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13 Things I learned from getting my first tattoo

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It's been a month since I got my first tattoo, and here's what I've learned

I'd always liked the idea of a tattoo but could never commit to an image. When I finally figured out what I wanted, it took six months before I sat in the chair. Since then, I've learned a few things.

1. Instagram is a great place to find an artist

You can check out their work in advance and see if their style is similar to what you want. I found mine by searching #aztattooers, and then was able to check out the shop to read reviews and look into their cleanliness standards (important).

2. It hurts

It's been a month since I got my first tattoo, and here's what I've learned

Image: Colleen Stinchcombe -- Bleeding during a break

This seems dumb, but even though I knew it hurt, I also knew a bunch of people who had gotten tattoos, so why not me? I tolerated the pain pretty well for the first hour or two, but by hour three I was having to pull out all of my coping techniques — focusing on breathing, music, podcast, silence, texting friends curse words — to get through it. Yeah, this sucker took four to five hours.

3. It's exhausting

Eat a big meal beforehand and bring water, snacks and juice boxes. If you're in the chair for more than 30 minutes, you'll want them. Your body is using a lot of energy to pump you up with adrenaline and endorphins and skin-healing magic. Give it the fuel to do so.

4. It's expensive

Some tattoos are arguably cheap. If you're getting something small off the wall, you might get something for $60 or under. A lot of people would argue you get what you pay for. I'm not here to judge. I am here to say: I really like my tattoo, but it also cost me a lot of money — like, cross-country plane ticket money. But if there's something I think is worth spending money on, it's art that's going to be on my body forever.

More: 15 Emotional stages of getting a tattoo

5. Healing is tedious

The pain dulls fast once a tattoo needle is no longer actively going into your skin. That's the good news. The bad news is, depending on where you got your tattoo, you're going to have to do some finagling to protect your tattoo for the next one to three weeks. It's good to have a buddy around to help you wrap your tattoo for the first few days after your session, and Google some tricks about how to shower without getting your new art wet. I showered with a towel over my arm for two weeks.

6. Your skin will peel

It's been a month since I got my first tattoo, and here's what I've learned

Image: Colleen Stinchcombe -- This was only the beginning of the peeling

Everyone will want to know if the flakes are colored. They are. Don't pick them.

7. You might go through a period of mourning

I haven't experienced this (fingers crossed), but in my obsessive internet searching, I found out it's not rare at all for people who get tattoos to feel an almost instant kind of regret, especially when it's a large or very visible tattoo. It makes sense. You've spent the last 18 (at least) years of your life looking a certain way and now it's changed, and people might even react to you differently as a person. Many early tattoo regretters end up finding peace and learning to love their new ink.

More: 11 Women turn their mastectomy scars into beautiful tattoos

8. People really like tattoos

It's only been a month since I got my tattoo, but I've yet to hear a negative comment — most people want to tell you how awesome your tattoo is and about their own tattoos or tattoo dreams.

9. A surprising number of people have them

Coworkers you had no idea had ink will suddenly be telling you about their 15 different pieces, and you'll also start noticing tattoos on people everywhere you go.

10. Your selfies get a million times cuter

It's been a month since I got my first tattoo, and here's what I've learned

Image: Colleen Stinchcombe — I understand you have nothing to compare this to, but I am telling you right now this is exactly one million times cuter than normal.

Tattoos are basically like having permanently perfect eyeliner or the cutest accessory ever in your photos all the time.

11. You'll have a whole new appreciation for sunscreen

The sun is now the enemy of your art and you will do everything you can to protect it. And since you're already putting it on one area of your body… your skin will thank you.

12. You will start to tailor your fashion around your tattoos

I've taken notice of the "type" of person I look like in different clothes with my tattoos — with a sleeve, my tattoo disappears; in dark colors, I look a little “tough;” in light colors, I look more like a hippie, and in dresses, it seems like I'm going after a pin-up look. I never had a particularly strong "style," but if you do, you might want to consider color, placement and size of your tattoo or you might find yourself wanting a whole new wardrobe, too.

13. You'll want more

I'm already making a five-year tattoo plan.

It's been a month since I got my first tattoo, and here's what I've learned

Image: Giphy

It's been a month since I got my first tattoo, and here's what I've learned

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