Turning 18 is a life changing moment for many teenagers across the United States. The courts can always charge you as an adult. You’re probably going off to college soon. For some people, this day is when you can finally get a tattoo. So, they run off to a parlor as soon as they can, to get their piece of art.

Some people may see tattoos as a negative that detracts from the beauty of someone’s body, but for those who have them, tattoos are an art placed on the best canvas in the world: the human body.  Despite the negative connotations that tattoos can have in our society, for these people, it is their art.

The perception of tattoos has been changing for a long time. While it is still considered unprofessional to be covered in them, many people have a growing appreciation for them. There will always be personal preference, but there is a way for tattoos to be meaningful.

For many people, tattoos function as a sort of reminder. It helps them remember their values. Abby Plumley, a student at the University of North Dakota, has two tattoos on her foot. The first one is a small cross. The other one is an ellipsis.

“The cross is a reminder to walk by faith and the ellipses is for my anxiety disorder, serving as a reminder that the story goes on, and while there may be more bad ahead, there is also a lot more good,” Plumley said.

While both tattoos are quite simple and easy to hide, they both hold a lot of meaning. They are a daily reminder.

Tattoos can also be used to keep people connected. They preserve what is important in someone’s life, no matter what happens.

Desiree Robinson, another student at UND, has a very strong relationship with her mom. Robinson’s parents are divorced. Her mom has been a constant figure amidst it.

“To me this quote represents having the strength and courage to go ahead on through times in life of uncertainty and fear. This vine is the epitome of my mom’s strength in life,” Robinson said of her tattoos.

For the moon, she cited poet Santi D.P. “”She was the type to fall in love with the moon, and everything that was beautifully unreachable.””

For Reina Ortega, another student at UND,  her tattoos keep her connected to her heritage. While she said that she is a mix of ethnicities, she feels very connected to her Hispanic heritage.

“My last name is Ortega, but I look white. I got the calavera and the dahlias so that I can display my heritage after I get married and lose my last name,” Ortega said.

Samuel Cory, a tattooist in Grand Forks, enjoys helping people put art on their body. He himself is covered in tattoos, from parts of his face to his arms.

“I don’t really have to worry about looking unprofessional,” he said.

Cory explained that he has seen tattoos that do not have much meaning, but he still has to make them. But he has seen many happy people come through his parlor.

“They want something beautiful. They want something meaningful. I guess that’s what I do for them, give it to them,” he said.

For most people with tattoos, they use them to express themselves. Even though they face backlash from some of their parents, the connection that they form with their tattoos is so much more important.