The use of ink to adorn the body is nothing new, it’s been happening as early as the 18th century and probably long before that. Our current age, however, is arguably the era of ink in a mainstream sense. Tattoos are not just associated with your personal affiliations or past service anymore, they are now symbols of art and culture. As the meaning of tattoos has grown and expanded, so have the styles and levels of skill. The tattoos that are being created today are often gorgeous, mind-bending, intricate works of true beauty, and their artists are constantly developing even more impressive mastery of this medium. For a visual representation of said mastery, Google the name Peter Aurisch. His cubist tattoos are astounding, and I would be lying if I said that I haven’t considered flying over to Germany and joining the three-month long waitlist for a spot in his chair.

I have a couple tattoos myself, and I have always found them to be an important part of who I am. Each piece of art that I put on my body is a representation of my history and what I find beautiful. I love them, but some people don’t feel quite the same way. My mom, for instance: she didn’t love my first tattoo, and she hasn’t loved the later ones either, but I realized that this decision meant more to me than someone else’s opinion. This was an important factor in my choice to get inked because it confirmed my feelings in the moment and assured me that I would not come to regret these pieces of permanent art at some point in the future. That day still hasn’t come, and I am hopeful that it never will, but that’s a feeling that seems to be rare among those who have gone under the needle. Understanding your reason to get a tattoo and the permanence of such a choice is crucial because at the end of the day, you’re living with that choice on your body for the rest of your life.

We all know that tattoos are getting popular: you can see them on celebrities and friends alike, and there’s a good chance that the last man you saw in a business suit had a little ink beneath his button-down. That being said, getting a tattoo is not the right choice for everyone, and being too hasty with that decision can often lead to emotional and financial stress in the future. Many people will say that tattoos can also negatively affect your chance at employment. Let’s just debunk this myth right now. As long as you aren’t running for political office or adorned on your hands and neck, most tattoos will not hinder your ability to get a respectable job. You might be a little less flexible with your wardrobe choices, but that’s a small price to pay if tattoos are something that you’re passionate about. But be sure that passion is the reason for your choice and not just interest in a current trend. Tattoos in the artistic and entry-level fields are not a surprise to anyone, but you may be interested to hear that medical offices and hospitals are becoming more accepting of tattoos and that Bank of America does not have a strict tattoo policy at all. The company claims to have no restrictions on tattoos, saying that they value diversity and inclusion amongst their employees. A statement like that from a major bank has a big impact: it paints a promising future for those of us who like ink and who wish to graduate to higher levels of education and employment. So if you have been considering a tattoo, and you were fretting about whether or not you could land a job, fret no more. With the changing climate of society, new makeup made solely for tattoo cover ups, and better tattoo removal technology every year, there is little chance that a tattoo will prevent you from achieving any dreams you wish.

So, employment is covered, but what about how your grandma feels? That’s something that I cannot promise will go smoothly. For me, most of the older members of my family have either stated displeasure or kept quiet when it comes to my tattoos. I expected that, so its occurrence did not blindside me. I think that my family also expected this kind of decision from me, so it was never a very big deal in my household. Still, my parents did not approve, and I accepted their feelings, but at the end of the day, it did not stop me from getting more. This may not be how everyone feels, however. If you are extremely concerned with your family, friends, or partner’s view of tattoos, perhaps think twice before you decide to get them. Tattoos mark you in a way that is more than just literal. We can all see that the general consensus of tattoos is migrating away from what it was and becoming a form of art. There are conventions, TV shows, and awards for excellence in the tattoo field. They have delineated from their original function. People now get tattoos for purely aesthetic reasons. Coming generations will likely have more and more tattoos as artists begin to become more available and prices fluctuate. All that being said, there are plenty of people that will see a tattoo on your body and immediately say to themselves, “Unstable! Less professional! Rebel!” You may be related to this person or dating this person. If the idea of receiving judgment from strangers and loved ones is unattractive, seriously consider what will happen when you get your tattoo. Or just get something on your torso.

Regardless of the growing acceptance, tattoos are still largely permanent. This is something that you should not forget or even minimize in your mind. Removal technologies are making amazing and constant strides, but achieving skin identical to its fresh-faced glory is almost impossible. Even if you do shell out the $1,000 to $10,000 needed for the multiple sessions of tattoo removal, your body is not like an Etch A Sketch. You can’t just wipe it clean with the turn of a nob. Depending on the size, placement, age, and color of your tattoo, the number of sessions necessary could be up to 20, and the sensation of each isn’t comparable to a tickle. I have never had a session myself, but I have heard that the pain is pretty brutal. A lot of people make the choice when they’re young and before they have a complete understanding of the meaning of the word “forever.” I got my first tattoo when I was 15, and it’s exactly what you would expect from a 15-year-old. My best friend and I went to a person’s apartment behind an old McDonald’s, and I decided to get a tiny pair of wings on my ankle. Was I fast? Was I obsessed with Greek mythology? No and no, but I liked the little wings, and I still like them today. If you are getting your first tattoo and not dedicated to a life of extreme coverage, I would suggest placing it somewhere that can be easily covered. Put it somewhere private and feel it out for a couple months. Get used to it on your body. You will probably get the itch, most people do—I’m talking about an almost immediate desire to get another, and another after that. Resist the urge and don’t jump back in hastily. Each tattoo is different but all of them have something in common: they are permanent. Every tattoo that you decide to get should be heavily considered unless you’re a tattoo artist. If that’s your profession, go crazy—your body is your canvas—but otherwise, be serious about this decision. Some people that you meet later in life may not understand your choice, and you will face judgment for that. If it’s what you want, though, just hold your head high and know that there is an entire community out there that is open and accepting of what you’ve decided to put on your body.

Tattoos are a very personal decision. It’s not likely that you will negatively impact someone else in a meaningful way by getting a tattoo. All the other people’s voices and opinions on your art are ultimately meaningless if you are happy with what you’ve got. Make sure that the choice is yours and that you actually want it. Consider who you’re getting a tattoo for. One of the most regrettable types of tattoos that I’ve seen is a tattoo for a romantic partner. Say you get someone’s name on your arm and then you break up two years later, what do you do then? You can get it removed or get a cover up, but that’s a whole song and dance. My best advice is to think hard about it first and then think hard about it again. Tattoos are costly and can be painful, but for those who love them, they are a treasure. The tattoo community is a continuously growing and very welcoming one, so you may find yourself showing them off like a brand new sports car. The relationship that you build with an artist that you love is a special cultivation and will bring you back to their shop for many years to come. Beware, because much like potato chips, you can never have just one.