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Students find tattoos are self-therapy, self-expression


While others may go for a nice relaxing spa day or a slow yoga session as a form of self-therapy, Senior James Veal sits down in the artist’s chair, lets the relaxing buzz of the tattoo gun run across his skin, and slowly drifts off to sleep.

Veal has about 11 tattoos covering his body, their entire completion time totalling around 26 hours. With every tattoo, he has fallen asleep as he lets miniature needles pierce his skin, rarely feeling extreme pain, and relishes the peace getting a tattoo brings.

“I don’t want to say that my tattoos don’t have a meaning to them, but I mean, it’s more therapeutic,” Veal said. “I just like tattoos, so I like to get them. Tattoos don’t really hurt to me.”

His most significant tattoos are a Bible verse, Matthew 5:44, a dagger, and the popular Phantom Troupe tattoo originating from a well-known anime, Hunter x Hunter, with his favorite being a curse mark on his back. Among these, Veal’s Bible verse holds the most meaning to him. 

“The meaning is love everybody pretty much,” he said. “Try to treat everybody the same. I can’t be nicer to one person and meaner to the next, so I try to treat everybody the exact same.”

On the other hand, De’Angelo Collins only wanted a tattoo not for the care it brings but just for the sake of it. He was only 14, and all he wanted was a tattoo. That’s how he ended up with the word “Mom” encircled by a rose inked into his skin. 

“I knew my mom wouldn’t have let me get it, so I was just like ‘I’m going to put ‘Mom’ on it so I can get it,’” he said. “It worked. Technically, it is for my mom, but at the same time, it’s like I just wanted a tattoo. She was there. On bro, she was happy.”

For others, tattoos serve as a remembrance for family members, friends, and other people close to them. The same goes for Junior Maurice Yates who lost his brother some time ago. 

“My first tattoo is just because my brother passed away, so it says…‘R.I.P. Spida’ on my right arm,” he said. 

Collins plans to attain another tattoo for his late best friend who he lost earlier this year due to unfortunate circumstances. 

“My friend, Baron, forever 31, on my forearm. I mean, that tattoo is about to mean a lot to me…,” Collins said.

On a slightly more positive note, the pain that comes along with tattoos is no joke. It is not something to be taken lightly, especially when the tattoo gun runs over certain parts of the body or during a specific part of the process such as the shading, which Collins did not find too enjoyable and described it as “the most painful part.”

For Veal, the worst pain he has ever felt during getting a tattoo is when he got his dagger inked into a sensitive part of his body, his forearm and elbow.

“That was a 10 out of 10,” he said. “That was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life. That or the wrist, either one. Wrist tattoos or anything on the bone. I went to sleep with all of my tats. I woke up right when he was about to get down there, and he was kind of warning me. He was like ‘Yeah, it’s about to hurt, so be prepared.’”

Yates, who’s biggest tattoo took 2-3 hours, had to endure minute after painful minute for pain he found unidentifiable. 

“For my biggest tattoo, it was an eight out of 10 because that pain hurt,” he said. “I don’t know what’s to it, but that was not it.”

If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo yourself, Veal would enthusiastically encourage you to get as many as you can. 

“Get tattoos always! Go get three, four, five. Tattoos are therapeutic,” he said.

Collins, however, would be a little more hesitant, urging you to think about what you’re about to do before its permanent, but enforce the same reasons for getting a tattoo that Veal has. 

“I feel like if you’re in a good headspace and just happy going like ‘Oh, I want a tattoo!’ I wouldn’t recommend going to get it,” he said. “I recommend getting tattoos in a therapeutic way.”

Even more so, Collins believes that the discomfort from tattoos is a good way to release and process emotional pain and should be the most significant reason for even thinking about getting a tattoo. 

“Don’t just think you’re about to go and get a tattoo and be like ‘Oh, yeah it feels good,’” he said. “It’s not even going to feel good. It hurts for sure. Unless you’re in pain, don’t go through that pain.”

Nonetheless, Veal still plans to get his tattoos for the fun and restorative sake of it as he sleeps in peaceful, painless bliss, wanting to add on to his collection with a tattoo of a samurai. 

“I’m about to finish my sleeve and the samurai here,” he said as he pointed to his right forearm. “It means power and war. I don’t think its going to be painful. I’m going to go to sleep.”

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