Tattoos With a Story

By Halle Douglass

Actor Johnny Depp once said, “My body is my journal, and my tattoos are my story.” There is not a day that goes by where I do not see a student or professor on campus with at least one tattoo on their body. Most of the tattoos are simple and small, like quotes or crosses. However, there are some that I have looked at and thought, “Wow, I’d love to know the story behind that particular tattoo.” I got the opportunity to talk to a few students and staff members about their interesting tattoos. Here are their stories.

I first spoke with junior Olivia Toth, who told me the story about her dream catcher tattoo, located on her thigh and hip: “This tattoo is basically a huge dream catcher with flowers and feathers, and splashes of paint in the background,” Toth said. “It sounds like just a classic girl’s tattoo but it actually holds a lot of meaning for me. When I was 7, I found my grandma dead and I had to try to save her. It was a very traumatic experience and I used to see it every night when I closed my eyes. I am part Native American and so my dad convinced me that when he put a dreamcatcher in my room, no bad dreams could come through. I stopped having flashbacks and became a little girl again. So when it came time for me to get a tattoo, I really wanted something that would comfort me when I was away for college. I went to my tattoo artist and asked for a dreamcatcher. The flowers on the dreamcatcher are actually Cherokee roses. It is said that they sprung up when the Cherokees set out on the trail of tears. I figured that wherever I went, I would try to leave some beauty behind like my ancestors did. So I had those added as well.”

Along with the story behind the tattoo, Olivia wants her tattoo to represent the artist side of her. “Later on, I felt like it needed something more. I am an artist so I decided to add abstract paint behind it. For me this tattoo represents keeping the bad away, and living life creatively, always leaving a little bit of good and color behind, no matter where I go.”


Junior Taiylor Gossage told me the story behind what she considered to be her most interesting tattoo. This particular tattoo, unlike most people’s, does not represent someone else, and is more for herself. “On my bicep I have a Latin quote translating the saying of flying with your own wings,” Gossage said. “I got this tattoo when I was 17. I had to grow up and mature fast at a young age, and had to learn how be independent. I learned throughout all the unfortunate events in my life that you can’t always depend on someone else. I learned that in order to strive and succeed, you have to sometimes do it alone and that’s okay. I chose this tattoo because despite everything around me, I learned how to be my own person and to choose my own path in life at a young age and because of that I have accomplished things in my life I never thought were options for me. This tattoo is a reminder that if I have gotten this far, I can continue to do big things even if it’s on my own.”

For those who know Taiylor or who have seen her around campus, they know she has a wide variety of tattoos. All of them tell stories. “I get tattoos because I see them as symbols of life, love and art representing stories and importance to me. And of course if I am asked, I will explain the meaning of my tattoos but without all the details because those little details are my personal story and my tattoos are for me.”

Lastly, I talked to McKendree Area Coordinator Stephanie Gonzalez about her most interesting tattoo, a half-sleeve located on her left arm, which she says is a tribute to her father.

“When I was a kid, my dad was a criminal attorney in New York City and I didn’t see him a lot because he was a very busy guy,” Gonzalez said. “When I did see him, he would always bring me something to make up for the time we spent apart. It could be anything from bracelets to art sets but one time, he brought me a video game for the Nintendo 64 we had at home. We played Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask for literally hours at a time. Before the internet, you had to buy these big guide books to beat a game and since I was 8, my dad would give me the book and let me read it and give him instructions on how to play and every once in a while, he would give me the controller so I could play, but I was awful at it. My entire left arm is going to be a Legend of Zelda piece.”


Every tattoo tells a story. Whether it be in memoriam of a loved one, or an everyday reminder for yourself. Tattoos are a form of expression that make people who they are.