So last weekend, I made a deal with Quinn that if he got his ear pierced like he wanted but was nervous to do, then I’d get something that I too wanted but was also nervous about getting. And this weekend, I got it.

That it, was this:

Serenity in English German and Korean

Yes, it’s real. And I know some family members read this blog so before you freak out, read to the bottom.

A lot my co-workers have tattoos and several of them actually got tattoos while here in Korea. My listening class Head Instructor actually got a tattoo on her ankle to help face her fear of needles and after I heard that story, I decided I should get one too. This wasn’t exactly a split decision kind of thing. I’ve had a slight fear of needles for a while and unfortunately some personal experiences allowed that to blossom into a pretty nasty fear of sharp things being near my wrists, which I feel is 100% rational in certain circumstances but I also feel it in situations that are a little irrational. My fear of needles has actually lessened a lot recently to just being something that I don’t like to deal with, but the fear of sharp things has only gotten worse. Over the years I’ve thought of getting a tattoo to help fully overcome my needle fear so I wanted to kill two birds with one stone: get a tattoo on my wrist. Which also works out because my watch covers it at work, where we aren’t allowed to show tattoos.

I decided on  the words Serenity Gemütsruhe and 언 정 (an jeong) along my wrist. I wanted it to be a single word written in all three languages: English, German and Korea. It actually didn’t take me that long to decide on serenity but when I did, it really felt natural. It’s kind of like a message to myself: strive for serenity and peace of mind (even as you’re getting something permanent etched into your body with a sharp object). Plus it’s German translation, Gemütsruhe, has an umlaut (the ‘u’ that’s happy to see you).

On Saturday, Quinn, Derrika, Vy and I went to Osan to get the tattoo done at the same place where my HI and other instructors have had there’s done. Getting tattoos in Korea is a bit of an… ordeal. You can’t get them from just anyone or its illegal, so going to this guy specifically was a big deal. We ended up getting there really late (around 6pm-ish) but there was still time to get them done. Derrika wanted a tattoo too but was having trouble getting the exact design she wanted down, which gave me about a half and hour to start getting really nervous (as if I wasn’t stressed out in anticipation the rest of the day…) while the tattoo artist sketched the design. However, I got mine first.

Before I start the description of the ordeal, let me just say, I’m really angry at myself. I brought my camera so I could record this (my HI recorded hers) but I left the memory card at home so I could only take a couple pictures. And no one else brought a camera…

Okay, so the tattooing. Vy had left by this point which was probably a good thing because she had a very ‘Just do it and get it over with’ attitude and it was not helping me. The way the tattooist started the tattoo was by printing out a sort of press-on that he would apply to my arm. It took a while to get the press-on image on my wrist because it kept getting wavy as he put it around my arm. But once the needle started, Derrika was standing beside me and Quinn was holding my hand. I have to say, they were both awesome through this whole thing and I’m glad they were there.

And on to the needle! As I expected, I was pretty okay with Serenity getting tattooed on the top of my wrist and I was even kind of laughing at the conversation which Derrika and Quinn were (awesomely) keeping up. It hurt a lot; the needle (as Derrika told me later) was moving really fast which apparently increases the pain. It felt like a knife being dragged across my skin. But I expected pain and squeezing Quinn’s hand was enough to get through it. He later told me he didn’t think I was squeezing it at all. Seriously? My arm cramped up I had my hand clenched so hard (not the one I was getting tattooed of course). Ultimately though, the Serenity was not a bad experience.

Then the Gemütsruhe started. As the G was tattooed on (which hurt even more because it was going over bone) I was still okay but I got silent and started feeling a little nervous. Once the needle started crossing my wrist I pretty much lost it. After all, having the feeling of a knife going across my wrist is not something I wanted to experience but it was a good way of banishing my fears. Again, Quinn and Derrika were totally awesome. They kept talking to me through the whole thing and Derrika was really trying hard to calm me down. At one point she asked me what was my favorite childhood memory, and that was a really thoughtful tactic to use. Unfortunately it backfired because all I could think about was the memories of how I developed this fear.

Literally as soon as the needle got off my wrist I was okay again and even though 언 정 was really painful because it was over bone, I was laughing and talking again almost immediately. Quinn had told me to stare at one point on the wall and were were smiling about the symbolism of me looking straight at the picture of another tattoo of a cross saying ‘SAVIOR’.  Then… the Gemütsruhe came back. I think he had to put another coat of ink on or something. I was really expecting to be okay with it this time because I had already sat through it once, even though it was more painful the second go ’round. I held off as long as I could but I inevitably lost it. I think Derrika and Quinn thought I was okay with it too because they were talking to each other and I remember vaguely seeing a shocked expression on Quinn’s face as I broke down again.

After he was finished with my tattoo, it was Derrika’s turn. She did a great job too. Her’s was much more elaborate than mine and she was under the needle for a lot longer and couldn’t talk because she was getting it near her neck. But she did a great job staying brave despite her last minute doubts. And her tattoo came out beautifully. What she got was very symbolic for her as well.

After she was done I noticed that inside of an umlauted ‘u’, the tattooist has tattooed on two ‘i’s because the print didn’t print out the line to connect them. Say what now? I was not okay with that. So I had to go back under the needle. Once again, I figured I be okay with this and so did Derrika and Quinn. Derrika went off to the bathroom, Quinn sat down in the waiting area and I got back into the tattoo chair. Then the tattooist starting putting the missing bar on… which was… okay… but then his needle came back down again I just yelled out ‘Qu-inn!’ and he came running (Why run? – Because he is awesome). Only for us both to find that it was over. Not so bad the third time.

But in the end, I did it and it looks great. Even though having a tattoo on my wrist will probably(… definitely…) complicate some things in the future, the symbolism of it and the fact that I had the courage to face such a huge fear of mine makes it really worth it and I’m really proud I was able to do that.

Derrika was proud, too. She bought me dinner at Popeye’s afterwards. Why Popeye’s? Because Osan (and Derrika) is awesome.

Umlauts: Always worth the extra pain