Thursday, March 28, 2013

On Getting My First Tattoo: A Birthday Special

Birthday Tattoo

Ever since I turned 25, I made it a point to do something I’ve never done before on my birthday. That way, I always have something to look forward to, and it makes my birthdays extra special. These are the things I’ve done since then:

Year 25 – Went Skiing for the first time
Year 26 – Went Hang Gliding for the first time
Year 27 – Participated in the Landmark Forum which changed my life for the better
Year 28 - Did an East Coast Road Trip and celebrated my birthday in New Orleans
Year 29 – Did the I-Fly at Universal Studios – Indoor Skydiving
Year 30 – Went on a big Eurotrip, and visited two places I haven’t been to before: Prague and Austria

Never Done Before

This year, when I turned 31, the year where anything could happen, I went ahead and got myself my first tattoo!

It was a decision that took me almost a year to process.

I never thought I’d ever grow the balls to get myself inked. Most of my friends have them, people that I work with have them, everyone in Hollywood has them… but the idea of something that permanent always freaked me out. I’m just naturally afraid of any type of commitment --- and getting a tattoo is something I’d have to live with for as long as I walk this Earth. Plus… I heard it was painful!

The last year has changed me though. Turning 30, trying to figure out what my personal legend is, and finally making the decision to quit my job to pursue a lifelong dream has done a number on me. The process of letting go caused me to lighten up in all aspects of my life, and allowed me to see things clearly. No longer am I concerned by what society dictates, because this is my life and I decide what makes me happy. My definition of success is no longer dependent on material wealth, but rather on the wealth of one’s soul. I have learned (but not mastered yet) how to manipulate my fears, and use them as a motivation to help me accomplish whatever it is I want to pursue… I live with the knowledge that our time here is only borrowed and we never know when it runs out… And so I’ve stopped wasting whatever time I have left worrying about what others might think, what society dictates, or what an ancient book might state. 
And about getting a tattoo? Well… Robert Kennedy once said,

“There are those who look at things the way they are and ask, why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

Why not? :)

I flew to Cebu on my birthday, Monday the 25th for my final working week at Bosley. I had emailed my co-worker, Jungkay, from Cebu to help me find a respectable and awesome tattoo artist a month before my trip. My parameters for the search were: Clean, Awesome, Highly Recommended, Clean, and ZERO MORTALITY RATE!

I knew I wanted it somewhere on my wrist because I want it to be seen… I didn’t see the point of going through all that pain only to have it hidden 90% of the time… If I needed to hide it for some obscure reason (not that I would want to though), I could easily do it with a watch or a bracelet. And most importantly, I’d want to be able to see it myself, for several reasons.

I’ve known for a while what tattoo I wanted. They’re my words to live by… A personal mantra. Something I picked up while traveling in France with Karen.

Having those words placed on my left wrist would be an ideal position, because I’ll always see it, and I’ll constantly be reminded!

Jungkay found me a well known tattoo parlor, and booked an appointment for me at 3:30pm, which is right after I land in Cebu. Crol’s Tattoo is owned by artist, Carlo “Crol” Gabiana. He’s well known as one of Cebu’s top tattoo artists, and has been featured in every major tattoo art magazine in the country. If he’s good enough for Cebu, then he’s good enough for me! :)

His place is small, but very clean. Maui, Jungkay and I were waiting on the couch as he was prepping his station. I was a little nervous at this point, but I think I’ve done enough mental preparation for the pain. I’ve spoken to countless people, poured over hundreds of websites, forums and blogs about how I’m going to feel, and the responses varied from “it doesn’t hurt at all” to “it’s extremely painful, you’re going to cry.” That really didn’t help me much, so I just did what I usually do which is – expect the worse. 

Carlo Gabiana
Carlo Gabiana
When Carlo was ready for me, he drew markers on my hand for symmetry and placed a stenciled outline of my tattoo over my wrist as a guide. He gave an option of smearing a cream anesthetic over my skin to help with the pain, but Jungkay insisted that I don’t use it to “feel the whole experience”. I wasn’t feeling too masochistic so I was really leaning towards the anesthetic!

Prepping the area

Carlo said he’ll try it quickly without, and if I couldn’t take it, he’ll apply the cream. I felt like I didn’t really have time to think about it because his gun was already pointed towards my wrist, and I could already hear the familiar drilling sound I only hear at the dentist’s office!
Then – BAM! The first stroke was performed, and I was… okay. He looked at me to check if he should continue, and I said, “yeah keep going”. And onward he drilled.
Wrist Tattoo

It was not as painful as I thought.

In fact, I think I can describe it as more annoying than painful. I was doing the Lamaze breathing method that women in labor use to gain confidence in giving birth. I didn’t even know I was doing it till afterwards… it was kind of instinctual. I remember thinking to myself – “Breathe”. And that’s what I did. And I guess it helped! 

Small Wrist Tattoo
Breathe in... Breathe out.
I don’t think I have a particularly high pain tolerance… I think it’s just that I was overly prepared for it, that the anticipation was a lot worse than the action. It really didn’t hurt! There was one area though where the design was right over a prominent vein…that one stung just a little bit, but really very tolerable overall. 

It was over before I knew it… I think it only took around 15 - 20 minutes for the tattoo to complete… And I LOVE IT! Carlo did an excellent job with the white shadow that made the font pop up! The fact that it didn’t hurt probably also has something to do with his light hands. It’s beautiful!

Now I can tick it off my bucket list! Get a tattoo: Cha-Check!

My birthday tattoo crew! Maui, Carlo and Jungkay :)

From here on out, anytime I feel unsure of myself… or when I get overwhelmed by fear and self doubt, or when I find myself hesitating on the edge and ask myself, “Why?”… All I have to do is look at my left wrist, and BOOM. The courage I need to take a leap of faith will consume me. I will be reminded that I am the type of person that dreams of things that never were, and ask....

Why Not?
Pourquoi pas?

“Pourquoi pas?” is French for “Why not?” :)

Hi There! Have we met before? You look familiar! Those shoes look great on you, by the way! I’m Eartha and I recently decided to quit my job to travel the worrrrld! Join me in my adventures by checking back on my blog, and leaving me a comment or two!
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