Tattoos are a form of body art popular among the current college generation. For most, the decision to get a tattoo is the result of a significant amount of thought and consideration. Tattoos can tell stories or carry great personal meaning and are often motivated by change and growth.
In this article, inked students, a professor and one resident director on campus share the stories of their tattoos.
Senior exercise science major Hunter Adkins has a tattoo of a scene in Revelation 12 with the archangel Michael and the devil’s army.
“It was kind of a symbol of hope for me,” said Adkins.
Adkins said that he got this tattoo when he was a student at the University of Texas.
“I was kind of at a point where I didn’t care about my faith,” said Adkins. “Eventually, I kind of fell into the crowd–lots of alcohol, lots of drugs, lots of mistakes.”
For Adkins, the story in Revelation symbolized spiritual warfare, a theme he found present in his life.
Adkins said his tattoo has gained significant meaning since he got it. He explained that his drug addictions, depression, and thoughts and attempts of suicide ceased when he began to seek God.
“I remember waking up one morning, and nothing was wrong. Everything was fine. For some reason, I was smiling,” Adkins said. “From that day forward, I never looked back. All the mistakes I made just seemed to flush, I wasn’t having any withdrawals or temptation to commit suicide.”
Adkins related his story to the biblical battle of the heavens.
“It’s so funny because there’s no fight,” Adkins said. “The armies of the heavens have defeated the devil’s army, and just throw them into the lake of fire.”
Adkins explained that he will never completely regret any of his tattoos, because they serve as reminders of his past. Adkins said his body art has also helped him connect with people, including a boy who was dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts.
“He came to me at the ministry where I was working last summer,” Adkins said. “I was the only one he came to because he felt comfortable with me and he said it was because of how I looked.”
When freshman communication arts major Meghan Green was 16-years old, she received her first tattoo. The words “just breathe” on her shoulder honor her grandmother, Green said, who passed away from lung cancer.
“Breathing is something we take advantage of and that was a daily struggle for her,” said Green. “[The words] can also mean to just breathe through the daily struggles.”
Green’s second tattoo is on the inside of her right bicep. It says “I am never alone” in French, as a reminder of God’s presence. She got this tattoo in August 2012. Green said she believes if a person is going to get a tattoo it should mean something, because of a tattoo’s permanence.
Sophomore political science and communication arts double major Donovan McDowell got his first tattoo, the om symbol surrounded by a lotus flower, in August 2012. McDowell said the idea for the tattoo was the result of a couple of years’ worth of thought, and reflects his interests.
“One of my hobbies is studying other religions and, lately, I’ve been on a lot of Eastern religions,” said McDowell. “This is a big symbol, at least the om symbol, especially in Buddhism and Hinduism. It’s full of beauty and meaning.”
McDowell described some of the rich symbolism in the body art: the om is said to be the sound of all creation and the eight petals of the lotus flower represent the concept of eight levels of consciousness present in some Eastern religions.
McDowell said that his tattoo is related to the idea of the search for truth and enlightenment.
Freshman communication arts major Sydney Redmon has a tattoo of a feather behind her left ear. Redmon said that the feather is reference to her favorite Bible verse, Psalms 91:4, which says “He will protect us under His feathers and cover us with His wings.”
“I wanted to get a tattoo because tattoos can have important meanings behind them and if they mean something to you they can serve as a reminder,” said Redmon.
Redmon said she chose the location of her piece carefully, so that she was able to hide it if need be and to keep her appearance professional.
Freshman undecided major Jon Crabbs has a tattoo of a quotation that says “our only hope in an ever changing world is hope in an everlasting God” on his right arm. Underneath the words are a cross and anchors.
Crabbs got this tattoo because it symbolizes his life experiences, all of the people he has met, and all of the things he has learned. The quote is something his youth pastor said one Sunday morning.
“It felt like something God was putting on my heart,” said Crabbs.
The anchors and cross are a symbol of his high school, and the anchors also represent his hope and how it holds down his faith. Crabbs said that a few of his best friends from high school also have the symbol, so it represents their friendship. He is planning on getting another tattoo very soon.
Freshman theology major Seth Watson has three tattoos, the first of which is a quotation, “love me like Jesus,” on his right bicep. He found the words in a devotional and they helped him realize he wanted to become a pastor.
The tattoo also reminds him to love everyone like Jesus, Watson said, because we are all children of God.
Watson’s second tattoo is of a lotus flower on his left bicep. It represents growing out of muck, which the lotus flower does. It grows in swampy, muddy areas.
His third tattoo is of a trinity on his leg, which, for Watson, has a lot of music-related meaning behind it.
English professor Cherie Parsons has a tattoo of a cursive “L,” the first initial of her sister’s name, on the back of her shoulder.
“I got it on what would have been her 40th birthday. She died when she was 38,” Parsons said.
Parsons said she contemplated getting a tattoo throughout her twenties, but never experienced anything significant enough to prompt any body art.
“She died suddenly, and that loss pretty much marked me and changed me significantly,” Parson said. “So to mark that on my body as a visible sign of the way I had been changed by that loss just seemed totally natural and fitting for me.”
To design her tattoo, Parsons went to Cleveland and worked with a tattoo artist she had read about and was interested in her work.
“The only thing I regret is actually that it’s not bigger. The majority of the time I forget I even have it,” Parsons said. “All in all, that’s not a bad thing to regret.”
Blossom Hall resident director Stacy Utecht got her first tattoo, the word “Beloved” on her foot, in 2012. Inspiration for the tattoo, Utecht said, came from the idea of being God’s beloved, supported by Bible verse Deuteronomy 33:12 and books by priest and writer Henri J.M. Nouwen.
“It was something that I wanted to always remember,” said Utecht, “and it felt like I’d finally found something that meant enough to me that would remind me of who I am that would be in a discreet location.”
Stories in ink
Tattoos serve as permanent, outward expressions of personal struggles, losses, triumphs, and faith. The story behind each person’s tattoo is unique and personal. Often, the story within the ink is just as artistic as the tattoo itself.
In an earlier addition of this article the photo of Utecht’s tattoo was incorrectly attributed. The photo was provided by Utecht.
Josey Petz is a contributing writer for The Aviso AVW.