Tattoos are more than ink; they are a meaningful reminder

Seniors Kayleigh Ford and Ava Wilberding knew that as soon as they turned eighteen, they wanted to get a tattoo. 

Both friends agreed that their first tattoos should be meaningful. Both Kayleigh and Ava face anxiety, and their tattoos help them tackle their anxious moments. 

“I got [my first tattoo] in November right around my birthday,” Kayleigh said. “I got a tattoo that says breathe and has a wave at the end of it. I got [my first tattoo] to represent that I have anxiety and that I need to breathe more often when I have anxiety because I tend to not breathe, and my anxiety [will] get worse.” 

Dealing with anxiety is a struggle, and the little reminder on her arm helps Kayleigh cope. Ava’s first tattoo is also one that helps her get through challenging times. 

“I have [a tattoo] that says baby steps that represents my anxiety,” Ava said. “I knew for my first tattoo that I wanted something that actually meant something to me. In Social Psychology, we watched What About Bob, and he uses the words ‘baby steps’ as [a way to help his] anxiety, so I figured that was something that could help me too, and I knew it was something that I would need throughout my life.” 

Ava and Kayleigh don’t just share a similar incentive to getting tattoos, they also have matching ones to represent their friendship. They each have a tattoo of a star, moon, and of the planet Saturn. 

“It’s kind of cheesy,” Kayleigh said, “but [Ava and I] say our friendship is out of this world, and we both just really liked the design of the tattoo.”

Ava has a similar statement about their universal tattoos. She values their friendship and agrees wholeheartedly with Kayleigh. 

“[The tattoo symbolizes that] the universe holds our friendship,” Ava said, “and [our friendship] will always be there.”  

Tattoos are a way of expressing yourself. There is meaning behind every tattoo. 

Ava compared tattoos to people’s choice of clothing, meaning it is another way to express feelings and personality. 

Ava and Kayleigh expressed how important the meaning behind a tattoo is, and biology teacher Joey Spadafore’s tattoo holds his love for geology and his home—Michigan. His tattoo is of the Great Lakes forming the Michigan mitten. 

“[The first reason why I got my tattoo was because] I just thought it looked cool,” Spadafore said. “But because I’m such a geology nerd, I wanted to find something to represent the geology around me, and I always thought that the Great Lakes were a good symbol for that. I like how it’s just the lakes, but you can still make out the shape of our state.” 

Spadafore had plans of moving out west once he was out of college, and at twenty-two, he decided that he wanted a reminder of his state. The Great Lakes was his first and last tattoo. Though he has ideas for more, he believes it is too late and too expensive to add another. 

Spadafore did not grow up around tattoos; in college, a friend of his had one, but it was not a common sight to see when he grew up, so the decision to get a tattoo was without much influence from other people. 

Spadafore had always loved the outdoors and taking pictures of nature, and when he found geology in college, it provided the perfect opportunity for him to pursue his passion. When he found the Great Lakes tattoo, it incorporated his love of nature, and geology encouraged him to get a tattoo. 

Whether the tattoo is influenced by other people, influenced by a passion, or by situations in life, meaning is always present in the ink that adorns people’s skin. Small words or shapes can hold an immersive amount of purpose.

“I feel like [a tattoo] is like your clothing style,” Ava said. “It expresses what you see yourself as, and what you put on your body has something to do with who you are as a person. If you are putting something on your body, it actually means something to you. Most people don’t just get random [tattoos], and even if they are, they still have somewhat of a significance in your life.”