Whenever I get a new tattoo, I get a feeling that I was always supposed to have that piece of art on my body, as if the tattooing process is uncovering the pictures hidden underneath my skin, rather than putting them there.
My tattoos serve many purposes aside from looking cool, although that is a bonus. I like to think that my tattoos are marks on a timeline that just happens to be my body. Even though most of the dates hold no significance, I can recite the days that I got each of my tattoos. My goal is to get at least one new tattoo each year, and for that tattoo to serve as a mental anchor, reminding me of what my life looked like at that point in time.
Monday, December 12, 2016, my eighteenth birthday had arrived and I was finally able to get a tattoo. My mother had a friend that owned a tattoo shop that was normally closed on Mondays, but he opened it that night for the sole purpose of giving me a tattoo, and allowing four of my closest friends to come watch. I sat on the table, dressed in my Batman shirt and socks in preparation for my “Dark Knight” tattoo. My friends lined the wall that ran parallel to the table and giggled as the machine made that familiar buzzing sound, and then the words “are you ready?” filled the air. I nodded and then the needle met my skin as a uniquely exhilarating and painful sensation made itself at home in my left arm for the next 45 minutes. That feeling is one that I’ve grown to crave, as it is unlike any other, it hurts but it’s never to the point where it’s unbearable, making it something that I want to experience over and over.
My 2020 tattoo is a skull with a candle coming out of the head that was designed by Dick Cutter at Standard Ink Tattoo Co. Originally, I chose this design for the spooky aesthetic that came with it, but it evolved into a physical adaptation of one of my personal mantras, “be your own light.” That’s the fun part about tattoos, even the ones that aren’t initially full of meaning, can grow into something incredibly meaningful for the owner.
All tattoos share one commonality – Each one has a story. From a simple design to more intricate art, every piece bears significance.
For years, tattoos have been viewed as unprofessional and rebellious, but in reality, that is far from the truth—tattoos are a form of self expression. Dick Cutter, a tattoo artist at Standard Ink, feels that a very important part of his job is to help people express themselves. Cutter got his first tattoo when he was 26 years old and is still adding tattoos to this day.
He believes tattoos are becoming the norm now. “It’s unusual if you do not have tattoos now. You have seen lawyers with sleeves. I have tattooed preachers here.”
Cutter says there are two types of tattoos that the shop sees – the niche tattoos and the story-telling tattoos. Cutter described niche tattoos as tattoos that are primarily for aesthetic purposes. Story-telling tattoos tend to have a deeper meaning to the individual bearing them. Story-telling tattoos can be anything from a cherished memory, to a design that honors a lost loved one.
Tattoos are becoming more accepted in traditionally professional jobs now more than ever. For example, UTC professor of Psychology, Dr. Ruth Walker, has a tattoo in remembrance of a dear friend who passed.
“For some people, they will say it is a form of healing. Other forms of healing are not working for them, like going to a counselor or a medical professional in the wake of trauma … but reliving the pain of getting a tattoo and taking ownership over their body and reclaiming this identity is helpful. It is a form of healing to them. It is just a nontraditional form of healing.”
Dr. Walker adds that tattoos can be anecdotally helpful for people who suffer from a traumatic event. Sometimes a group of people will get similar tattoos to feel as if they are supporting each other or show support to a certain individual. For example, several NBA players got similar tattoos after Kobe Bryant’s death.
In today’s society, this form of expression is more prevalent in workplaces now than in the past. Tattoos are much less of a taboo in today’s society and more an extension of ourselves.