i use the word should a lot. do you? it holds various meanings—a conditional subjunctive, an indication of likeliness—but when it comes out of my mouth, it usually sounds like this:
we should get together soon
lately, this usage has become bothersome to me. it infers that i somehow have future knowledge that i feel the need to enforce, which both demonstrates a tunnel-vision perspective, disregarding chaos and unforeseen variables, and implies authority. however, it also absolves me of my personal responsibility, as if the outcome is set and i’m simply guiding us to its inevitability. and i don’t often say “should” without hearing the word echo in my mind and ping back as “ought to”. we ought to get together soon? doesn’t much sound like i actually want to hang out, so much as i’m enforcing an inevitability that ought to happen.
language, like posture, provides feedback to your brain. if you slouch like you’re a bag of shit, your brain will think you’re a bag of shit. if you speak indefinitely of obligation, you may lose sight of what you actually want or where your responsibilities lie. vague notions of enforced obligation are easily disregarded and turn us into flakes. demonstrating to yourself that following through with plans is optional is not much different, to me, as stating the people with which you’ve made those plans are also optional.
in the interest of supporting my decisions and communicating clearly with my community, i’ve been gradually training myself to rephrase:
i want to hang out
hearing yourself say this, in my opinion, is just as important as communicating this message to others because if you don’t mean it, it will not ring true. it’s okay to say something you don’t mean if, when you realize you don’t mean it, you recognize and take responsibility for those feelings. if you consider your obligations outside of yourself, you may end up trudging through them for duty, not for joy.
i want more joy in my life. i’m choosing to say should as little as possible.
and you should too.