The Insight Behind the Ink: College Students Share What Their Tattoos Mean to Them

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Girl with side tattoo

In life there are many things that you find will stick with you forever.

Whether it is a quote, a song, or a moment in time, it can be characterized as something that has shaped you in a way you could never forget.

About four years ago I went through a very difficult loss. 

Four years ago I also got my first tattoo. 

The Roman numerals on my side read a special birthday and the sparrow represents an ascent to heaven. In this case, my tattoo is a celebration of the life of my dad.

Though I know my dad isn’t someone I will ever forget, it comforts me to know a bit of him will live on my skin forever; representing life, love, and the celebration of little moments.

There is a comfort in showcasing who you are on the inside, on the outside. But there is always more to a tattoo than meets the eye.

I talked all things tattoos with a few of my tatted friends, and here is the insight behind some of their ink:


“Life goes on, days get brighter” thigh tattoo

Why did you get this tattoo?

“It was a spur-of-the-moment decision, like most of my tattoos; this one may mean the most to me though. The words are lyrics from Mac Miller’s song ‘Get Up’ and they felt really appropriate because of the location I chose. Mac Miller was also a huge influence in my life when it came to exploring my own creativity and coming out of my shell.”

What was the process of getting this tattoo like?

“Like I said, it was a bit spontaneous, but I’ve always wanted a tattoo in this spot. I dealt with self-harm issues for a long time and the scars are always a reminder of that. I wanted something to be permanently in the same place that would remind me that better days are always ahead.”

What lasting meaning does this tattoo have for you?

“All of my tattoos are reminders of important people and events in my life, and this one is just another thought that keeps me grounded. The idea that a bad situation is a temporary situation helps me find my way back to better times again.”


What was the process of getting this tattoo like?

“My mom didn’t like how big I wanted my tattoo, but I made sure it didn’t go past my mid-thigh for work purposes. It look three hours, but wasn’t too bad since the thigh is a fleshy spot. The shading and dots hurt the most though, I remember.”

What lasting meaning does this tattoo have for you?

“I wanted my mandala tattoo as soon as I turned 18 because I was obsessed with the idea for two years. While my mandala tattoo isn’t my most personal tattoo, I love it because it represents me.”


What’s the story behind your tattoo?

“I drew out the picture about two years prior to me getting it. I always knew I wanted it, I was just too scared to actually commit to doing it. I know if I didn’t just randomly decide to do a walk-in appointment, I probably would have never gotten it. 

The tattoo itself is very meaningful to me. It is the birth month flowers of both my parents. When I was 7, my dad passed away suddenly, so it is kind of symbolic to them blooming together. I later found out that the meanings of the flowers themselves were exactly what I needed in my life in that moment I got it. The daffodil stands for new beginnings and the lily of the valley stands for happiness; two things I then realized I needed to focus all [my] energy into.”


Why did you get this tattoo?

“My mama and I would always read ‘I Carry Your Heart’ by E. E. Cummings to each other since I was a little girl, and we were going to get matching tattoos that said this, but then she passed and I immediately wanted to get it for her.”

What does this tattoo mean to you?

“It means the world to me to have a little piece of my mom on my [arm] forever. I don’t really want another one because I feel the importance of this tattoo is so high that no other tattoo could meet that standard.”


Why did you choose this tattoo and what meaning does it hold for you?

“I got koi fish to represent good character, strength, and perseverance. I got this in July for my dad, who passed away in April. It occurred to me because my dad built and took care of a koi fish pond in our backyard; it was like his prized possession. I loved the idea that my dad physically left koi fish for me and my family while also leaving the traits they represent.”


What is your tattoo?

“My tattoo reads ‘whatever will be will be’ down my spine. I got it at the end of my sophomore year as a reward because I had a tough year and [it’s] a reminder that things will work out how they should and you can’t stress about things you can’t control.”

How did you decide on the location and what was the process like?

“I got it down my spine because your spine is a source of stability for your body. It was pretty painful to get because it was right on the bone, but I feel like the pain is super rewarding in the end. I love it so much and it’s definitely my favorite tattoo out of them all.” 

I want to hear from you in the comments below!

Tattoos live on our skin forever telling our story. What does your tattoo say about your story? Do you have any tattoos? If not, what are your reservations? What does your tattoo mean to you? 

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