For my 37th birthday, I wanted to do something new. Something I've always wanted to do but never thought I had the time, the money — or quite frankly, the stomach — to do.

For much of my adult life, I wanted to get a tattoo of something that carried great significance to me. Because I could never settle on one idea for the kind of art I wanted (you know, because of the permanency of the whole thing), I never did it. And then I got busier at work, started raising my son and well, life just got too busy for me to really spend much time thinking about how I wished to express myself in that way.

Well I decided this year was the year, so this summer I started asking people with particularly nice tattoos where they had their work done. After several inquiries, I made my selection and booked an appointment with a well-known Midcoast Maine tattoo studio.

Because the artists there are known for their skill, I had more than a month to make my idea more specific.

After considering a series of tribal designs, Celtic knots and a whole host of other ideas I had considered over the years, I saw a design that struck me as one that conjured memories of the happiest times of my life camping in the Maine North Woods with my family.

The main portion of the design featured the seed head of a dandelion starting on the right shoulder. Then a small trail of the billowy seeds break off the main part of the plant and appear to be riding the breeze alongside a flock of small black birds, done completely in black ink. The final design swoops across the shoulder and loops up to the lower part of the neck.

I chose this because while the dandelion has often been referred to as no more than a common weed, the sight of the yellow plants dotting the land, and later, the soft and grayish seed heads that come in their place, are instant reminders to me that another beautiful Maine spring and summer are upon us. It is always a welcome feeling for me, as it means it is closer to the time of year when we start to plan our family camping trip up north. The addition of the small birds flying alongside the seeds gave the design the illusion of motion, and elevated the image to what I found was a fine piece of art that I would proudly wear for many years.

After about 90 minutes at the tattoo studio, and surprisingly little pain, I had my first tattoo. After having it for about a month, I could not be happier with my decision.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, I am not alone. In a series of stories about tattoos in America and in the workplace that ran last April, the NYT reported that 23 percent of all Americans have ink, and of that tally, 32 percent of Americans between the ages of 30 and 45 have at least one tattoo.

Of course I have heard some horror stories about tattoos people may have gotten in their youth that they now regret getting — you know, that unicorn tat someone may have agreed to get following a session of binge drinking in college. Or that really bad rendering of Dopey from the seven dwarfs that one may have allowed their high-school buddy to draw on them with a household needle and a bottle of India ink.

But with a little forethought and planning, I feel like those bad experiences can be avoided. I think taking the time to find a design that meant something to me, that I truly loved, and then working with the artist to customize it for maximum "me-ness" made a huge difference.

After all, the whole point of going under the needle is to express yourself. And if you choose a design that fits you and/or depicts something you love, you can't go wrong.

As for those who warned me to get ready for my next addiction, I think I can safely say I am now included in the 32 percent of Americans are addicted to new ink (at least, according to the statistics I found on the topic).

When the artists asked me with a smile, "Will we see you again?"

Even as my fresh tattoo still bled slightly under the bandage, my response was an enthusiastic "yes."