First Day/Workplace Accommodations

So I started my new job today and I can already tell this is going to be so much of a better fit for me. In addition to being closer to home and thus closer to friends and family, my immediate supervisor is much more understanding of my unique challenges as an individual on the autism spectrum and thus much more willing to provide the necessary accommodations for me to be able to perform at my best.

The most notable thing he did was to put me in a very secluded office toward the back of the building. This will allow me the limited-distraction environment I need in order to be able to excel at my job. At my old job I had an office right in the main hallway and that was a linked to the conference room. Yep; one door went to the hall and the other to the conference room. As such, I had countless people cut through my office to get to the conference room as opposed to going through the lobby. In this new setting, hardly anyone will be able to barge in unannounced or unwelcome. As it will be out of the way, only if someone really needs to consult with me will be inclined to go out of their way to come visit with me in my office. As my job involves a lot of highly technical information and some intense mathematical calculations, the limited distraction environment is a must for me.

I really struggled in the beginning when I started doing drafting, not going to lie. My old company only provided me limited training and the rest I’m largely self-taught. When asked if adequate hands-on training would be provided for the new software I’ll be using, they said they’d absolutely be willing to provide that training. I’m not one who can learn by sitting in a classroom and listening to a lecture. I have to get my hands dirty. There’s a disconnect between written/spoken word and doing for me.  I require a little bit of patience but I usually get something after a few repetitions of doing it myself (the first couple with a guide).

Of course, having a secluded office will also mean I can have a resistance band and a pair of dumbbells for me to do some light exercise throughout the day to get the blood flowing again. This is essential for me to remain focused and perform optimally.

As a side note, my new company has absolutely no problem with tattoos or piercings so that is not a worry for me. I know some companies are royal sticks in the mud about it but not this one. Glad to know there are a lot more forward-thinking companies out there who don’t judge one’s talent or ability by how he/she chooses to decorate his/her body. As I have more new ink planned in the near future (and maybe a new piercing or two – trying to decide if I have the nerve to get an industrial/bar on one or both sides), I can rest easy knowing whatever art I add to me will not be a cause for dismissal or a modified dress code.

Aside from working on a cold, I’d say it was a good first day at my new job. Once I adapt to the new routine (worst of which is getting up an hour earlier – my hours are 7-4 as opposed to 8-5). I’ll just have to adjust my sleep schedule to match.

Anyway, things are looking up for sure. Here’s hoping I settle in soon and that things will be much better for me moving forward.

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Demonstration: Why Needle Piercings Are Superior

I was changing my earrings this morning and decided to take a second and do this as a quick demonstration for one of the many reasons why needle piercings are superior to gun piercings. Take a look at this picture:

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You see that light shining through the hole? There you go. The hollow needles used for professional piercings actually create a hole. It might not sound pleasant to have a complete chunk taken out of you but it really is much better because that allows the jewelry to be easily accommodated – it just slides right in. Compare this to a gun piercing that doesn’t actually remove any flesh at all and just pushes it aside by forcing a blunt stud through the earlobe (or whatever else you’re getting pierced).

The best analogy I know to compare the two piercing methods is punching a hole in a stack of paper with the tip of a pair of scissors vs. using a hole punch. The scissors don’t actually cut the paper – they tear it and lo and behold you can still fold the torn paper back on itself and close it. A hole punch takes a hole out of the paper cleanly and effortlessly. Then when you go to put said stack of papers in a binder which is easier to put in the binder? I rest my case.

Sure, most people who get gun piercings have no problems, but I’ve know some people struggle to put jewelry in theirs to the point of almost re-piercing it when they change it. I’ve never had those problems, EVER.

Keep in mind this is not a large piercing either. What you see above is just a standard 14g piercing. Nothing special, yet light still shines through it. Good luck doing that with a gun piercing. Most of the time whatever hole is left by those is tiny and why you often have to finagle the jewelry into place.

If this doesn’t convince you I don’t know what will. Please do not get piercings at the mall. Go to your local professional and have it done correctly. It will no doubt me more expensive and slightly more time consuming but the results will be so much better.

Thank you.

Two Year Ink Anniversary

January 2nd is a special sort of anniversary for me – it marks the anniversary of the day I got my first tattoo.

I got my first tattoo two years ago today, on January 2nd, 2016. I still recall in vivid detail that night. It was a cold, rainy night in Abilene. As I walked through the doors of the parlor, trembling in fear, I almost turned around and walked out. Alas, I told myself I had entered the point of no return and it was too late to back out now so might as well go for it.

As I filled out the consent form I felt myself getting sick to my stomach. You see, I am a bit of a worry wart, especially when it comes to the unknown. Consider it a faction of autism if you will – we prefer regularity, familiarity and structure. Nonetheless, I figured it was time to face my fears and follow through with the idea I’d been kicking around for a couple of years – getting a semicolon on my wrist as a symbol of the difficult times I’d been through in my life, pushing back from the brink of suicide.

As Jade prepped me, loaded her machines and explained the process to me, I was about ready to hurl. Then what she said next floored me. She goes “you know, once you get this one you’re going to want more right?” I looked at her square in the eye and told her “You are so full of shit.”

Nonetheless, she began etching the blue mark into my wrist. As I felt the sting of the needle my fears actually lessened even though I was in pain, but this other thing was happening to: I was high as a kite. Like this was the biggest rush I’d ever felt. And it felt amazing.

By the time she finished I was needless to say ready to be done, but I still had this great sense of pride and accomplishment: I’d conquered a huge fear of mine. I was still convinced I wouldn’t be getting another but that feeling didn’t last long. A couple of weeks later I started craving that high feeling again; that “therapy” of being in the hot seat. I wanted MORE. I finally understood the claim of tattoos being addictive – they really are.

Well here we are now, 2 years, 7 tattoos (10 sessions total) and 4 piercings (2×2 earlobes) later. I never imagined I’d be at this point in my life but hey, you just never know what curve balls are coming your way. And yes, there’s more in store this year for sure.

Christmas Day Debriefing

Well, much to my relief, I actually had a pretty darn good Christmas. Of course, I had nothing under the tree for me as I had already gotten all of my presents (in the form of my massive holiday earring haul) so I was treated to a festive feast that my mother cooked up and we existed mostly peacefully.

The only real hiccup I had on my end? Well, my very old, conservative grandmother wasn’t at all thrilled about my earrings (or that I even have earrings to begin with) and just had to let me know her displeasure. I never understood the whole thing against men wearing earrings but whatever. I wasn’t about to take them out to placate her. Luckily she didn’t drone on about it.

Unfortunately for my best friend (who lives in GA), the same could not be the said and much of my day was spent offering her emotional support. Not that I mind, I should say – she’s going through a really rough time right now (much rougher than mine!) so needed someone to chat with. It’s all that I could do. Alas, I think something did come out of all of it – I think I found my future business partner. She has a BBA so she has the business knowledge, which I do NOT have whereas I have the knowledge of the products we’d be selling. We’d be a killer duo I think.

Alas, one thing I did learn about me: I can only wear large earrings for a short period of time before I want them out. Must be an autistic sensory thing. I was so relieved at the end of the day to take those big helix spirals out and put a pair of my barbells back in (which I can wear indefinitely without any issue). This time I opted for my royal blue pair:

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Yeah, that felt much better when I put in something a little smaller. These I don’t even have to remove or change at the end of the day – they are no more bothersome to sleep with than the captive bead rings, which is good – it’s still good to have something in even that first hole constantly as it’s still a fairly new (less than a year old) piercing. Yeah, I was a late bloomer. Oh well.

Anyway, the takeaway is that I’ll only be wearing larger, fancy earrings for special occasions. For everyday wear I’ll stick to smaller stuff that I forget I even have in.

Anyway, hope you all had a good holiday. Here’s to looking forward to a new year!

Holiday Earring Haul!

As usually happens around this time, my mom asked me what I’d want for the holidays. It gets harder and harder to come up with a wish list ever year because I don’t need/want much. I’m a minimalist at heart, but this year was different because I’d added two pairs of ear piercings to my body modification list and, until now, just had my two starter pairs of captive bead rings. Man did I need some variety!

Alas, here’s where it got tricky. Seeing as how I was pierced professionally in a parlor (this really is the best way to get pierced; mall piercing guns are pure unadulterated evil) with a 14g cannula most earrings are too small to effectively take up the hole in my flesh, while huge gauges are way too big (note: I have no interest in ear stretching whatsoever, at least for the time being). As such, I had to look for some stuff in specialty shops.

Well, with some help from mom in the form of a prepaid gift card I decided to make an earring haul! I did have to look around quite a bit as I didn’t want anything overly feminine and 14g, though being a standard, seemed few and far between with the styles I liked, but all in all I made out pretty well I think:

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So what all does that consist of? L to R are some tribal double spirals, simple twists, double helix and six pairs of 14mm spiked barbells (1 pair each gold, silver, bronze, black, blue, rainbow). I’ve also got three pairs of “screw studs” (i.e. stud earrings that look like Phillips head screws – one pair each gold, sliver, black) that have yet to arrive. That’s OK though as those will probably take up my 2nd hole exclusively and those won’t be ready to be changed out for awhile yet.

I decided to go with the rainbow barbells for now as they’re funky and cool and this was my first time changing my first pair of piercings. After struggling to remove the captive bead rings (and losing one of the beads down the drain in the process – that’s OK though as I doubt I’ll ever wear them again because they’re so hard to put on and take off) the old earrings slid out and the new ones in like butter (another reason to get pierced professionally – the needle takes a chunk out of you to accommodate the jewelry whereas a gun forces a blunt stud through the tissue merely pushing it out of the way) and I think they look awesome:

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They go with the CBRs just fine but I’m sure they’ll also pair with the studs great too; or with double pairs of barbells or even my tribals/swirls. These are universal and I like the spiked ends as they seem to have a more masculine feel.

Man, have I lost it? I’m talking about jewelry like a teenage girl. Oh well; now I know how they feel!

What are some of your favorite styles of earrings? This goes for anyone but especially men as I’m looking for more ideas for “masculine” styles (whatever the hell that means).

Tattoo Topic Tuesday – Tattoos in the Workplace

Today’s Tattoo Topic Tuesday is one I am glad to see changing attitudes on, but we’ve still got progress and to me the ultimate solution has not yet been arrived at yet (though I wouldn’t be surprised if we arrive at it sometime in my lifetime).

At one point tattoos in the workplace were a huge no-no. They were never accepted and more often than not those with tattoos in highly visible and/or impossible to conceal locations have faced serious employment discrimination over the years. Further, I do not know of a high-profile politician who has a tattoo (though I’m sure there are some Democrats/Liberals who do) and you know as well as I do an ultra-conservative politician would use a tattoo as an attack against his/her opponent.

Whereas visible tattoos, body piercings and other modifications might be a death knell in some organizations, luckily we are seeing a pretty big shift in attitudes and acceptance of them. The company I work for has no restrictions on visible tattoos, body piercings or anything of the sort so long as such things do not create a workplace hazard (as body jewelry sometimes can). I’ve seen visibly tattooed people in all sorts of professional and private settings nowadays. I imagine acceptance will continue to grow as more and more people are sporting tattoos than ever and as the crusty conservative baby boomers start dying off (currently about 14% of all American adults has at least one tattoo and that jumps to about 38% among American adults aged 18-40*).

Alas, there are still those few holdouts. I interviewed for a position with a telecommunications company about a year ago and one of the things I asked about was their policy on visible tattoos and lo and behold they don’t allow them. Sorry, I’m not about to wear long sleeves in the intense Texas summers for the sole purpose of covering my tattoos. It’s just not going to happen. Not to mention should I ever get tattoos in non-concealable places (as I probably will at some point if my hair loss gets any worse) that just takes me out of the running for a lot of things. I guess it’s the price I pay but I imagine in another 10 years or so it won’t be hardly any issue and of course if I ever get to launch my own business I won’t have to worry about it at all.

Of course, I think the correct approach is to legally protect body modifications and people with them from hiring, firing, dress code, etc. discrimination. If the tattoos would not be covered with the normal work uniform I do not think employers should be legally able to make its employees go out of their way to cover their ink, remove body piercings (especially fresh ones!), etc.; I’ve offered a defense of this position in a previous blog post.

So I think the takeaway from this is go ahead and get that tattoo, but until we are legally protected exercise some caution and realize that there is still some stigma attached to it. Though not a total death knell, it still might cause you some problems in certain professions. Chances are you’ll be OK though.

*Source: http://www.statisticbrain.com/tattoo-statistics

My Tattoo “Survival Kit”

So here we are a week later and my fresh ink is about 90% healed. Yes, in just that short of a time it’s almost healed completely. No, I’m not an unusually fast healer (in fact, the opposite is true) but I just have the right things in my survival kit, so I’m going to share those things with you so you can have the best tattoo experience possible.

Getting your first tattoo is no doubt a daunting experience. Hell, it can even be daunting for the seasoned veteran. Tattoos are stressful and painful and then aftercare can always be a royal pain in the ass unless you have the right tools at your disposal. So here are the products I recommend you have in your “survival kit” so that you can have the best tattoo and healing experience possible. I’m including both during tattoo and after tattoo products.

1. Numbing Gels/Creams

OK, I know, I might take some heat for this one but damn is it ever necessary. As someone with a low pain tolerance, numbing creams are a must for me. Some artists and tattoo enthusiasts frown upon them but just because someone has a low pain tolerance doesn’t mean that he/she shouldn’t be able to get a tattoo, especially if that tattoo is deeply meaningful to that person.

As far as numbing creams, there are a number to choose from that work relatively well. In most parts of the world you can get EMLA cream over-the-counter at your local pharmacy. Unfortunately, in the United States EMLA is only available by prescription. A couple of alternatives available in the US that work well are Dr. Numb and LidoCream (pictured above). Hush gel (also pictured above) is also popular, but people have had mixed results with it (I’ve used it myself with fairly good results, but it doesn’t last two hours I tell you) and because it’s menthol-based it burns like hell when you initially apply it.

Personally, for areas with low-to-moderate sensitivity and for smaller pieces I find I no longer really need the above products (and if you have an average to high pain tolerance you might not need them at all), but for large pieces on highly sensitive areas you better believe I’m lathering up before the session. I should say don’t expect complete pain relief, but it will take a substantial amount of “the edge” off.

It should also be noted that the above products are also great for facial and body piercings, shots/injections, blood draws, IV placement, etc.!!! These do have multiple uses.

2. Vasocaine Numbing Spray

Vasocaine numbing spray is pricy but worth it. It picks up where the previous product(s) leave off, but it won’t work on unbroken skin so it’s not useful for the beginning of a session.

Vasocaine contains 5% lidocaine plus epinephrine. When sprayed onto broken skin it absorbs quickly, completely numbing the area and reducing swelling. I find it especially useful for marathon sessions and pieces that require several passes over the same area over time. I’ve only had to use it once so far (on the flower piece on my left leg) but I’m sure I’ll have to use it again. Whether or not you use the initial numbing products above and no matter how tough you think you are, we all have our limitations and when we hit those limitations they must be respected.

No tattoo shop should be without Vasocaine but some are so I keep some on hand myself.  As mentioned, it’s pricy but oh-so-worth it.

3. Witch Hazel (brand doesn’t matter much)

Immediately after the tattoo is finished, a quick cleanse with some witch hazel is just what the doctor ordered. It’s cold, refreshing and almost immediately relieves that “sunburnt” feeling immediately after getting tattooed. My local artist turned me onto this stuff and I’ve been using it immediately after the conclusion of a session ever since, and before I apply the next product in my survival kit, which is none other than:

4. Saniderm/Tegaderm

Saniderm is hands-down the best tattoo aftercare product on the market. No need for washing multiple times per day, messy lotions or ointments that can cause infection or anything special really. Saniderm locks in your body’s natural healing fluids so that you heal quickly and naturally, dramatically reducing itching and completely eliminating scabbing. It also provides a barrier between your fresh tattoo and the outside world so it keeps irritants and infection out. Many also report that Saniderm preserves blacks and colors better than traditional healing methods, leaving you with a tattoo that looks studio fresh.

Using this stuff is super simple – just cut a piece big enough to cover the tattoo and have some in contact with undamaged surrounding skin, round the corners (it does stick better if you do) and apply it following the directions included. It’s a bit tricky at first so try a couple of small pieces on undamaged skin before you try to apply it to your tattoo.

Wear the first bandage for about a day while body fluids and excess ink accumulate under the bandage, remove (recommended in a hot shower to loosen the adhesive) and apply a new bandage to wear for a week. When you remove the 2nd bandage you are all but home free. In the meantime, go about your business as usual. Just shower as normal is all the cleaning you need and you can even swim in Saniderm and it’s fine (don’t try that with the old healing methods!!!).

If you’re averse to buying online or you don’t have Saniderm available in your local tattoo shop, you can get 3M Tegaderm at any pharmacy or drug store, which is the exact same thing. They just come in small sheets so you’ll have to overlap multiple sheets for large tattoos.

5. Aveeno (or equivalent generic) Daily Moisturizing Lotion

Once the Saniderm comes off your tattoo will peel as with other healing methods, but it will be much less bothersome and much quicker. During this time, I transition to the above product to help the peeling process. Just apply a very small amount to the peeling tattoo to help it along.

As I have hormonal teenager skin, most lotions and creams break me out. This is the one I’ve found that does not so long as I use it sparingly (which you should be doing anyway). Even after I’ve fully healed, I continue to apply a small amount to my tattoos every few days to keep them looking bright and studio fresh.

(Note: I normally get generic on this product. Works just as well.)

6. Neutrogena Clear Face SPF 55 Sunscreen (or equivalent generic)

If you want your tattoos to last, sunscreen is your best friend. Any time you’re going to be outside in the sun for any more than a few minutes you should put sunscreen over your tattoos as nothing will break down the ink particles faster than UV exposure. Think about it – laser tattoo removal is more or less an accelerated version of this process.

All tattoos fade over time but this process can be slowed down by simply protecting them from the sun. I use the above sunscreen for its high SPF number (anything above 50 is really theoretical so 55 is more than adequate) and because of the fact that it won’t cause breakouts. I’ve never had a problem with breaking out, even with frequent reapplication and I never even get sunburns at the race track where I’m exposed to not only the sun but the heat radiating back off the asphalt.

Of course, as with the above, if you don’t have any breakout problems just any broad-spectrum high SPF sunscreen will work fine, but this stuff has been a godsend for me.

So there we have it, my tattoo survival kit. Again, this will probably become a page for future reference, but for now here is this in post form. Damn, I feel almost girly writing a beauty-themed post here but I guess it works. Hopefully you can bank upon my experiences and make your tattoo experience as great as possible.