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This text is dedicated for us soon-to-be graduates, recent graduates, those transitioning into the workforce, and anyone going through major changes.

My year started with me quitting my part-time job to focus on wrapping up my studies. Graduation started getting closer and closer as if it were flying towards me. Suddenly, March arrived, and it was time for my final class. I spent the next two months at home, writing my thesis as well as job applications. I enrolled in an entrepreneurship course on a whim. Then I got myself a business name. I regretted it for a bit. And stopped regretting it. Some days have been filled with happiness and joyfully looking towards my future. At other times, I’ve been so stressed out that I find myself crying in the shower or holding back tears on the bus.

We’re in June now, and I’m just a diploma short of a master’s degree. I’ve got my business name and no other job, and I start working towards a new degree in a week. Everything feels incredibly confusing. At the same time, everything is crystal clear.

To enlighten you about my thoughts on graduating and the changes that come with it, I’ve decided to introduce you to my three best friends for the last few months.

Meet Impostor Syndrome, Gratitude, and Changing Identity.

***

Impostor Syndrome has really found its place by my side after several months of job searching. Quite often it likes to stay silent and keep its distance. However, at times it sneaks up on me out of the blue, sits on my chest, refuses to budge, and makes me feel like I can’t breathe.

Impostor Syndrome is the meanest out of my new friends. It tries to convince me that I’m not good or qualified enough. It makes me believe that I’m not enough, even with a university-level degree. At its nastiest, it will talk me into deleting a half-written application for a job that interests me.

Fortunately, Gratitude likes to sit next to me quite often, too. Gratitude is a gentle long-term friend, who has helped me countless times.

When Gratitude takes a seat next to me, it grabs my hand and reminds me of everything that I wouldn’t want to give up. It reminds me that my six years (and change) as a student weren’t filled with just my studies. They included active participation in our association’s projects, volunteer work, sitsit parties, friends, movie nights, traveling, freedom, and summer jobs. It also reminds me that I got to choose my classes more freely after the first year and chose them based on my own interests, instead of how well they suited my degree program. As a result, my diploma will be quite varied and colorful, and I love it.

Changing Identity is new to my friend circle, and it’s a complex friend. It changes color, shape, and feel on a weekly basis. It’s unpredictable and hard to describe.

Sometimes Changing Identity will nudge me, causing me to stumble and fall because the student identity that’s been my safe haven for so long is getting old and can’t support me like it used to. I still have a hard time believing that I need to let go of it.

At other times, Changing Identity puts its hand on my shoulder and gently turns me around, guiding me into a new direction.

***

My guess is that these buddies won’t leave my side anytime soon. Maybe they don’t need to, not entirely, at least. Then again, I do believe that in just a few months’ time their hold on me will be different. Maybe they’ll be joined by other acquaintances, old and new:

Acceptance. Sense of Belonging. Perseverance. Confidence. Strong Professional Identity.

That’s a comforting thought.

***

So, what now?

It’s been both really inspiring and at times confusing to try to fill my days with something other than my studies. Be that as it may, I plan to take full advantage of this opportunity. I’m going to focus on things that are new, different, and challenging. I intend to test my limits and think about what I really want and enjoy doing.

I’ll also try to remember that it’s okay to feel a bit lost sometimes. It’s okay to change directions. To change your mind. The important thing is to keep moving forward, in spite of everything else.

Towards new adventures and a sunny summer,
Piia


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