The first few months of my post-grad life have been unproductive, to say the least. There are so many paths I can take, and sometimes the pressure of deciding between a full-time job, going to graduate school, or just taking a year to figure out my life gets overwhelming and I end up paralyzed from fear and uncertainty. If you're anything like me, you're constantly looking for a sign to guide you in the right direction.
The most frightening (and perhaps the most liberating) thing about adulthood is that there's no blueprint for what you need do with your life; suddenly it's all up to you and there are a million different ways you can choose to go with your future.
Elle Luna's The Crossroads of Should and Must is an incredibly inspiring story and guide to finding and following your passions in a world that often tells us what we should be doing with our lives rather than encouraging us to pursue our dreams. This book won't automatically solve your quarter-life-crises for you, but it will certainly guide you in the right direction (think of it as a compass, rather than a map).
Here are a few lessons I took away from The Crossroads of Should and Must:
The difference between "should" and "must"
At first, it may seem as though the words "should" and "must" are almost synonymous with one another. Throughout the book, however, Elle Luna explains that shoulds come from society, while musts come from within ourselves.
For example, the outside world may be telling you that you should major in science rather than art, you should go to graduate school immediately after undergrad, or that you should find a full-time job instead of pursuing the internship of your dreams. Your heart may tell you otherwise. Perhaps you feel that that you must major in underwater basket weaving, you must travel the world and experience all it has to offer, or you must pursue your dream of opening your own cat treat bakery (a profitable career choice, I'm sure).
Once you differentiate between your "shoulds" and your "musts" and identify what you truly want versus what society wants for you, a beautiful transformation will begin to take place within your spirit.
Identifying your "must" is a scary process.
For a lot of people (myself included), following directions is easy. You do what people tell you to do, you go where people tell you to go, and you live your life the way you're expected to live it. Life after graduation is strange, because you finally have the freedom to do anything, yet there aren't really any guidelines to help you realize what it is you truly want to do with your life.
People may tell you that your "must" won't pay the bills, or preach that it's a risky decision to chase your dreams. Do it anyway. Maybe your parents want you to follow in their footsteps and pursue the same career as them, but in order to be truly happy in your life, you have to do what you want.
While it may be easy to blindly follow society's generic advice, you're only hurting yourself in the process if you aren't listening to yourself. Spend some time identifying what your heart is trying to tell you.
Time is irrelevant.
Probably the most important and reassuring thing I learned from reading this book is that your life's true passion does not have to exist on a timeline. Regardless of circumstance, it's never too late to be the person you were meant to be and live the life you were meant to live. Maybe you'll spend most of your life as a designer before one day realizing that you were born to teach, or maybe you'll hop from one job to another during your 30s and 40s before finally discovering what you want to do when you "grow up."
I've learned that we often place an incredible amount of pressure upon ourselves to make others proud. For me, it's an almost daily struggle to choose between immediately furthering my education and taking some time to test out some other options. Sometimes it feels like I'll be letting someone down (even if it's only myself) regardless of which path I choose. Ultimately, however, the choice is mine and mine alone to make, and there is no time restraint when it comes to happiness.
A final takeaway...
As I mentioned above, this book is not meant to tell you exactly what you should do with your life. Quite the contrary. Instead, this book will guide you towards identifying and celebrating your "musts," despite any and all conflicting outside influences.
This book is perfect for college students, graduates, high school seniors, or anyone else who ever feels a bit frazzled and directionless. Also, be sure to check out the online publication of The Crossroads of Should and Must whenever you need a bit of inspiration (I highly recommend it!)
What do you think? Have you heard about this book? What are the "shoulds" and "musts" in your life? Leave a comment below and get the conversation started!