During this last autumn of the decade, I’ve been thinking a lot about what the 2010s gave me. In brief, it made me who I am, turned me into the person I am today. A significant part of this growth has been due to the university student movement, the community that made me an advocate and a leader.
I could write a book just about my year as the President of The National Union of University Students in Finland. It’s astonishing that it can happen as much in one week as in a month, and I can still keep track of things. Using this formula, the year 2019 actually lasted more than four years. It might take a while to put all of that into words in an extensive manner.
This year was exceptional, intensive, enriching and important. It was comprehensive and unique. It was definitely the most challenging year I’ve been through, mostly in a good way. Many mistakes, failures and moments of carelessness. Fatigue and inadequacy. Countless learning experiences, encounters and epiphanies. A lot of laughter, a little debating, and a load of ranting. A year I wouldn’t trade for anything.
It feels amazing to be part of something bigger than yourself. To feel you’re doing something that matters, to find inspiration from the people around you. To constantly be learning, to realise that you can tackle increasingly difficult tasks with increasing ease. To discover at some point that you’re the most knowledgeable person in the room about the issue at hand. To understand that you’ve found something that will be carrying you for the rest of your life.
These are the experiences I’ve had during my year at the helm of the university student movement.
If I could tell my younger self one thing, it would be this: you are enough. Despite feeling that everything should be better and that you could still be improving one aspect of yourself or another. Despite the fact that it was the need to always reach for something greater and the drive to make the world just a little bit better took you where you’re now. Despite the shoes getting bigger and you with them. Despite all that, you were always enough.
If I could tell another thing, I’d say: enjoy the ride. Look around you, listen carefully. Think for yourself, but always be ready to alter your views. Jump on the roller coaster and raise your arms in the air, because you’ll only get to do something this cool once. Look people in the eyes, take them by the hand. Let them come near, let friendships change your life. Don’t be afraid to feel, because that’s what originally brought you here: the passion for creating a better world, the love for all of this.
To the me of today I’ll say: I’m proud. Proud of what we’ve achieved together during these years. Proud of the courage to speak our minds, to try new things and to admit mistakes, to do better next time. Proud of the places we were seen in and the tables we got to sit around.
I’m proud of the people around me, how many of them I’ve seen grow, develop and reach their goals. I’m proud of knowing that many of these people will stay in my life even after the turn of the year. I’m proud of who I became and that I accept the fact that this version is still not done – but done enough to be the best possible version of me right now.
The end of an era causes many feelings to surface, but the topmost of them is gratitude. All of you who were with me on this journey: thank you for everything. I got more than I could ever wish for.
All the best to you personally. Have a wonderful new decade!
SYL President 2019