By Shannon Sollitt
At a time dedicated to self-exploration and growth, it is expected that college students will look for ways to express their evolving identities.
It is hardly surprising, then, that an estimated 23 percent of college students have at least one tattoo. Be they statements of independence or rebellion, acts of self-expression or simply pieces of art, tattoos decorate these students’ bodies as murals decorate walls: permanently and unapologetically.
This is what some of the body art at Willamette looks like.
I know that mountains are sort of cliche… These specific mountains are the mountains I actually got to live on for about three weeks in Chilean Patagonia. [The tattoo represents] my love for the mountains in general, and my love for a specific area that really had a positive impact on me.
Mountains have always been a place where I can find serenity, peace, solace, and where I’ve had some of the happiest moments of my life. I know they will continue to be that to me for the rest of my life… I figured I’d commemorate it by getting INK’D, breh.
When did you get it?
I think it was 2013… right after I started studying.
I was a [Girl] Scout—well, I am a Scout—since… 16 years now. I just wanted something to remind me of that, so that’s why I chose the compass. And also because I was an au pair in England and I like to travel around. It just reminds me that I have to keep traveling. And then, of course, the quote—that’s very simple.
Did you know that you wanted a tattoo and then decided what to get, or did you always know that this is what you wanted to put on your body?
I wanted to have a tattoo since I was 16, and I had no idea what I wanted… In the end, it was a very spontaneous thing. I just walked to the tattoo shop and I told her, “Yeah, I want a compass.” [Two months later] I came back and 10 minutes before she started she showed me [the design] and I said, “OK, that’s it. Let’s do it.” But it was very scary because I had no idea how it was going to look.
I think that nobody should judge people who have tattoos because it’s just body art, and it’s a very traditional and cultural thing. So many cultures are doing this… and we are not criminals. ‘Cause that’s what most people think.
What’s its story?
I got it a week after my 18th birthday, in California. I told [my parents] a couple of days after I got it… I’d rather me tell them than they see it.
My Mom kind of freaked out a little bit… Dad was joking about it a little bit after. [It] wasn’t a big deal to him.
Does it have a meaning?
The plan is, whenever I travel to a new place, I’m going to get a dot tattooed on that spot. I have three right now, but I’ve been to four different countries—I just haven’t [gotten] the dot for the last country that I visited, [which is] Guatemala.
I have seven tattoos—the first was actually a dinosaur [not pictured]. I got it after my senior year of high school.
My boss’s friend actually did it—she was pressuring me to get it done ‘cause she was like, “You draw it all the time, you keep talking about it, why don’t you just finally go get it to, kind of mark the change in your life.”
In early February, I started working on my half sleeve [pictured].
The mermaid [pictured] was a Christmas present from my Mom. I got it over winter break.
You don’t always have to get a tattoo ‘cause it means something. [You can get it] just because it’s a beautiful piece of art.
Do yours have any “deeper” meaning?
Not really… I’ve always accepted [tattoos] as normal because my Mom has them.
I just chose to get one and then it turned into me being like, “I will cover all of my legs!”
They’re all in conversation with each other, which is really interesting, and presents a challenge for the artist.
I get tattoos that look nice, but I get tattoos for myself more than anything else. [They’re] personal reminders of things that I tend to forget or have the potential to forget.
“I can never come back if I don’t go” (Lyric from The Weather Machine’s “Back O’er Oregon”).
Before I went to London, my Mom and I got tattooed together. This is my anthem for being an Oregonian… the lyric was really applicable in the sense that I was finally taking this huge journey, goin’ on adventures.
The first tattoo I got myself: “To die will be an awfully great adventure” with a thimble [from “Peter Pan”]. Over winter break sophomore year I had stomach surgery, and one of the weird things that happens a lot when you have surgeries, really invasive surgeries, is that you watch lots of videos and have heart-to-heart talks about, like, “Hey, you could die…”
I was alone in Lausanne basement as a CM. I had this thought that, if things go south somehow, I could not come back… and that was really terrifying.
[Tattoos are] a way of claiming some sense of self control, and reclaiming control in and of itself in situations that can feel really intense and unmasterable. I wanted to have this phrase not literally close to my heart, but closer than it would have been.
Then there are ones that just, to me… people always expect really intense stories, and a lot of my tattoos have really intense stories, but some of my tattoos are just like, “I wanted it. I wanted it for me.” And it’s a way of keeping things that you love close to your heart.
I got it in August… I got it for Aubrey [Kendall]. When we lived together, there would literally just be bobby pins everywhere… I don’t even use bobby pins.
It’s a sign of friendship. Friendships are really undervalued [compared to romantic relationships]…
I liked the idea of getting something romantic for someone who wasn’t having sex with me.
“Life is a marathon, not a sprint. So pace yourself and enjoy the journey.”
I run, and I feel like it relates a lot to… life in general, as a whole. So, to have both things that kind of go hand in hand.
I had this quote in mind for a while, and I had different ideas to go with it, but when it came down to it, I feel like just the quote itself was going to be the best fit.
I’ve had it for a year now, and I told my teammates and friends about it before I was going to get it, but I didn’t tell my parents, nor my siblings.
I posted a picture to show some of my friends, and it was actually through posting the picture that one of my brothers showed my Mom, and that’s how my Mom found out.
She didn’t really talk to me for a couple weeks but… she wasn’t happy, but she wasn’t pissed off about it, because, it’s on there now, what are you going to do about it?
A tattoo shop that my friend works at was having a deal where, [if you pick a piece off] his flash, he’d give it to you for $50, and since I was a friend of his he gave it to me for $35, so I just decided to get two. And that’s it.
I have some on my feet, I have a dumb stick and poke. They all mean nothing. That’s not to say that I don’t like them. I do. But they don’t have any intrinsic meaning to me. None of my tattoos mean anything.
I think a lot of people are uncomfortable justifying the notion of putting something permanent on their bodies, so they have to make up some inflated meaning, but everybody in my family has a bunch of tattoos, so for me it was just kind of something I did.
I guess the meaning that my tattoos have is they’re a stamp at that particular part of time. That’s it, that’s all it is. I thought this looked cool when I got it. That’s the only reason I have it.