What Does Your Tattoo Mean?

Growing up around the conservative influences of my parents and family, I always felt a sense of fear when it came to altering my appearance, even though I find it most comforting to express my personality through my physical attributes. Since attending college, I have felt more aligned and comfortable with my identity and found that little pieces of artwork on my skin would further aid my road to full self-expression. It was then that I decided to finally get my first tattoo. The numbers “555” stretch across my right shoulder, serving as a reminder that although I am constantly growing and changing, these experiences are always in my best interest. Realizing how ecstatic I felt about my first tattoo, I decided to get a second tattoo. One impulsive decision and two weeks later, beautiful butterfly wings reside on my upper back. There is no deeper meaning to this decision. I simply got this tattoo because I wanted an incredible piece of art on my body forever. From these experiences, I view tattoos as a little stamp on my body, symbolizing and marking certain periods of my life.

Since returning to campus, I find that my eyes always travel towards people’s tattoos and spark the question — What does it mean? After dipping my toes into the world of tattoos, I realized there doesn’t always have to be a meaning or reason for getting one. It can simply be art that you love. I asked this question to my peers and these were their responses:

Photo by Priscilla Puno for the UCSD Guardian

“My tattoo is of my two younger siblings and me. The scribbles are shown in a way where you can’t tell if they’re wearing shorts or skirts because my little brother is trans and nonbinary — I also came out recently as trans and nonbinary. It was a nice experience to get this tattoo right after he came out because he still wanted me to remember him as feminine even though he wanted to present as more masculine now, so we talked about it and agreed on this. Lastly, I have a smaller one for my little sister and I like it because they’re holding hands and connected through one line, so it just shows a lot of unity.” – Autumn Zaragoza

Photo by Priscilla Puno for the UCSD Guardian

“I’ve always liked wildflowers and felt connected to nature through that kind of persistent beauty, and also have a love of bees that doesn’t go quite as deep—I just really like them! I would say this tattoo has three different meanings or representations to me, which I kind of wanted especially because it’s my first. Firstly, I love Winnie the Pooh and have always bonded with my closest cousin over the show since we were younger, which mainly inspired the hive part of the design. The hive and bees also connect me to my partner, whose nickname for me is always ‘Honey’ (really cheesy, but super cute —he doesn’t call me anything else). He’s a big part of my life and has been my number one supporter and best friend for the last 8 years we’ve been together. Lastly, I love Miss Honey from the movie ‘Matilda’ and I feel like the whole tattoo just gives off the vibe of her house and her warmth. She was part of my ‘gay awakening’ and also has inspired me to pursue teaching as a career after I graduate. She means a lot to me when it comes to caring for my inner child and pushing to nurture others who need caring energy!” – Joselyn Carbonell

Photo by Priscilla Puno for the UCSD Guardian

“I’ve been listening to BTS for a little over 5 years now, and there was one album that had the biggest impact on me at a certain point in my life. All the songs perfectly captured the feelings and thoughts I had during those difficult times. The tattoo translates to “the most beautiful moment in life,” which is ironic because most of the songs in the album are quite sad. However, I think that’s the most interesting part about it. Even though things may be really bad at the moment and it seems like everything is going against me, it’s still a beautiful and important experience because I’m learning and growing as I go through these moments. I got the tattoo as a reminder to myself that everything I have gone through in life has been for a reason. I may not have enjoyed the experiences, but eventually, it would all be worth it. Growing and reaching my fullest potential will always be beautiful moments in my life.” – Isabella Cayanan

Photo by Lucas Lenzi on Unsplash