Six weeks ago, I was inked.
After dizzying myself with concept-crafting, note-taking, researching artists, perusing portfolios, and coming to terms with having my body permanently marked, I offered myself as a human canvas for my blooming heart.
The experience was absolutely wild.
After four weeks of intense daily washing, moisturizing, and healing, I waltzed back into Eclectic Art Tattoo Gallery for round two. Following a friendly “Hey, Duder” and a hug, Geary took to pulling colors from his arsenal of ink. Tiny plastic vials and a gob of jelly lined the tray.
I popped my hoodie on backwards, filling the hood with Goldfish crackers and a granola bar, and hopped on the table. Having already experienced the sting of the needle, I felt confident this second leg would be pie.
When the gun connected to my flesh, a jolt of pain tore through my frame. This sensation was drastically different; more uncomfortable and more severe. Sharper. Burning. Aggressive. The divine calm I’d previously established on the table was immediately dashed, and replaced with full-blown panic.
I shouldn’t have been so assuming.
This was a spectacular kind of agony, far exceeding a single point of contact. This pain was radiant—born from the needles and fired through my limbs, flooding my body with overwhelming sensation. Discomfort felt on a rib was replicated in my shoulder. Hurt felt on my spine was mirrored in my chest. I felt everything; I was on fire.
The pain was constant and unforgiving.
Mentally, I struggled to keep quiet. My mind raced, buzzing like the machine slinging ink behind me. With each drag across my back, my body begged for relief. I felt overstimulated, overwhelmed, and suddenly small facing the remaining 5 hours and 45 minutes of this monstrous session. I ached for the hand of a loved one; someone that could absorb my hurt and offer a spot of comfort.
But I had only myself in my head saying, “You are so much stronger than all of this. Just keep swimming.”
This experience was an incredible test of stillness and patience.
Despite the white-hot heat saturating my nerves, I didn’t move. I didn’t tense. My facial expression did not change. To the curious bystander, I looked stoic and unaffected. I remained completely still, unmoved by my misery, and found solace in my breath. With each deep inhale, I drew in my suffering. With each guttural exhale, I forced it from my body.
There’s a life lesson tucked in there somewhere.
My mom is convinced childbirth won’t phase me.
After six hours locked in a controlled state of shock, I rose from the table completely exhausted with a growling stomach and bloodshot eyes. I felt incredibly human.
I needed Kraft, Motrin, and a pillow.
I hugged Geary goodbye, thankful for his time, commitment, and talent, and dragged myself home. Within 15 minutes post-journaling, I tapped out. It was 8:30 p.m.
“Tonight Geary and I finished my tattoo. I am physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. I’ve never pushed my body so hard in my life. But despite so much pain, I was immovable. This is a beautiful thing, and I am so proud.”
—Just Keep Swimming, 2.3.15
Two weeks later, and I’m head over heals for my mini masterpiece.
It’s exactly as I desired; a tattoo with the same beauty and impact as my canvas. Something I won’t mind spending forever with. Something with enough punch to sock you in the nuts, and enough intrigue to invite you back for more.
Something that, like my words, tells a story.