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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Oh, it would hurt. But it would be worth it. To the tune of buzzing needles, I opened the door of Bodytech Tattooing and Piercing. The safe sounds of West University Avenue - cars passing, music playing and horns honking - disappeared and reality set in.

I was about to make a possibly painful commitment - to have something permanently stamped onto my body. My entourage, comprised of my roommate Sarah, my friend Katie and my significant other, Luis, followed me into the lobby. I didn't hear screaming from those who were getting holes torn through their skin or ink drilled into their hides. Maybe this was a good sign.

I gulped and told the employee behind the front counter that I had an appointment for 2 p.m. At about 2:15 p.m., Alex Gama was ready for me. I climbed onto a dentist chair-like contraption. A woman lay on her belly on a chair across the room while a tattoo artist carved away at her shoulder blade. I blinked and tried to pay attention as Alex outlined the sterilization process to me.

"I'll tell you one thing," Alex said as he carefully laid the stencil on my ankle. "This is the cleanest place I've ever been to."

He moved to Gainesville from Hawaii, and he informed me that he didn't use a numbing chemical when tattooing his clientele.

"Does anyone freak out during their first time?" I asked.

"Of course," Alex replied. "Some cry, some throw up - others faint. You're not chickening out on me, are you?"

As his needle drew closer to the spot, I thought of the story behind my tattoo. My favorite book, "East of Eden," is about overcoming life's obstacles and ruling over sin. The ability to discover inner strength is encompassed within one word that is central to the book and is something God said to Cain in the Bible - "timshel."

Timshel, or "thou mayest," means I may do anything, I may defeat every obstacle and I may control my own destiny. But could I have that permissive phrase, spelled out in bold, black Hebrew letters, carved into my skin?

I was shaking as Alex's needle began to break through my skin and, yes, it hurt. I clutched Luis' hand the whole time, eyes wide and mind focused on the pain that came and went.

Take a needlepoint pen or a sharpened pencil and draw a deep line onto your leg. Scratch a patch of sunburned skin really hard. Or get a tattoo - they all feel about the same.

It was painful for a few moments here and there, but nothing to cry about.

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In the following days, the healing process hurt more than getting the tattoo.

Hardest yet was the process of getting used to the tattoo, and letting my parents know - sorry, Mom and Dad!

If you decide to get a tattoo, I advise planning the design and then thinking about it for a long time. I thought about this particular tattoo for almost three years though.

Ask a lot of questions about the sterilization process and ask to watch the tattoo artist remove the needle from the packaging. The pain level increases at different parts of the body, so ask questions about that too. Think you can't do it? Timshel.

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