Who Should You Be?

I ran across this quote by Charles Bukowski “Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?” A thought-provoking and powerful exercise in self-examination. He got it wrong.

In the land before time, young women needed the world to tell us who we could be. Shoulds ruled and options were limited for young girls. No one questioned that all young girls aspired to be a “mommy” when they grew up.

However, before that magic milestone occurred, occupations were limited to nursing, teaching and secretarial work. Secretary morphed into an Administrative Professional, (which we all know is code for chief operating officer without the title and pay.)

As a child, I knew when I heard the word should, an admonition pointing out a character flaw I’d just as soon not acknowledge was about to swoop in.

Decades later, I still get the same anxious feeling whenever someone utters the word.

My annual physical results in many shoulds regarding diet, weight, exercise, and everything I either enjoy or detest.

The worst is the unspoken social should, like making soup for a sick neighbor that I’m not especially fond of. Or should volunteer for a worthy project that I don’t embrace. And, I know I should park far away from the grocer curbside pick-up when it’s raining.

I wish I had never read Bukowski’s quote. My exterior has changed considerably but inside there dwells a child who hates the word should.

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