This is Part Three (the finale) of a three part collaborative blog by Alison and Mel contrasting generational perspectives on passion, purpose, and pathways to success.
“Your message is great, but as 9th graders at a high-performing school, we’ve been essentially told what our paths should be for the next ten years (that is, to graduate from high school and attend a top-tier college). How do we make the choice to pursue our “musts” now, if our futures are basically decided for us through college?”
This question is a particularly interesting one; and it’s certainly one that we can empathise with. Our recommendation to the 9th graders would be to take the time to understand and discover your ‘musts’ without necessarily shedding your ‘shoulds’. There is beauty in being mindfully aware of both your passions and societal expectations, without also being impulsive. As teenagers, you’ve probably only been exposed to a ritualistic life that consists of mostly being at school and perhaps engaging in a few after school activities. Therefore, you probably don’t have a developed and comprehensive understanding of what your ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ even are yet – and that’s totally fine! There are ways to discover and foster your ‘musts’ while still pursuing your ‘shoulds’. For example, let’s say that a ‘should’ is: I should go to college. However, you also know that a ‘must’ of yours is: I must paint. Well, our advice would be to schedule time into your schedule at college to continue cultivating your skill as a painter whenever possible, and to incorporate this ‘must’ into your daily routine and practice, even if your efforts are primarily centered on your ‘shoulds’. You could even major or minor in the Visual Arts! Your college years are a wonderful time (and perhaps the only time afforded to your young adult life) to explore, make space for, and cultivate the passions that you didn’t or couldn’t afford to in high school or potentially later in your professional life. For example, you could take an eclectic class or join an intriguing club that wouldn’t have been offered to you as a high schooler. You may discover a ‘must’ that you never even knew existed! In sum, we believe that it’s important to engage in reflective introspection while being open to new activities, perspectives, and environments in order to cultivate an evolving understanding of your ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’. However, it is not always beneficial to act impulsively and dispose of the ‘shoulds’ immediately. It’s worth considering what the intentions of the ‘shoulds’ are (economic stability, moral upbringing, mental and physical health are some of the intentions of ‘shoulds’), and whether and how your ‘musts’ serve those intentions – and whether those ‘shoulds’ apply to you. Oftentimes, you can pursue your ‘shoulds’ while still allotting time for your ‘musts’ to develop. Remember, understanding the ‘self’ is a lifelong process; don’t assume that you already know all of your ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’. Let life surprise you.
We wish you the best as you ponder your trajectories at The Crossroads of Should and Must!
Written By: Melissa Cesarano and Alison Lee