This past weekend on December 6th, I got my first tattoo!
Honestly, it hurt more and simultaneously less than I expected it to. I overthink everything—that’s probably one of my “weaknesses” when it comes to the standard job interview questions. It’s not so bad until you realize that’s the root cause of my anxiety. Which is a miracle in itself that I managed to decide on a tattoo and go through with it.
I’ve wanted a tattoo for a long time—I remember discussing possible designs with my mom way back when I was in high school. However, my indecision dragged on and on. Every time I got bouts of depression, I’d tell myself I’d get something to remind me I can get through this—as I have done numerous times before. But every time I was depressed, I’d lack motivation to do anything and having to plan a tattoo amidst all that would be overwhelming. I also didn’t want to rush it. Luckily, I managed to get this tattoo during a time when my mental health was in a fairly decent state!
For the design, I wanted something that was somehow linked to my heritage, but also a reminder of strength. For the longest time, I thought I’d get a hummingbird tattooed. Hummingbirds are small, but strong. But I also felt no special connections to them. I knew I did not want a generic “strength” in Chinese tattooed onto me either. I had at one point when I was younger wanted a pop culture reference tattoo—but gave that up eventually given the whole Harry Potter fiasco with J.K. Rowling.
In more recent times, the idea of a lotus greatly appealed to me. While I’m not strictly buddhist, my grandparents were. I grew up seeing the sacred flower very often in temples, whether it’s carved into the tall wooden pillars, or sculpted as part of the pedestal that Guan Yin sits atop.
A lotus flower grows from river mud. Every night it submerges itself into the water, and. in the morning it rises back up and reopens. In buddhism, it symbolizes rebirth. It’s a great reminder that despite the thick, dirty mud, the flower can rise again day after day.
So then came the dilemma of finding a proper lotus design. Fast forward to 2020. I’ve been following Storm from inknectar for a while. She’s a neotrad tattoo artist based in Vancouver. I messaged her way back in July for my first inquiry, and I knew I’d be visiting Vancouver. I had no idea if I’d even make her waitlist so I was hesitant on that end too. But ultimately, I managed to get a slot for Dec 6th which worked out perfectly! I initially gave Storm from inknectar the vague idea of a lotus flower, but being inspired by what she produces, I realize there was a unique opportunity here to have some sort of pop culture tie-in. One that’s super dear to my heart.
I grew up watching Sailor Moon. It was one of the earliest stories I can recall, and even growing up, I’ve reserved a special place for it in my heart despite not catching up with their latest storylines. I dressed up as Sailor Moon in elementary school, and then many years later, I went to Fan Expo Vancouver as Sailor Pluto.
Sailor Moon made me feel strong. I remember the story my dad likes to tell about my Sailor Moon wand when I was in preschool. One day, when my dad and I were taking a nap, we heard rustling sounds coming from our back door. Realizing someone was trying to break in, my dad starting running towards the door and shouting to make our presence known so the guy would leave. Being like 3 years old, I grabbed the only weapon I had—my sailor moon wand. And I ran to the door to help my dad fend off the attempted burglary, adrenaline running high in my tiny body.
Sailor Moon’s most powerful magical item is the Legendary Silver Crystal. Coincidentally, in the manga and one of the movies, the crystal is shaped as a lotus! I knew that if anyone can make a convincing and vibrant crystal lotus, it’d be Storm.
A lot of tattoo artists don’t necessarily show you the design ahead of time. Storm did send mine over a day in advance and when I opened up my email to see the attached draft she had, I cried. It was so beautiful and I could not wait to have it tattooed!
The process itself was painful. I was reading up on just how much it’d hurt, and some led me to believe it wouldn’t hurt at all. That said, I’m scared of needles. So I was super nervous going in. Storm was amazing in reassuring me on the whole process and being super patient with me the whole time. The initial black lines actually didn’t hurt much at all. But as she started to put on colors, it definitely was stinging. By the time we did the highlights it was very painful.
I’m now waiting on my tattoo to heal. I feel it’s actually healing up surprisingly well, but maybe I just jinxed it? The colours are much duller now that there’s basically a layer of scab over it. I can’t wait for it to fully heal and become a part of me! I honestly thought I’d miss having both my arms bare and I even took a silly picture before going to get my tattoo done so I’d have it as a souvenir. But my left arm has never felt so right. Looking down and seeing the lotus there brings me immense joy 🙂