Journey of choosing ‘must’ not ‘shoulds’ in life

This letter was first sent to my  Newsletter subscribers, and it resonated so much with them that I thought I’d publish it here too – to get more letters like this to your inbox, you can subscribe here.


‘Guten Morgen’ from Sankt Pölten, Austria.

October is here already and I am writing this letter to you while sitting in the garden and soaking in this blissful morning.

Today, I am going to share some soulful moments and realities of life with you. This is to inspire you to never stop following your dreams even if you don’t have the idea of what that dream looks like for you (yet).

I am here in Austria to visit a family friend who is quite sick and has no one to care for at the moment. I felt like sharing what I am learning from this experience of seeing someone so full of life going through the tough times to make you question your life choices like the way I am questioning mine at the moment.

He was an artist who loved to paint in oil paints, draw portraits with his pencil and design products that spoke to him. He owned a product design workshop here before retiring, 67 years old now and still, his heart aches to paint. He was not a trained artist. He never had any formal art training or education. He is a mechanical engineer by his profession but this lack of formal art education never became a reason for him not to explore his creative passions.

He was not afraid to try.

He is the man who followed his ‘must’ all his life.

He doesn’t have any regrets as he got to do what his soul, the big-hearted creative inside him longed for.

The day I arrived, he showed me his home office, he has a cabinet full of tiny little things that he made along the way in his life that he is proud of. I could see the light in his eyes when he was showing me each one of them one by one. He showed me his paintings and shared in a trembling voice how much he loved to paint especially flowers. His garden is still full of flowers. Autumn hasn’t found its way yet to his garden yet. If his hands still allowed him to paint, he would still be painting those florals.

The pain in his voice when he said, I can’t make my hands hold a brush anymore made me cringe.

It made me think of all the times I have not picked up a brush that it might not turn out the way I want it to, what if I end up making a fool of myself, the world doesn’t need another person painting flowers, what if my creative passions are not going to make me money, what if I end up wasting all the materials that I have bought (which cost me a fortune), I am not ready to paint yet, I haven’t learned enough yet to try the paints so maybe I will just let them sit there for a while and learn more first and then try so I don’t end up wasting them, I don’t know how to ‘properly’ use them, I don’t have time yet to practice or paint, or draw… excuses.

All the excuses that I kept giving myself all my life until now. They are just excuses. Aren’t they?

I know in my heart that I loved colors, I always have. I don’t even remember the last time I picked up my brush to paint. I miss the smell of oil paints, the smell of the room full of canvases of freshly painted oil paints.

While I was choosing my major, I knew in my heart deep down that I wanted to paint. But I didn’t, I chickened out. I choose to study design instead as everyone around me kept telling me it’s not a career to choose, it’s more like a hobby to do on the days when you have nothing else to do.

I kept hearing that it is not going to make you any money. I wanted money. I needed it to elevate my life’s quality, to become independent and I ended up choosing to study design instead of fine arts as a major. While I was doing my formal art education, my bachelors in Product Design, I always choose subjects that I knew were going to be in demand when I will finally make it to the job market; graphic design & photography. I don’t regret studying design but I do miss choosing fine-arts as a major.

After spending a day with him, exploring his past artworks, I realized I have been giving myself this as an ‘excuse’ to not to try,

‘I don’t have any formal education in painting.’

I have the money now but I don’t have that feeling of living my life to its full potential, doing the things I loved doing. To be completely honest, if it wasn’t for design and working in the corporate design world, I would have not make it this far either. I am grateful for that. Wholeheartedly grateful. But now, I have the time to reflect and I have the freedom to make a different choice than I had back then.

I am taking a week off, full of soulful exploration my own self, his artworks, and the city while traveling alone for the very first time in my 28 years of life. I’m having a hard time articulating the feeling.

It is empowering.

I never imagined to be able to do just this considering from where I started but that’s a story for another day.

But today, I want to encourage you to take a step back and reflect. Reflect on the life choices that you have made so far.
Are you doing exactly what you’ve always wanted to be doing or you ended up opting for something else like myself?

If so, do you have the power to choose once again today?
If given a chance, would you consider doing it?
If money wasn’t a problem, what would you be doing today?
What you’d absolutely love doing?

You might not have the freedom to choose but you don’t want to regret not choosing to show up for yourself at the end of your life.

I want to encourage you to think and sit on this idea of giving it a try. Not burning all the ships behind you but choosing to visit that island once in a while and seeing what treasures are hidden there for you, for your soul.

While I was discussing what I really want my ideal day to look like to a friend almost a month ago, she introduced me to “Elle Luna”. If you want to explore more of this crossroads between your should and musts, try reading the beautifully illustrated essay by her– The crossroads of should and must. 

I ended up buying her book which I absolutely fell in love with. It answered all the questions for me that I had when I thought about choosing my must.

Choosing to start this small creative business, the newsletter, this blog is my way of figuring out my ‘musts’ in a way. It is a journey of self-awareness and I am glad that I took the first step even though I am not sure where am I going but I am on my way.

Deep, soulful conversations and living intentionally is what I stand for.

Amazingly, I have too many passions and that’s why I like to call myself a ‘multi-passionate’. Painting is one of them. I am still figuring out how I want to take the next steps as I am certain it is a part of my must and the next step would be to take action and start painting.

I am not sure if I will be sharing my paintings anywhere on the internet yet but I’m sure I am going to have to try so when I’m old and wrinkly and I have someone to visit me, I can share the same pain and inspire some movement deep in the soul as visiting my uncle and his passions have inspired in me.

Can you relate to any of this? 

I’d love to hear your take on choosing your must.


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