Broadside: The ‘shoulds’ of our times and lives


Foggy interlude at Piazza San Marco; Photo: Alexandre Moreau/Flickr

There was a young girl playing accordion in Piazza San Marco this evening and she reminded me of you. The colour of her hair or the way her hands moved across the keys, I’m not sure, but I thought of what you wrote to me. At her feet lay the open box of her accordion and a sign that said Need Money for University. The song she played was Doris Day’s Que Sera Sera Whatever Will Be, Will Be.

You said you were leaving for university and collecting advice from people for your Jar of Advice. The photo you sent of the Jar with its scraped remains of a Horlicks label looks like appropriate. You may, in fact, even consider taking a bottle of Horlicks instead or some multi-vitamins. Why you want to collect advice, I do not know, but since you asked, here it is:

Share conversation and food you love with people you love in places you love.

Your question was what you ‘should’ do before you leave home. I did not answer right away. I went astray weighing the weight of shoulds people tell us and the ones we discover for ourselves. The shoulds of our times and our lives. There are the practical shoulds like the things that need to be packed, washed, bought, given, checked off a to-do list. Then there are those which should not be a should at all but a wonderful would if you could.

Shoulds seem forced and unwilling. Woulds and coulds are ripe with possibilities and I hope you use them positively to become more than just potentials. To actually become.

The lady at San Marco, she was becoming that already. Her accordion box had filled by the time the waters of the Adriatic rose on the stony shores of an elegantly decaying Venice. There was a group of graduating students in the square, still wearing their tasselled-hats and gowns from the afternoon’s ceremony.

In a year or two, the lady said, she would be one of them.

(The writer is based in France. She can be reached at [email protected].)


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