Finish exams – check. Feel empty inside – check. Wait, what?

By Artur Odwald

The nightmare is over. We battle no more. We can rest now. Although, it’s more likely that we will feel uneasy. Empty. There was supposed to be happiness, joy, carelessness, but instead we wander around the house aimlessly, feeling something is amiss.

Nothing wrong with you

First and foremost – there is nothing wrong with you for feeling this way. It’s absolutely normal and a vast majority of people feel this way. It may not be something we talk about openly, because, hey, someone likely would be quick to say, you finished your exams, you shouldn’t feel sad, but there never should be a should when it comes to feelings. Let yourself feel down, if needed. It may be that just now your body is able to deal with all the accumulated stress. It was a marathon, especially this past semester, and you deserve time for recovery.

Importance of rituals

Rituals are something we may not have appreciated enough when we had them. Now, in times of social distancing and working remotely, we have not seen each other in person. We have not talked about the exams face to face. We couldn’t go out to celebrate. Subsequently, it’s hard to get closure – and closure we need. It’s not easy to convince ourselves that this chapter of our lives is finished, if we didn’t get to end it properly.

The rituals also helped us appreciate our work. They showed us what we have accomplished. If we don’t see anything changing, physically, then it’s hard to believe that anything happened. Especially if the changes were gradual and were happening over the months. Think of all the things you’ve learned. All the material you covered. You would not have passed these exams at the beginning of the semester. You passed them because you worked for it. You improved. You’ve grown.


Since you’re less busy, you could now do the things you’ve been wanting to do but never had the time. It can be something that will develop your skills. It can be getting a job to earn money. It can be something merely to gain some work experience. But, more importantly, it can be just taking a break.

We were in work mode for so long that we may look at entertainment with the same task-based approach. Thankfully, there is no need to do that. You can do nothing for an entire evening, as opposed to watching a movie. Without any goal hovering above your head, you’re free to do whatever. Don’t set out to chase a new goal if you haven’t recovered from the last one.

The feeling of emptiness after finishing something big is a psychological state that we are likely to encounter again. It can be finishing a season of a TV show, a book, or a game that you spent countless hours on. Of course, to a lesser extent, but the emptiness may still be there. There is no universal solution. Everyone eventually finds their own way of dealing with it. Experimenting and trying to find your own path forward can also be fun. You may not always know best what works, but do what feels right.