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At The Crossroads

When I was in D.C., I ate at this really great restaurant called Busboys and Poets that has a bookstore inside called Politics and Prose. It was full of novels, political and social commentaries, graphic novels, children’s books . . . everything. After taking in the whole scene, my eyes finally settled on a book called The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna. The bright water-colored words on the cover made a great first impression, and I was not disappointed when I began reading the first page.

This book is a tangible version of Luna’s blog she published 3 years ago. In her own words:

This is a story about two roads — Should and Must. It’s a pep talk for anyone who’s chosen Should for far too long — months, years, maybe a lifetime — and feels like it’s about time they gave Must a shot.

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This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. I graduated last May with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology, and while I’m happy with my decision to stay on that path throughout college, I’m facing a different reality now that I’m on the other side. I love anthropology and archaeology. But I don’t love the idea of sitting behind a desk, writing grants, giving seminars, or teaching theoretical college courses.

Since I graduated, I’ve had a nannying job (which I loved, but was also not something I could see myself doing long-term). And for the past 8 months, I’ve been working at a coffee shop. I know I’ll have to make a career decision sometime in the near future, or at least find something that’s sustainable with long-term benefits.

The thing is, I want to pursue something I love, that I’ll get to enjoy for the rest of my life, and if that means doing something a little more nontraditional, then so be it. But the hard part is getting to the point where I can benefit from the things I love (which currently include: art, ceramics, Pilates, beekeeping, gardening, and coffee).

Which brings me back around to this book. It made me feel a lot better about the plan I want to lay out for my life. Especially this section:

 

“If you find yourself peering over the edge of an enormous cliff where you can’t see anything down below, back up. Don’t make the leap!

While this journey asks that your surrender to the unknown, it does not ask you to put yourself—or those around you—at risk. To choose Must is not like Evil Knievel proclaiming he will do the unthinkable. It is not a spectator sport. Must is too important, way too important, to be chosen on a whim, out of excitement, out of intoxication. That kind of decision-making is certain death.

The most sustainable Musts happen slowly, thoughtfully, and quietly. They don’t happen impulsively but are built with a sober, calm intention.

Every decision you make counts. Ten minutes of solitude. One Must instead of one Should. Setting up your space. Writing your wants down and pinning them to the wall. Must is not a faraway land that you hope to arrive at sometime in the future, it’s not for tomorrow or another day. Must is for today, now. And as you take daily action, the cliff will cease to become a cliff. It will simply become an obvious next step along your path to Must.”

. . .

Working towards your dreams can be so scary, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. And I know that there’s nothing wrong with taking things one step at a time. It just means that I’m going about the whole process with intention and a self-sustaining attitude.

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Existential Crises and Other Joys of a College Senior

[This post was originally written on September 2, 2015.]

I spent this past summer considering my options for the next phase in my life. My college career is quickly coming to a close, and I have to think about where I’ll be living, with whom I’ll be living, how I’ll be saving money, whether or not I want to continue my schooling, what kind of job I want, etc. The list could go on forever, but I’m trying to keep my stress levels low, so I’ll end it there. It’s a real job in and of itself to just sit and think about these things. I’ve requested information from grad schools all across the country and even across the globe. I’ve been asking friends if they’ll need a roommate next year. I’ve been weighing my options, and I’ve come to the conclusion that life is exponentially more difficult and vastly more confusing than I thought it would be. I know everyone goes through it, but no one has managed to articulate just how stressful these kinds of decisions are. Who knew I could feel so helpless and so stressed out at the same time? It honestly feels a little like drowning. And after my first experience with a panic attack, I can confidently say that I want to avoid all unnecessary stressors.

I also spent a lot of time this summer rethinking my choice in major. And with graduation just around the corner, that’s kind of a terrifying thought to have. Do I go back and change my major now? Do I spend two or three more years in undergrad? Do I have the money or means for that? Do I graduate with this Anthropology degree and hope I can get into grad school with something entirely different in mind? How much more work will that be?

With all of these questions whirring around in my brain, it’s a wonder I’m still functioning as a semi-normal human being. (My only explanation is obscene amounts of coffee.)

But the one important question I keep coming back to is: What makes you happy?

I know, I know. Cheesy. But stick with me. This is important. What keeps you up at night out of sheer excitement? How do you like to spend your time? What do you find yourself talking about so often that your friends demand that you shut up already? Are you willing to sacrifice your happiness for a potentially more stable but potentially less satisfying career?

I think the crucial thing is to be aware of what your passions are and to not dismiss them because they’re not the traditional or easy paths to success. I’ve come to realize that the people who truly care about you, the ones who can clearly see what you love to do, never lie. They recognize your potential, and they tell you when what you’re doing is good and worthwhile.

So try not to get overwhelmed by that little voice in your head that whispers, “Hey, you’re going to fail big time. Don’t even bother.” Because you certainly have a say in the matter, and it’s often never as bad as you think. You’ve survived 100% of the tough days in your life so far.

And you will survive so many more.