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I have wanted to get a tattoo since before I turned 18 years old. I knew it was a big step and something that would be with me forever. So, instead of getting one right after my 18th birthday, I decided to wait until I had something meaningful enough.


It took months for me to figure out exactly what I wanted and where I wanted it. I did countless hours of research and asked friends to get ideas and understand where the best places are. Then, finally, I decided on my art and who I wanted to draw it. 


On Jan. 5, 2021, I got my first tattoo that means so much to me. I got a pair of butterflies that my Nana drew. 


My Nana is a very important person in my life. I look up to her and admire the amount of talent and strength she has. She is a true artist, and she has always drawn me little pictures since I was a young age. So, I asked her to draw my tattoo. 


Both of the butterflies she drew are the same, except they have my parents’ initials on them — an “N” and an “R.” I am incredibly close with my parents, and they have been a massive part of my life. Now that I am older, they are like best friends to me. So, I knew I had to include them in some way.


Additionally, butterflies have been a huge symbol for me throughout my life. They are a constant reminder to me to keep growing and evolving. Having them on my wrist reminds me every day of this process.


Going into my appointment, I was incredibly nervous. I couldn’t bring anyone with me because of corona, so it was just the artist and me. Being alone made me question how well I would handle the pain, but to my surprise, it was hardly painful.


The wrist isn’t known as a particularly painful spot, but I still thought the worst. The first couple of seconds after the artist started, I was shocked. 


It felt like my lower arm had fallen asleep, and I was getting pins and needles. So, thankfully it wasn’t painful for me. It was more of an annoying feeling with an occasional pinch here or there. 


The artist didn’t take too long either; my tattoo was done in about an hour. This hour went by fast because my adrenaline kicked in, and the artist made small side conversations as he was working. 


The second my artist finished my tattoo, I couldn’t stop staring at it. I was literally obsessed. The entire rest of the day I spent taking pictures of it even though it was in a saran wrap. I couldn’t help but show it off to all the people who knew I was getting it. 


Then, the healing process went smoothly. I had no pain after getting it, and I was perfectly fine doing activities I needed/wanted to do. 


I made sure to wash it a couple of times a day and lotion it often. There was a span of a few days where it peeled and itched, but I knew that was normal. The hardest part for me was fighting the urge to pick at it. 


Picking at a fresh tattoo and taking long, hot showers can cause the ink to not settle correctly in your skin. So, for the week and a half after getting it, I had to shower with one hand and try not to put my inked wrist under the stream at all. 


I put a heavy layer of Aquaphor on it to create a barrier between the hot water and my skin. This helped a lot, and I just rubbed it off, cleaned it, and applyed lotion to it after my showers. 


Now, after having it for a decent amount of time, I no longer have to focus on it. It gets to a point where sometimes I forget I even have it. 


I feel so blessed to have people in my life I want to be reminded of every day. I am also so grateful for the friends and family who have complimented me on it. 


I encourage anyone who has been thinking of getting a meaningful tattoo to do it. My first tattoo is something I am thankful I got to experience once in my life already, but I also hope to get more tiny, meaningful tattoos. 

Marlena is a third-year in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State where she is majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Psychology and Digital Media Trends and Analytics. She is so grateful to be at Penn State and loves learning more about communications, her peers, and herself every day. She hopes to use this knowledge and her own positive outlook to help others in any way she can.
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