My First Tattoo

Since I was 18, I've wanted a tiny tattoo - but I didn't know they existed. Then, I read about how Lea Michele had 11 tiny tattoos at the time, and I knew it was a thing. So, once I decided on what I wanted, I spent the next four years researching, and last weekend I finally made it happen. 

Admittedly, I'm a planner, and as this is something permanent, I wanted everything to be perfect. I'm so glad I took my time because the entire process exceeded my expectations and I couldn't be happier. 


Once I decided on a tattoo of the number 34, other meanings kept popping up along the way. While there is so much behind this tattoo for me, it primarily stands for three different things.

First, Psalm 34. That passage reminds me to choose joy and practice gratitude even (and especially) when things aren't going well. 

Next, my favorite quote is "Be Strong. Be Accountable. Never Complain." This is something Navy SEAL Brendan Looney often said. He graduated from college with my husband in 2004, and was killed in action in 2010. His remarkable story, as well as that of his best friend Travis Manion, is documented in the book Brothers Forever

I love this quote because it doesn't mean that you can't feel sad or scared or frustrated - but when you do, to choose to find the good things in spite of the situation (see a theme yet?). And, it has 34 letters. 

Finally, one of my favorite movies is been The Count of Monte Cristo. There are two scenes that really resonated - one, when Dantes is in prison and is learning from the Priest, who says, "So neglect becomes our ally." Another, when giving Albert's birthday toast, the Count tells of how the young man says "Do your worst, for I will do mine." As books are often different than movies, I set out to read this (very long!) Dumas novel and find these quotes in their original context. SPOILER ALERT: the book and the movie are two practically different stories with some of the same characters and mostly the same theme. Nonetheless, I was reading the book one night and, unlike the movie, I learned that while he was in prison, Dantes was stripped of his identity and just given a number. You guessed it, number 34. 

So, once again, this reminds me to work hard and do the right thing even when it doesn't seem that things are working out - because that's when you learn and grow the most.

Basically, I went through a massive shift in what I thought was going to happen with my life (be a professional dancer, then dance teacher and therapist) and what did happen (forced to stop dancing due to injury, then doctors taking 10 years figuring out what what truly wrong, culminating with hip reconstruction a couple of years ago). I've wholeheartedly made peace with it, and I'm ready to meet this next part of my life - whatever it brings - with hope and joy. This tattoo is an outward reminder of the inner strength and courage I've gained, and to remind myself that I'm capable of far more than I ever imagined. 


While it went through dozens of iterations, I finally decided on a fine line tattoo of the literal number 34 in black ink. I couldn't, however, decide on the font. One thing I felt was missing from the tattoo was a connection to my husband, aka the GOAT. One day, I asked him to write 34 several times on a piece of paper, and fell in love with his version:


Location + Artist 

A huge part of my story is when I moved to New York City, so throughout my research I kept coming back to a tattoo parlor in my old neighborhood called West 4 Tattoo because they're masters of minimal, tiny, fine line tattoos. I Insta-stalked a few artists whose work I loved, but focused on three in particular and set up an appointment with Nick (@WickyNicky).

West 4 Tattoo

Y'all - he's so, so good. His detail his amazing and he was such a professional. He was so kind and warm, and I felt really taken care of because this was my first tattoo. Honestly, everyone at West 4 was such a pleasure to work with, especially since I had to set up my appointment remotely (I'm in DC). 

And so...

If you're interested in a tattoo, my suggestions is to do your research first. Even if you want something that doesn't have a ton of meaning, make sure you know exactly what you want and exactly who will be doing it. You are placing complete trust in your artist, so make sure you are comfortable and can clearly communicate your wishes. Then enjoy the process! We made a day trip out of this, ate some of my favorite pizza and walked around my neighborhood. It was an incredible day I'll never forget. 

Thanks for stopping by! -JY

New York is always a good idea...

New York is always a good idea...