A picture may say a thousand words, but a tattoo will tell a story.
From small images of the state of Michigan to shooting stars, Knox students’ tattoos have resonance.
One of junior Alex Jandernoa’s five tattoos is a series of Mayan glyphs representing home, water and spirit. The latter of these has special significance as a “permanent memory,” according to Jandernoa.
“My best friend passed away when I was in eighth grade. He had muscular dystrophy, and there was a malfunction with his wheelchair and complications from his disease,” Jandernoa said. “He was very young, but we were still very good friends. Since the time when I was 14 in eighth grade, he and I had planned on getting tattoos—this was kind of fulfilling that.”
Located on the back of his arm, it is one of Jandernoa’s most visibly apparent tattoos, but there is reason for this placement.
“I wanted people to see it and ask the questions,” Jandernoa said. “I’ve noticed a lot of my friends losing his memory, and I don’t want that to happen to me. When I put on my shirt in the morning, it’s a reminder to think about him.”
Junior Grace Davis’s most recent tattoo also relates to memory. On her inner arm are lines in Latin from the Aeneid. Translated to English, it reads: “Perhaps someday we will remember even these things with joy.”
Davis “knew almost immediately” that she wanted these lines as a tattoo when she translated them herself as a requirement for a Latin course during her sophomore year at Knox.
“I started [taking Latin] my freshman year, and it’s the most challenging thing I’ve done in my life,” Davis said. “It came to embody what your attitude has to be academically at this school.”
Davis may have gotten this tattoo in the midst of a “rough year,” but she believes that it represents a more positive end result.
“Going to college is a really significant, hard experience. You’re stretched to your limits in every capacity,” Davis said. However, she sees it as preparation for life after Knox, which she feels “pays off in big ways.”
Representations of inner strength were also important to junior Hannah Mickelson who has the Celtic symbol for it at the base of her neck.
“I got it literally the week after I turned 18. It was something I’d thought about for a while … I really liked the appearance and what it stood for,” Mickelson said. “That was less than a year after my parents got divorced.”
Some student tattoos can be just for fun. Two of Jandernoa’s tattoos are such. One is an image of a dinosaur—his first tattoo—and the other is an image of the iconic Knox Fox. Both of these are located on his rear end.
“The butt is actually becoming a more and more common place for kids in college to get tattoos. I didn’t really know that was a thing when I got mine, I just thought it would be very funny,” Jandernoa said. “I’m always in a speedo for water polo and swimming, so the first one that I wanted to get had to be covered by the skimpiest thing ever.”
Although Jandernoa’s other tattoos are in relatively visible places, as are Davis’ and Mickelson’s, something that they all kept in mind was the ability to hide their ink.
Part of the reason that Mickelson decided on the placement of her tattoo was “that I can hide it really easily, because I’m going to be a teacher, and so I can’t have visible tattoos.”
However, with more and more young people getting tattoos, industries may have to be more accommodating.
“Women’s skirts are shorter now. Things change,” Davis said. “You’re more unique if you don’t have a tattoo.”
Jandernoa noted that perception of tattoos across the country is changing.
“On the West coast, it’s not even an issue anymore. The East coast is starting to change a little bit, but the Midwest is still very anti-tattoo. My parents hate tattoos, and they’re still the generation that’s hiring,” Jandernoa said. “I think it’s going to change for the better for people with tattoos, eventually. But it’s going to take some time.”
Like Jandernoa, Davis is conscious of future employers.
“I don’t know how the climate’s going to be,” Davis said. “I’m not going to do anything that will definitely disadvantage me.”
Decidedly not a disadvantage to getting tattoos is the pain factor. Although many people initially fear this, it proves to be unfounded.
“I have a really low pain tolerance, so I was expecting it to hurt really bad,” Mickelson said. “But I watched ‘Wedding Crashers’ while [my tattoo artist] did it and just sat there, and I was totally fine. Every so often, it was like, ‘Yeah, I can feel that,’ but it wasn’t terrible, which kind of surprised me.”
Despite all of the considerations that go into deciding to get a tattoo, making the decision to get it in the first place is hardly difficult.
“I spent a lot of time thinking about my tattoos, but of that time, I spent most of it thinking about tattoos I never got,” Davis said. “If you have to think about it a lot, you shouldn’t get it.”
Being a part of a living art form proves to be a rewarding result.
“Within this art form, there are such extremes: people that have little, tiny stars on their wrist, to people that are covering their entire bodies and running out of the room and panicking because they want to keep on adding. It’s fun to find your place within it,” Jandernoa said. “You’ll notice that as you gather more, you meet more people, and you can connect through them.”