Conservative circles regard tattoos as a sign of rebellion or deviancy. In recent years, however, younger generations have begun to adopt the tattoo as a form of self-expression. Tattoos are gaining popularity in the United States, and Northwestern College boasts a number of inked individuals.
Sophomore Hannah Lautner chose a simple, memorable design for her wrist: a purple cancer ribbon with the words ‘Kia Kaha’ (a saying in New Zealand meaning ‘Forever Strong’) scripted above.
“I wanted a way to remind myself and others of the great strength my brother has and had as he was battling cancer,” Lautner said. “The wrist is a testament of the great strength my brother has in his life. He never gave up while fighting for his life and always kept a positive attitude. When I look at my wrist I am encouraged to power through my problems just like he did and still does every single day.”
Tattoos also permanently visualize personal values. Sophomore Elijah Dahl wears three arrows on his arm to express his faith transition.
“I grew up in the faith and kind of fell away from it as I was growing up,” Dahl said. “Then in senior year in high school something changed and I wanted something to remind myself of where I came from and the direction I want to go and strive for each day.” The design includes the Message version of Psalm 25:12: “What does a true worshipper of God look like? It looks like arrows pointing at God’s bull’s eye”.
“It’s a good reminder of what I stand for and strive for,” he said. Even in a largely faith-based community, Dahl has received some criticism for his tattoos, but he remains firm in his choice of self-expression.
“It’s just kind of become a part of who I am and I’m comfortable showing who I am,” he said.
Junior Alice Church got her first tattoo at age 16. The tattoo on her collarbone says it succinctly: “There’s no shame in being weird.” While Church has changed in the several years since she got her tattoo, she retains appreciation of her tattoo.
“It kind of reflects my age because I don’t think I would get it now,” Church said. “But I don’t regret that I got it. I got it because I’ve always thought it was important to be able to be weird, and be yourself. I got it as a reminder to myself that there’s nothing wrong with being strange.” While she doesn’t regret her decision at sixteen years old, she recommends that prospective tattoo customers give plenty of care to their design considerations
“I think [a tattoo is] something you should think about for a period of time,” Church said.
Dahl also shared his advice.
“It’s probably not good to go on impulse and get one after a week of thinking about it,” he said. “Really research what you want to get and why you want to get it. And make sure you know that reason.”
“I think tattoos should have a very important meaning to the wearer,” said sophomore Levi Scott. “If something isn’t extremely important to you then why are you getting it put onto your body permanently?” Scott believes that many negative perceptions of tattooed individuals stem from the idea that people don’t consider designs extensively before purchasing a tattoo.
People get tattoos to capture memories, express personal values or for other purposes. Although the risks involved can be daunting, the benefits of a thoroughly considered tattoo are often more than worthwhile.