Tattoo Tales: Sydney Taylor

Sydney Taylor’s tattoos honor her faith and those she loves. Photo by Elle Rotter


“Tattoo Tales” is a series in which The Butler Collegian speaks with a Butler community member about their tattoos and the stories behind them

Sydney Taylor, a first-year speech, language and hearing sciences major, is not the type of person to get a tattoo on a whim. Taylor’s tattoos help her remember people who have shaped her life and aspects of her upbringing which are vital to her coming-of-age journey. Taylor’s tattoos have deep meanings, allowing her to use them as reminders of what she has been through, and the strength she has to face challenges.  

THE BUTLER COLLEGIAN: Can you give a tour of what [tattoos] you have and how many [you have]? 

SYDNEY TAYLOR: Yeah, so I have two tattoos. I have one on my thigh; it’s a phoenix. And then I have this one on my arm, and it says “The type of luck to shape a life.”  

TBC: Are there meanings behind the tattoos? 

ST: I’m Catholic, and during Lent, when they’re putting the ashes on your forehead, they say “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” and that’s why I got the phoenix because they die in a pile of ashes and rise again in fire. I thought that was cool, and it represents that aspect of my faith. And then [the arm tattoo] has a lot more meaning. I had a friend pass away [in my] sophomore year [of high school]. We went to grade school together. In eighth grade, he wrote me this long letter and the opening line is “Luck appears only to leave, but you had the type of luck to shape a life.” This [tattoo] is in his handwriting from the letter, so it’s just kind of like a memorial tattoo, because he did pass away my sophomore year, so [it is] just kind of a reminder. 

Photo by Elle Rotter

TBC: That sounds like a really nice friendship 

ST: It was. He was from Austria, and he came to the United States in fifth grade, and he was very, very stern, and I am definitely not. I consider myself to be more of an outgoing person, so it was really funny to me that we did become friends because we are so different. And, not only that, when he first came to the United States, he didn’t speak English, so he had a [translation] tablet.  

TBC: How did you become friends in the first place? 

ST: Well, I would bother him a lot. Not in a mean way. Just because he was so reserved, and I like getting people out of their shells. So I would probably aggravate him a little bit. And then in eighth grade, he went back to Austria to get confirmed, and when he came back, he was a whole new person, and he was super outgoing. We had a school play, and I played Snow White, and he was the prince. 

TBC: Ah, so like leads together? 

ST: Yeah, so that was really fun. It was kind of a comedy sketch. It wasn’t actually Snow White — it was really cute — he gave me a little plastic ring during the show. There was one scene in particular, it was opening night — this is one of the memories we really had together — [and] there was a scene where he was supposed to lift this mattress on the floor, and I was supposed to roll off because they incorporated something like “The Princess and the Pea”. He was supposed to find a pea or something. Well, he lifted the mattress, but kind of lifted it too hard, so I rolled off the mattress, and it flipped over on top of me. Nobody really knew what we were supposed to do and, like I said, he was a really serious person. But that was one of the first times he broke character and was just laughing so hard, so it was a really fun memory. 

TBC: Which tattoo did you get first? 

Photo by Elle Rotter

ST: I got the phoenix one first as my 18th birthday present. My dad took me to go get it. 

TBC: Were you nervous or excited?

ST: A little bit of both. I just didn’t really know what to expect. I knew that after it would be like, “Okay I know what it feels like,” but I had just never gotten a tattoo before, so I was nervous, but I really wanted one, so I was excited too. 

TBC: What would you rate the pain levels for both of them? 

ST: For my thigh tattoo, I would say, maybe like a five? It wasn’t really that bad because it was on my thigh, which is a pretty painless spot, but it was my first tattoo. And so the pain was new to me. For my forearm, I would say a four, but the closer it was to my wrist — like the first couple of letters — hurt because it was such thin skin right by my wrist. Right by the end over here, near the crook of my arm, that kind of hurt too. 

TBC: Did you plan your tattoos or were they more spontaneous? 

 ST: I planned my tattoos for a long time because I had a bunch of ideas for tattoos, so my mom was like, “No, you can’t make up your mind; you can’t get one until you absolutely solidify it in your mind.” So, the phoenix one, I saw a similar one on Pinterest or something, and I thought it was really pretty and really cool and then also went along with the message I wanted. And then, for the one on my forearm, it definitely took some thinking, because I wanted to do it right, and I had several ideas, but in the end, this felt the most right for me. 

TBC: By right, did you mean what quote to use or did you already know you wanted to do something with that?  

ST: Well, I was going to do a picture of us together in a minimalist style, but I just felt kind of weird about having my own face on my body. And then I felt like that letter was something that had a really big impact on me, and it is also a message for my life, just knowing that I do have a lot of luck or just like to know that everything is going to be okay, so I thought it was fitting. And to be able to have it in his handwriting was a huge thing for me. 

TBC: Did you ever know that one day you were going to get a tattoo, even as a kid?  

ST: Yeah, I think so. I just kind of always wondered what it would be because my mom is very big on “Don’t get a tattoo unless it has a special meaning,” so I was trying to create meaning in my life. In some unfortunate ways, it did come to me.  

TBC: Do you have any plans for more? 

ST: Not at the moment, no. 

TBC: What are your opinions on tattoos in general, right now? 

ST: I like tattoos. Both of the parental figures in my life have tattoos. I think I am used to memorial tattoos. My mom has one for her late brother, and my stepdad has one to commemorate his time in the army. But also, I really admire people with patchwork tattoos, because I feel like that’s something I could never pull off, so I think they’re really cool. So I have kind of an appreciation for both aspects. 

TBC: Do you think your tattoos represent you well? 

ST: I think so. [They represent] my faith and what I have been through and the people I hold near. 


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