattoo

Last August, I got my first tattoo. To my family and friends this was a bit of a surprise, but I had been thinking about getting this permanent piece of art on body for over a year by then. I want to give credit to the artist who inspired the final design and the tattoo artist, Katie, who designed my tattoo. The artist who inspired the final design is Curt Montgomery and he is based in Canada. The tattoo artist who designed my tattoo based on Curt’s design is Katie from Stingray Tattoo in Allston, MA.

I remember first seeing this design when I was in my second semester of my freshman year. When I saw it, I knew almost immediately that I wanted it on my body forever. To me, the symbol of holding hands was so special. It represented security and love and empathy. As the months went on, I proceeded to have one of the worst summers to date. My mental health deteriorated, I felt as though I had no support system around me, I was thousands of miles away from my friends, and the only person I felt like I could rely on was, well, myself. So, the symbol of holding hands came to mean something very different to me. I realized that when no one else was around, I could still lean on myself. When I didn’t have a hand to hold, I still had my own.

For a long time (and occasionally to this day) I held other people responsible for my emotions. I relied heavily on people for happiness and fulfillment and love. My sophomore year opened my eyes to the reality that it is not the responsibility of others to make my life better. I found that I sometimes placed too much pressure on others to fill a void in me that I neglected to tend to. Once I learned to love myself and enjoy my own company, only then would I fully be able to enjoy people’s company without expecting anything from them.

This mindset greatly improved my way of life and I wanted a permanent reminder that I would always have my own back, regardless of what was going on around me. In August, I booked an appointment with Stingray Tattoos in Allston. My artist, Katie, told me that she would prefer to draw her own design instead of copying another artist’s and I respected her decision because part of me wanted my tattoo to be completely unique. After she showed me a few designs, we chose one that I liked the best and I put down my deposit.

This was a tricky time financially for me because I was trying to save as much money as possible all while paying the last few months of rent, but I also had wanted this tattoo for so long that I felt delaying it would frustrate me even more. One day, I was talking to my friend about my situation and he asked me, “Isn’t your birthday in a few weeks?” to which I replied that it was, and we continued our conversation as normal, catching up on life and joking around. I didn’t think anything of it until I was working at my desk and received a Venmo notification. He has generously Venmo’ed me the remainder of the money I needed for the tattoo and all I remember is bursting out crying in my office. I felt so extremely grateful and undeserving and happy all at the same time. Whenever I think of my tattoo, I think of our friendship and that just added another layer of meaning for me.

The process of actually getting the tattoo was nowhere near as painful as people had warned me. I got it done on my ribcage below my armpit, one of the supposedly most painful spots but it felt more like a prolonged and slightly uncomfortable tickle, if that makes sense? I was worried about aftercare because I have sensitive skin, but my artist gave me a list of products to buy and a timeline of when to take off the wrap, how long to moisturize the tattoo for, and when I could expose it to sunlight. Aftercare is different for every tattoo, but I basically kept my plastic wrap on for the rest of the day, took it off that night and moisturized with unscented, plain lotion, and kept moisturizing it for a few weeks.

I wasn’t able to go to the beach for the last couple of weeks of summer because the sun could damage my tattoo, but I didn’t mind. I finally had this artwork on my body that I had wanted for so long with more significance behind it than I could have ever imagined. If you’re on the fence about getting a tattoo, make sure you’ll still want it in a year or more. If that means waiting a bit to make sure you’re certain, do it. When you decided to get your tattoo, go somewhere safe and clean. If that means it will be a little more expensive, do it because there’s nothing you’ll regret more than spending less money only to end up with an infection.

When I told my parents, they weren’t upset. They made it very clear that they themselves would never ever get a tattoo, but they were supportive of my decision. I hadn’t talked to them seriously about tattoos before I got mine, but I was constantly teasing them about it, oftentimes putting on fake tattoos and joking around with them about the possibility. I guess they weren’t as surprised as I thought they’d be. I wanted it to be in a place where it wouldn’t be visible all the time. I liked having the choice of when to show it and when to keep it hidden. I originally never wanted to make a post about it, nonetheless write about it. But after keeping it relatively hidden for a few months, I thought it would be good to reflect on why I got it.


I’ve had my tattoo for almost eight months now and every time I catch a glimpse of it, I am reminded of self-love, friendship, and the strength to carry on.


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