Leah’s Life Lessons: Rejecting the ‘shoulds’ of life

As young adults, our elders often have a wealth of knowledge for us. They teach us the “shoulds,” the things we should do, such as how to file our taxes, what a 401K is and how to find a job after graduation. While all of these things are extremely important, there are some things that the generation before us doesn’t understand.

You see, our generation has a gift that’s unique to us. With the birth of the Internet, we were given a new choice before we could walk. As the Internet grew, so did the rest of the world. We became the first generation with the ability to talk to someone on the other side of the world with the touch of a button. We’re the first generation to have a voice given to each of us that can go past our inner circle. With one click we can share our opinions with the world and have a chance at making them go viral.

Yet, with that gift comes a burden. The advice that our parents gave us doesn’t always fit. Gone are the days when everyone graduates college and immediately finds a 9 to 5 job.

We no longer have to go straight from college to a desk job. We can take time off from school to spend a year teaching English in Peru. We can major in art and find a job.

Yes, those things are difficult, and no, they aren’t for everyone, but we have those options. We are given the opportunity to create our own lives, lives where we don’t always have to play by the book. These opportunities are things that our parents and grandparents could only dream of.

The internet is full of stories of people who gave up their six-figure salaries to serve ice-cream in the Bahamas. While I’m not suggesting that each of us jump on the next flight to Nassau, I think we can all take a lesson from these people. They took a leap of faith and chose to live in the moment. They put aside the “shoulds” of their parents’ generation to do what made them happy.

They could have waited until they retired to move to the islands and enjoy their golden years, but here’s the thing. All of us aren’t guaranteed to make it to our golden years, or even our silver years. Yes, I know this is cryptic but it’s true.

Before I left to study abroad in Germany, I had expectations. I expected for all of my family to be home when I returned. I expected to have more time with everyone, but life had another plan. Through the experience of losing a loved one, I’ve learned to never take one single day for granted because you aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. No, we aren’t all meant to move far away from home and work odd jobs, but we shouldn’t let the “shoulds” of our lives dictate our happiness.

I’ve noticed that people seem to make plans for things they want to do, but they never get around to it because they’re too focused on the “should.” The marathon that you wanted to sign up for gets postponed because of a heavy workload. The family summer trip takes the back seat to a new iPhone.

When it comes down to it, we get so wrapped up in the “shoulds” of life that we never really get around to living it.

Yes, we should and must pay taxes; yes, we do need a 401K; and yes, we should find a job that can sustain our lifestyles. But that isn’t all we should do. Instead of getting wrapped up in the “shoulds,” we should do what makes us happy regardless of what life throws at us.

After all, we only get one shot at life, and our success won’t be counted by the size of our bank accounts but in the memories that we make and our happiness.