Tat Tuesday: Graci Hale finds meaning, comfort through tattoos

Kaiya Little , Life and Arts senior reporter

When biology freshman Graci Hale turned 18, she could already trace the imagined letters of her dream tattoo winding across the inside of her arms. Within a week, she found herself stepping inside a tattoo parlor buzzing with excitement, her long-time dream about to become reality.

Hale watched the drag of the needle over her skin with fascination. As the word “special” began to etch itself in ink under her elbow, Hale said she reclaimed the years of confusion and hurt that had followed her in and out of many doctor’s office doors. 

“I have been through a lot of medical things for a long time, … (and when they) don’t know what’s wrong with you, they call you special,” Hale said. “I think it’s meant to be comforting … (but) for me, it just meant that another doctor didn’t know what was going on.” 

After a smooth first tattoo experience, Hale said her love for tattoos grew into an addiction. However, she maintains the belief that anything she puts on her body should be significant.

“I applaud the people who get a random tattoo,” Hale said. “(But) being 19, … I didn’t want (older) me to regret it.” 

Months later, in a moment of spontaneity, Hale said she decided to get another tattoo while on a study break. With no particular idea in mind, she took to Pinterest for inspiration and settled on a picture that she said she believed others would find ironic. 

“I am the most directionally challenged person on the planet, … (so) I was like, ‘I’m gonna get a compass tattoo. It’s gonna be hilarious,’” Hale said. “I thought about it, I was like, ‘I could actually make this mean something.’ That’s why a heart is in place of true north. … I just go where my heart takes me.” 

Hale said the design, a personalized take on a traditional compass, sometimes reminds her of jokes her friends and family make about her habit for wandering. More often, though, she said she enjoys remembering the time when a few wrong turns lead her and a friend into a stranger’s backyard celebration. 

“We walked in on a wedding and were like, ‘We are severely underdressed,’” Hale said. “(Getting lost) can be extremely fun, which is the point of the tattoo: You follow your heart, sometimes horribly, but sometimes you get the best story out of it.”

While Hale’s past consists of both fond experiences and periods of sadness, she said her goal is to look at her tattoos and find reminders of her own strength as she continues to add to her collection.

“Both of my (tattoos) initially came out of an insecurity of mine,” Hale said. “(Getting them) was me accepting who I am and what I’ve been through. Every time I look down at them, these things that were once bad things about me are like a good memory.”