10+ years of planning comes to fruition

Ok, this bonus page is going to work a little bit differently than I normally do them. I'm just going to post all of the various pictures that Laura (who's supported my decision to get the tattoo right from when I voiced my intent) took of the tattoo throughout the process, and the text on the left will mostly be unconnected to the pictures specifically, seeing as I wasn't the one who was 'making' it. Also, mad thanks to Laura for having taken all of these pictures while I was sitting there getting tattooed. Warning, pics are about 1 meg apiece. But this picture is the last photo of my back prior to it having a tattoo on it. The "before" picture as it were. But I'm guessing that some people may be curious as to why I decided to get this permanently emblazoned on my back. And I want to answer the inevitable questions that people may be thinking, but may not be willing to ask me in person. But seriously, I have no problem with anyone asking me in person about it.

However, I realize that a lot of people may have always wanted to ask someone about a tattoo, but just don't want to ask in person. Or at least that how I tend to be around tattoos, so I assume others may be similar. I'm going to ask those questions for you, and then answer them. If you have more, bring up more.

As a more general note however, as a testament to my commitment to this decision, for approximately 4 weeks prior to getting the tattoo, I made absolutely sure to keep that shoulder as out of the sun as possible. I would apply SPF60 sunscreen anytime out in the sun, wear multiple layers of shirts to elimiate the sun from hitting it, and if I was still worried, I applied sunscreen under the shirt as well. I went by the idea that if you hold the cloth from your shirt up to a light, the amount of light that you can see coming through the fabric is representative of how much is hitting your skin. I've come to learn that a plain white shirt is equivalent to SPF7, while a wet white t-shirt... say while swimming with one on... is SPF3.
The reason for all of this is that the more tanned your skin is, the worse your tattoo will turn out in the end. All recommendations I've found online indicate to avoid tanning, and thus I did. I also wanted to be absolutely certain I didn't accidentally get a sunburn immediately prior to the tattoo appointment.

Using much the same mindset, I'm taking equally good care of it after having received it. Seeing as it is essentially an open wound for the next while, I do not allow anyone other than myself to touch that area, and when I do to clean it, I first wash my hands thoroughly with antibacterial Dove soap (recommended by the artist), rinse thoroughly, then wipe the area clean with only water. After that, I apply Webbers vitamin E ointment (also recommended by the artist), and this is done twice a day, with the suggestion that it be applied no more than 3 times a day max. Yes, I'm putting a lot of effort into it, but seeing as this is a lifetime commitment, a few weeks of being extra careful and making sure I've covered all of my bases regarding this is worth the time. No sense in potentially making it less vibrant or clear due to carelessness.

Now, let's do it in a question-answer format, as that'll let me organize my thoughts about it better:

You realize this is permanent, right?
It damn well better be. I didn't get this because I 'like it now' or whatever. I want this to be a part of me for the rest of my life.

Did you do this to try to appear "tough"? Or to appeal to a certain person/group/demographic? Basically... "why" in general?
No. If you're getting tattoo specifically for anyone other than yourself, then you're getting it for the wrong reasons, at least in my eyes. If you have different reasons for getting a tattoo, more power to you. I'm in no position to, nor am I trying to judge another person's reasons. There's a story behind every tattoo, and every one of them I'd honestly enjoy hearing, no matter how mundane or over the top. This tattoo however is is a decision that I made for myself, and was not done with the objective of eliciting a response or reaction from anyone else.

You realize you're going to have to explain to people what that is, right?
I'm perfectly fine with that. I believe I will quite enjoy telling people of its meaning to me, essentially given the answer to the next question. I honestly WANT people to ask about it, because generally I like telling stories (people familiar with my geocache logs can attest).

Why a Metroid?
The Metroid image has seen me through a lot. It's been with me from high school, to graduation, university, ALL my jobs, meeting Laura, marrying Laura, ALL of my friends, the death of dad, and the death of mom. This image has seen me through all of that. It's been with me through just about every major life event that a person can go through. Being able to express myself and my thoughts essentially through Metroid on the website really helped me work through it, since I basically have a hard time talking about things like that in person. Somehow, just putting some of my thoughts out to the anonymous masses through the webpage really got me through the roughest of things. It's also been a part of my life through the happiest, greatest points in my life as well such as marrying Laura. Metroid has in some form or another been with me through all the good and bad in my life, and I want it to be with me for the rest as well.

How did you choose the tattoo artist?
I checked out online reviews for about a dozen different tattoo parlours in the city, and had specifically examined the work posted online for 9 of them. Of those 9, I met face-to-face with three of them, essentially interviewing them as to how well they thought they could pull it off. I got a lot of insight from these meetings, and the result of this is me having picked the tattoo artist that would do the work. It was this artists style of tattooing that best fit the style that I wanted. Apparently his dad was an Italian-style painter (if I recall our conversation correctly), so having learned a lot about painting growing up, he applies those techniques to his tattooing. More details about the artist Aarom are below.

How did you pick the location on your body for the tattoo?
I was actually quite specific about the location. I wanted a spot that was easy to display, and would be unobtrusive the rest of the time. The spot was essentially picked through both where I wanted it (the back), and to be as little of an annoyance as possible to everyone. Also taken into account was my most common sleeping or sitting positions, and how it would sit as such. For the 'healing' process though, gotta say... there's a lot of sleeping on my stomach, which I'm not usually used to. But hey, a few weeks of minor annoyance I can put up with for a lifetime committment.

How much did it hurt? What was the process like?
Barely hurt at all. Laura can attest that I didn't even whimper from the start. At the very start, it stung about as much as say... a wasp bite. That was probably just the initial not-knowing-what-to-expect though. The next 10 someodd minutes it felt about akin to mosquitoes biting me repeatedly. After that, I barely even noticed it and it felt somewhat numbed, unless it hit a sensitive spot... which was back to feeling like a mosquito bit me again, and quickly disappeared.
The artist was telling me that it's generally never the pain that causes any problems... it's peoples' realization of "hey, this guy is doing something that will NEVER come off. This is here forever." A lot of people apparently hold their breath without realizing it due to this, and may come close to passing out because of doing so.
Generally speaking, I was relaxed, and chatted with the guy. We found a few common hobbies or likes and it was basically just a relaxing few hours of talking about games or whatever. For the after-tattoo 'pain', it doesn't even feel like a bad sunburn... just a minor sunburn at worst. Right from when I left the tattoo parlour, I barely noticed it feel different at all. 5 days in there's a lot of skin flaking, known some places as 'onion skin', but which is essentially like a sunburn peeling, with some minor itching. All very ignorable, really.

Have you thought about what this will look like when you're old? Are you willing to describe what it is to younger people who don't recognize it?
Well obviously. It would have been ridiculously foolish to have gotten a tattoo without having taken this into serious consideration. With proper care, the tattoo should experience minimal fading over the years. A sunscreen of 30 or higher is recommended anytime it's exposed to the sun. Since I generally wear SPF60 when outside, this should not be a concern. The artist also informs me that due to improved tattoo technology in the intervening decades since they started widely being done, current tattoos should experience fewer problems than what plagued previous generations' tattoos.
However, I'm not naive enough to think that it will never fade at all, or have some minor blurring over time. These I am fine with, and fully accept that this may/will befall it. This is a story about a significant part of my life that I perfectly accept the need to answer questions about what it is, why it may look wrinkly or faded down the road, or what I was thinking. It's a tale about a part of my life that I'm willing to tell again and again.

How did you pick that specific Metroid image?
The original image is actually a little bit different, and was one of the 'gallery' images available through playing the game Metroid Prime on Gamecube. Thanks to the amazing help of a Planet Zebeth fan Christine Gardner, she was able to turn the 'bluer' parts green (because Metroids are GREEN, not blue! I still think that the original with a blue outline just looks silly), fix the teeth such that they were properly visible after changing the background from black to white, and elimiate the haze around the outside which I disliked. I didn't just use an arbitrary Metroid picture, I knew the picture that I wanted, but had it modified such that I liked it even more than the original. In that respect, this is probably thus far a unique tattoo. However, I'm not one of the types who doesn't want others to copy this. The pic edited by Christine Gardner is available here for your own use.

Where/when did you get it done?
At Iron Lotus in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on September 14th, 2013 (the touchup being done on January 18, 2014). The specific artist there is Aarom Hemmersbach, who has his own webpage available here. Give it a look-over if you're curious about other work that he's done.
But I made sure that this tattoo parlour and artist was reputable, recommended by others I know in person, had high reviews elsewhere, and uses sterile needles and supplies. Nowadays this isn't nearly as much of a worry, since the worry about legal reprecussions will generally keep any reputable tattoo parlour from cutting corners in regards to safety and cleanliness. From my limited experience here however, it was very clean, professional, and the artists here did not hesitate to tell someone that a tattoo idea they may have is not suitable to be tattooed (as I heard multiple artists on different occasions talk other people out of tattoos that simply wouldn't work well). Aarom however loved the pic, and was confident that he could do a good job on it.

How much did it cost? Was it expensive?
I paid exactly $250 for the tattoo, and sat in the chair for an hour and 45 minutes. This was slightly higher than what most other tattoo shops quoted me (some were as low as $150), however for a long-term investment such as this one, very little consideration was given to the cost factor. Besides, $200 to $250 is a pretty minimal difference given you can have vastly different artist skills from one place to the next. I had discovered that all of the tattoo places I visited charge by time, not colour/black and white, size, what it is, etc. For the size that I wanted (which I was also quite specific about), the average price was $200. So while it was a healthy chunk of change, it wasn't close to breaking the bank for me. Once I knew the average, I essentially disregarded price as an issue, unless the place for some bizarre reason wanted to charge 10 times what the average was or some such. A situation like this did not come up during my search for the right tattoo artist.

Are you worried that this will affect your future job prospects? How much respect you receive from others?
Not even slightly, and there's countless problems with this type of question. This is a very obsolete way of looking at people in society, and I encourage you to embrace the present and future instead of the past. A) I have a job that I quite enjoy as is, so making decisions based on the assumption that I will somehow lose this job, with any future job prospects hinging on a non-offensive tattoo hidden beneath a shirt on my back is quite ludicrous. B) I'd rather not work for a company that's going to make a snap judgement about my work ethic based purely on a hidden tattoo that will never show itself in the workplace. C) The current day and age is such that as the younger generations (such as mine, and one or two above me) come into power more, tattoos are becoming more commonly seen. This is simply moreso becoming 'the norm' nowadays. D) I'm not sure where other people who might be reading this are located, but I'm in Canada, where generally speaking nobody could care even slightly less about if a person has hidden tattoos like this.

Are you happy with it? Are you aware that the left of the central 3 orbs seems slightly misaligned? Are you aware of <insert perceived mistake here>?
I am well aware of this, thank you, and I absolutely love it regardless of that. I could beat myself up forever about the fact that it wasn't absolute perfection, but very few things in life are. I could have kept hemming and hawing about not wanting to get it done, because "it might not turn out perfect", but if I start down that line of thought, I would never do anything with my life if I keep waiting for perfection to present itself. As well, keep in mind that the picture is only the starting point. The whole point of picking a tattoo artist is because they use a style that you want to incorporate into the image. It's more of a collaboration between your vision, and the tattoo artist's style, so naturally it's unlikely to appear as an exact photocopy of the original image. I also realize that by including very close-up pics, it will allow people to scrutinize it closer and locate more flaws. I'm fine with this for the above reason. And besides, Metroids have always been in my eyes somewhat gelatinous inside, so the orbs not being absolutely symmetrical is fine regardless. Any other mistakes you believe are on there (perhaps it seems ever so slightly squished vertically as well), I am perfectly fine with.
In all honesty, I fully believe that Aarom pulled it off far better than the vision I had in my head for it. I had debated whether to include a black outline around the Metroid or not, and Aarom pulled off the edging around the Metroid better than I could have ever imagined. I'm ridiculously proud of the quality of this, Aarom did an absolutely phenomenal job, and I would recommend him to anyone who wants a tattoo of his style.

The Metroid doesn't "pop". It doesn't look 3D. It doesn't look like the original image. It doesn't look like <insert preferred style of art here>.
There's a very specific reason for this. It isn't supposed to, so there's no reason it would. There's obviously differences between the art styles of different tattoo artists. As has been stated, I checked out a multitude of different artists' styles, and familiarized myself with a wide variety of tattoo styles, so I would be able to make the most informed decision I could about this. This specific look is representative of the style I wanted.

Are you concerned that others are going to judge you based on your appearance?
I assume they will, and I'm ok with that. I went into this fully realizing the ramifications of my decision to do it, and I fully accept how this will affect myself and those who associate themselves with me. I think most people who know me know that I don't take big decisions like this lightly.

Do you have any regrets?
Absolutely none. I'm as firm in my decision to have gotten this tattoo now (also 4 months later) as I was 6 months ago when I booked the appointment with the tattoo artist. There was literally zero hesitation when the day drew nearer. Most tattoo parlours have a deposit of $50, so they at least get a little bit of money if someone books an appointment but then bails when they realize that they no longer want it. When first booking the tattoo appointment, I not only paid that $50 deposit, but pre-paid $200 for the tattoo. Apparently, this is very uncommon, as most people want to pay the minimum deposit possible, due to worried that they may bail out. I had no hesitations 6 months ago, and that followed through right up until now. When the artist first touched the needle to my skin, I didn't think "oh my god, this is never coming off", but rather "yeah, that doesn't hurt nearly as much as I anticipated. Do your thing, man." Generally speaking, in my life... if I make a major, life-altering decision, I do all of the research possible from as many sides of the issue as possible. I make sure I'm well educated on the subject, and do my homework to make sure that what I'm getting myself into will turn out as much like I want it to as possible. In this respect, I believe I was absolutely successful.

So are you addicted to getting tattoos yet?
This is an actual question that I've been asked. I keep being told that getting a tattoo is addictive, and once you have one you want more... but I have absolutely zero urge to get another one right now. I may be mistaken, but I've heard that you can experience a 'high' while getting a tattoo and for a few hours afterwards due to your brain releasing a rush of endorphins, and this is partially what makes the experience addictive. I however experienced none of that. I felt a slight giddyness which I attributed moreso to the "I finally got around to it" feeling, but felt essentially normal (minus the slight sunburn feel) after leaving. I don't know if it was because I was so calm during the process, or because I was so fully prepared for it that I had no hesitation about it, or some other reason. One way or the other, I had put a full decade of thought into this tattoo, and I have no urge to follow it up with another one anytime in the remotely near future. That's not to say that I've written it off forever, but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for me to head back into a tattoo parlour.



Pic to be posted after some even longer period of time has passed.
One last thing... why this? Why did you answer a pile of questions nobody has directly asked, or put down all this information most people don't care even slightly about anyway?
The goal of this page is to act as a basic informational regarding tattoos, and to inform people of the information I've collected about them (I did a ton of research). I'm aware that there will at least be a small number of people who may have always wanted a tattoo, but don't have any information regarding them, don't know where to start looking it up, or generally don't have the time to try to look up a lot regarding it. I'm hoping to contribute just a little bit to people's understanding of a subject they may not understand, but may have enough of an interest in it to bother reading through this. If nobody reads this, that's fine too, but at least it's available. And if you have more questions about tattoos, who knows, I may be able to at least point you in the right direction since I've familiarized myself with a fair amount regarding them. But by all means, don't go taking my word as the end-all, be-all knowledge base... I hope I'm just providing a good helping of information to work with, and I absolutely encourage people interested in learning more to do their own research into it. And if more people were familiarized with this form of expression, the world would be a better place as a whole. As well, I'm well aware that for those that know me in person, they may have others come up to them and ask them "hey, WTF is that thing tattooed on James?" They may choose to answer them by either ridiculing it/brushing the question off/etc, or filling the person in on the reasoning behind it. I can respect any choice about which option they wish to take, but I want to at least give people the option to be capable of choosing the latter. If this page wasn't here, that optional response would be incapable of existing. For that reason, I made this page as informational and documentational as possible, hopefully without it being too boring. And just maybe, in some minor way, this page will assist in influencing others to take life and one's decisions in it more seriously. I sadly see far too little of that in a lot of people.



Pic to be posted after about a year.

If you have any other questions that I haven't brought up though and were curious, by all means, send me a message on facebook or email me, and (next time I check email... it may be a few days to a week or so between how often I check, so Facebook will be faster) I'll respond as best I can. In my circles, tattoos are seen as mysterious and almost taboo... something one must hide from society, lest they be judged harshly. My goal is to take a lot of that mystery out of tattoos, and essentially be as open of a book as I can about it. I've done an absolute TON of research on them prior to this from dozens of different sites, so if that knowledge can be of use to anyone else... let me know and I can try to help or at least hopefully give you a shove in the right direction.
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