Should Vs. Must
At Medium, artist and designer Elle Luna discusses the different choices we make at different points in our careers—the “shoulds” being what we ought to do and what people expect us to do, and the musts being “who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self”:
Must is why Van Gogh painted his entire life without ever receiving public recognition. Must is why Mozart performed Don Giovani and Coltrane played his new sound, even as the critics called it ugly. Must is why that lawyer in his thirties spent three years writing his first novel only to be rejected by three dozen publishers. He honored his calling, eventually received a “yes,” and that is why John Grisham is a household name today. Must isn’t exclusively for writers and painters and composers, though. Must is why, in the early days, Airbnb sold boxes of cereal to make ends meet because no one would give them money and every conceivable metric said they should quit.
It’s a tad on the idealistic side, though I appreciate Luna’s point of view. Our lives are a balance of “shoulds” and “musts”—some of us must make art, but we also must provide a living for ourselves, and that often involves what we should be doing to make that happen (again, see: Maggie Estep).