Why do we say the word ‘should’?

I had the most productive morning of my life today.

That’s a lie. Not life. Month, maybe. Either way, it was hella productive.

I woke up with a case of the panics. After being drastically hungover and unable to pull myself off the couch yesterday, my first thoughts consisted of all the shit I should have conquered over the weekend.

At the top of it? Write Meg’s website.

I have a deep level of love and respect for all my clients, but Meg is a special case. One, I’ve known her the longest, and two, we were friends far before any work exchange took place. I was half-joking/half-serious when she vented to me over her About page, and I responded, “Hire me to do it!”

To condense a lot of text messages, we’re writing her whole damn website together.

This AM, before I went to the bathroom, before I left the covers, before I even opened my EYES, I had a 600-level pulse rate. Each of those rapid beats were contributed to a stream of shoulds running through me, a list that went something like this:

  • I should have finished the first draft this weekend
  • I should have talked to her more about edits
  • I shouldn’t have drank that bottle of wine Saturday night

And about 57 other statements that completely consumed me, until I finally said, “Fuck this shit.”

I got of bed, channeled my inner Meg, and opened my Mac.

If there are two things Meg finds more toxic than my facewash, it’s household cleaners and the word should.

If you know nothing about Meg, I’ll share two facts. Her favorite word in the English language is love. Meg loves everyone. Meg loves love. And her least favorite word in the English language, is should.

I know her well enough to know she would never, ever, EVER rip me apart in a project (I would know; I once lost an entire chapter of the cookbook we created). But she WOULD rip me to shreds—for ripping MYSELF to shreds—over the exact same subject.

I want you to think real long and hard about the last time you uttered the word should.

Exactly what were you referring to? Unless it was something involving the written law or a very rigorous game of Monopoly, chances are your should involves some ambiguous, made-up rule no one cares about anyway.

Using myself as an example (because, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, every lesson I write about is one I need to learn more than anyone), I always feel guilty for not working eight, uninterrupted hours. Because even though I work from home, it’s no excuse to work less than every other worker in DC, right? Actually, I should probably work nine, as I don’t have to deal with commuting, internal meetings, and other company bullshit.

Excuse me, what?

Just where did this eight-hour rule come from? Why should I chain myself to a desk all day, if it takes me less time to finish my work? If there’s anything I should be doing, it’s enjoying my life as a freelancer—someone who gets to come and go as I please, without punching a virtual timeclock.

Which, by the by, is the benefit of being a freelancer. It’s our personal trade-off for the mental breakdowns we have each time we pay bills.

The next time you fire off a handful of shoulds, I challenge you to pinpoint where that should came from.

Who got inside your head and said, “You should run certain mileage, work a specific number of hours, and weigh a particular weight”? Where is this unwritten sacred text you feel so compelled to abide by?

Did an Instagram post of a half-naked chick hint you should look a certain way? Did a former nightmare of a boss scream you should be more on top of your workload? Or perhaps, did a family member define the life plan you should be on, even though it had absolutely nothing to do with your own ambition?

With the exception of keeping yourself (and your family) alive and generally being nice to people, there are very few things we should do.

We GET (note the difference) to do lots of things. We GET to make our own choices, enjoy our jobs, exercise in a way that makes us happy, and make friends with those we care about. We GET to try as many things as we fail at, and when we fall flat on our face, we GET to do that too.

As someone who’s never succeeded in giving up four-letter words, these six characters make up a combo I’d like to say less.

Fuck the shoulds.

      1. I totally misunderstood and thought you said you read something about this… oops. And I wasn’t awake at 2am! It’s saying nearly 4am now when I look at it, and it’s saying you responded at 2:27pm today (it’s only 9am right now), so I think it’s safe to say your blog clock is drunk.

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For All the F Words
You have flaws. You f-up on a daily basis. And that should be ok.