Are you a poet trapped inside a lawyer? A stay-at-home parent who yearns to travel? An executive who wants to devote herself to helping the needy? Each one of us has struggled at some time or another to find our “true calling.” Some of us struggle with that every day. We’re standing, in the words of author Elle Luna, at the crossroads between what we should do (what we feel we ought to be doing, what is expected of us) and what we must do (what we dream of doing, the thing that’s our heart’s desire).
Luna first addressed this conundrum in an online essay she published that absolutely blew up the Internet—it was tweeted to more than five million people. Now, she presents her observations in her new book, The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion (Workman Publishing Company, 2015).
“I decided to write this book because of the people who shared their stories with me and the pain and courage I felt in their struggle,” Luna wrote. “Women in their 30s. Men in their 20s. A high school senior. Fathers. A widow. Single moms. Millionaires who were poor. Poor people who were millionaires. Teachers. Lawyers. A musician disguised as a lawyer. A poet who loved to drive a city bus. Women who didn’t want kids. Fathers who wanted to raise kids. People who felt stuck in their jobs and people who were so desperately grateful to have a job.”
Luna said that the yearning to be something else is a seemingly universal one. “The pain cuts across gender, location and age,” she wrote. “And at its essence, the pain was this: All too often, we feel that we are not living the fullness of our lives because we are not expressing the fullness of our gifts.”
The Crossroads of Should and Must isn’t a book of answers, the author points out, but rather a book of the most effective questions a reader can ask about their own lives. “Think of [the book] as a series of doorways designed so that you can choose which way your journey will go,” she writes. The book is “a pep talk to honor that voice inside you that says you have something special to give. It’s a reminder that while there is no map for where you’re going, many have traveled this road before. It’s permission to unlearn everything you’ve been told you should do in order to learn what you must.”
The book offers a perspective that everyday living may lack. Will choosing “must” make me rich? Luna asks. Yes, she answers. “The wealthiest people I know have days and nights filled with life’s most precious items,” she writes—things like watching the sun rise, smelling the rain, making scrambled eggs on a weekday, taking a pointless bike ride, and having belly laughs with a friend.
“There are two types of money,” she tells her readers, “Must-Have and Nice-to-Have . . . beyond the absolutes, money is a game, and you can play it any way you want.”
We find ourselves at the crossroads between should and must every day, according to Luna, and recognizing that is a way of affirming life. “If you feel that you have something inside of you, and you feel it’s about time you gave it a shot,” Luna writes, “honor that calling in some way—today. Because there is a recurring choice in life, and it occurs at the intersection of two roads.
“We arrive at this place again and again,” Luna writes. “And today—you get to choose.”