“Life seems very bleak and I don’t see the joy in anything”

UM Ink


Marta Rusakiewicz (20, Poland), second-year student of European Law, got a tattoo of a compass rose on her ribs when she was 18. It was something she felt she ‘had’ to do.

“I’ve been a sad person my whole life; my brain doesn’t produce happy hormones. Life seems very bleak and I don’t see the joy in anything. It used to be worse than it is now. I was very shy and introverted and I found it hard to express myself or accept myself. How I move, speak, think and even breathe: everything irritated me. I often lost myself in this sadness and I had very depressive periods.

By the time I was 18 I’d had enough and decided to work on it. I stepped out of my comfort zone by talking about it with friends and family, which I’d never done before, and I went to a psychologist. I made a few big changes: I dyed my hair blonde and dropped out of civil engineering to study law in Maastricht. Here, too, I try to push my boundaries, looking for moments of joy. This interview, for example, is a big step.

The tattoo was a need I had at that moment. For me it separates the old and the new me. I drew it myself and had it put on my ribs; that’s one of the most painful places to get a tattoo and I wanted to prove to myself that I could handle the pain. The feeling I got afterwards was incredibly satisfying. I loved it immediately: it was one of my first moments of joy.

The compass makes me feel that I’ll never be lost again. That idea gives me peace. It points to the future, to the person I want to be. A Marta who’s not depressed all the time, but also has moments of joy. I’m trying to get there on my own; I don’t want to take medication. I’m learning from friends and the people around me to enjoy the small things, like my voluntary work at the animal shelter, going home to Poland or nice weather. I’m not there yet, but things are a lot better than they were two years ago.”

In this series, employees and students are interviewed about their tattoo.

“Life seems very bleak and I don’t see the joy in anything”
Tattoo Marta1
Tattoo Marta2