I got tattooed (twice!)

If you follow me on Instagram, the news that I got tattooed comes as no surprise but in the spirit of keeping this space updated, I figured I’d share a little about my experience.

I have wanted a tattoo from as early as I can remember. My dad has a tattoo of a tiger ripping out his arm and a spider tattooed on his shoulder which he got when he was in the army. I remember being 4-years old and pretending the spider was crawling up his back, dreaming of a time that I’d be able to get my own tattoo. I don’t know what it is that intrigued me about them so much, but from a young age, I was fascinated by people’s tattoos and the stories or memories each one held.

Despite my excitement over his tattoos, my dad always told me how much he regretted it and how painful it was – so I was cautious about getting my own. When I was about 13 or 14-years old, my mom got her very first tattoo, which was closely followed by her second, and third, and fourth… I think she has about 6 or maybe even 7 now, including a giant one on her rib cage, of a phoenix rising (my favourite!)

If you’ve met my husband, chances are you have seen four of his five tattoos. Darren has always had a thing for deep lyrics, which is what covers his arms. The one says, “In case of fire, break the glass.” which serves as a reminder that there’s always a way. And then, my favourite, is “The mountains I have climbed, help me enjoy the fall.” which is from a song by Escape the Fate, a simple reminder that the good makes up for the bad.

Then, there’s the tattoo of regret. My darling husband had a marriage proposal tattooed on his butt, and the funniest part? It’s not even my name. Wahahahaha… he made every mistake from the handbook of bad tattoo ideas; a tattoo, on his butt… with a marriage proposal… to his ex!

I have been itching to get my own tattoo for at least 2-years now, but you know how life goes, as soon as the stars seem to align; your kid is old enough to go without you for longer than a minute, you have the money, you have the time, you have the design… something happens. Well, as life would have it, the stars aligned and I was lucky enough to win a full day rate at one of the most highly rated tattoo studios in Port Elizabeth, East Coast Kustoms.

Being a huge fan of their work, I have followed East Coast Kustoms on Facebook for quite a while and had even planned to go with Darren and take full advantage of their Valentine’s promotion earlier this year (again, the stars… they just kept messing with me and well… that didn’t go to plan either!) Last month, they hosted this epic competition where you just had to like, tag and share a post and well… you could win. So I did that… forgot I did it… and then got a notification from a friend tagging me in the winner’s announcement.

A day rate is equivalent to 6-hours of artwork (valued at R3,800) which is basically like putting me inside a candy shop and telling me I can have all the chocolate without ever feeling sick… pretty epic, right?

The thing is, I was a little bit afraid as it was my first tattoo and I didn’t want to go too big and then have regrets later. So, I opted for 2 simple designs that I have been hanging on for the longest time.

I was also allowed to choose whichever tattoo artist I liked and settled on Matthew, who is only 22 years old but is so incredibly talented that I’d be stupid not to ask for him. But just in case, I went and looked at Matthew’s Instagram page (follow him, here.) and well… his most recent tattoo (at the time) was this fantastic piece.

And well… you guys KNOW that The Flash is my favourite superhero of all time (see here and here) and so I took it as some sort of sign from the tattoo Gods, and chose Matthew. I later learnt that Matthew has challenged himself to tattoo the whole of gen 1, which I think is a pretty unique and rad idea and affirmed that he was the perfect fit.

After confirming my appointment, I was pretty nervous to tell anyone because I was scared that I’d chicken out last minute or would be one of those people that faint on the spot. Thankfully, the staff at East Cost Kustoms were super assuring and made me feel really comfortable with great music, easy conversations and a confident artist.

My first tattoo is a family of elephants. Last year, some of my most treasured days were spent at Addo photographing elephants. I find them to be one of the most beautiful and majestic animals to walk this planet. On my 25th birthday, my only wish was that we spend another day riding around Addo. The day was long; Axl nagged a lot of the time, it was really hot, we were all sick, and I was struggling to get good pictures, but at sunset, I stuck my head out the sun roof, looked behind us and right there was the most incredible view I had ever seen; families of elephants walked in groups together to the watering hole. Little babies hung onto their mom’s tails, fathers stopped at the road cautiously examining us and moms looked back to watch that all their kids were in tow. In some cultures, elephants symbolize strength, but to me… they put everything in perspective. They remind me just how small we really are, and how beautiful and grand nature is, but mostly, they remind me of being rooted in family values. So, I chose to get a tattoo of 4 elephants marching on.

The second tattoo is of a calla lily. I have shared this story before, but figured I’d just copy it here, “I’ve never shared the turning point in my life. Grade 8 was the year my tiny world fell apart; I missed more school days than I attended, my parents fought until things turned violent, and on the days that I did attend school I was bullied, which resulted in depression and anxiety that hadn’t yet been diagnosed and to top it off, my mom and I were being stalked by a man. Quite frankly, 2008 was a fuck up and when I asked my school counselor for help, she told me… “if this continues, I’ll have to call Child Services who will take you away.” I remember lying in the bath on my 15th birthday and knowing for sure that I’d rather die than face another day. Everything was SO out of control and even now, thinking back, I don’t quite know what stopped me or why I chose another day, but I did… I always do.

These days, it’s easier; I know what helps me cope and what are my triggers, I know that it’s ok not to always have my shit together, and that when it does fall apart, I can find safety and comfort in the arms of my husband. But most of all, I choose to have faith and  hold onto hope, at least for the sake of my children.

Lilies are tremendously special to me.. I remember being in the darkest of places, but for some reason waking up on a Sunday morning earlier enough to go to church with my dad. They called the youth to the front, and again, I felt a pull to go. It was there, that a stranger laid her hands on my shoulders and whispered in my ear that I’m just like the lilies in her garden that had been trampled and destroyed by her dogs, but with the tiniest bit of rain, I’ll flourish. I remember sobbing and having no idea why… I had become so numb but right there, without ever looking up at the stranger, I broke. That day, I went home and noticed that right outside my bedroom window was a bush of lilies blooming from the rain the night before. It was my aha moment.”

So, I decided to get a tattoo of a lily as a reminder that even on the worst days, it DOES get better, I just have to have hope and be kinder to myself so that I can flourish like the lilies.

Of course, actually getting tattooed was nowhere near to as bad as I had imagined and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I have my next 3 tattoos already planned. Yes, I am sort of kicking myself for not eating all the chocolate and getting all of them done when I had the opportunity to because really, my tattoos only took up like an hour (hahahaha!) but honestly, I don’t mind. I am so grateful to have won and to have had the opportunity to get my first two tattoos, and besides the team at East Coast Kustoms are so incredible that I am quite happy to pay for my next dozen tattoos anyway.

So, what am I planning next?

You’ll just have to wait and see but it might have something to do with the Spurs 😉

Heads up, East Coast Kustoms is running two epic giveaways on their Facebook page to win vouchers (one is for a day rate valued at R3,800 and the other is a R5,000 voucher in partnership with Auto Logic) PLUS every Wednesday, they have a buy one and get one free on all micro tattoos for R400 (I already have 2 in mind!)

P.S. Nope, this is not sponsored and I doubt the peeps at East Coast Kustoms know or even care that I am writing this blog post, but I am just so freakin happy with my experience and I wanted to tell you about their insane discounts and promotions because I will definitely be back. (Goodbye shopping at MAC… Our time was sweet, but I have too many ideas, a blank canvas and a pretty rad tattoo spot to visit again soon.)

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