I recently attended a friends 50th birthday party, the first of my friends to hit the half century mark. We played a game where each of us contributed a bucket list item by writing it on a card and dropping it in an actual bucket. I contributed my desire to drive the full length of Route 66. The cards were then drawn and we all responded whether we had done that or not. The person with the most achievements won. The winner had accomplished nine of the thirty activities. I had accomplished two.
Bucket lists seem silly to me. The idea that people make a list of things they wish they had done and then try to cram them into their remaining days feels like bad planning. It’s almost like a desperate attempt to prove that they had been here, prove that they had lived.
But realizing that I had only done two of these things made me rethink the concept. Granted, the contributions were other people’s bucket list items so a lot of them didn’t appeal to me; they were not accomplishments I cared about. Many, however, were things I want to experience. I even dreamed for years of doing some of them. My life suddenly felt unlived.
My mom taught me no to brag. Most of my upbringing and my training taught me that as well. I started rethinking that a couple years ago when someone told me to do something worth bragging about and then brag about it. The idea here isn’t to tell everyone how great you are but to do something you are proud of and then tell people that you did it. Things like graduating, or getting married fit this. As does painting a landscape or running a marathon or losing that weight you always wanted to. You did something worth doing, worth bragging about. Share the story.
Don’t mistake this for thinking you will be happy once you do any of these things. This isn’t about finding long term joy through a single a event. It’s about doing things you take pride in.
The idea behind bragging about things worth bragging about is to push yourself to have new stories to tell. Do one awesome thing, then move on to the next one. Don’t stop being awesome. Look for a new opportunities.
I have had bouts of this, stretches where I have accomplished things worth talking about. But I have more stretches where the only thing to truly credit myself with was getting out of bed. Or eating something without wearing most of it. Yes, the majority of my life has been toddler level achievement.
As I approach the half century mark myself, as I am on the short side of the life expectancy chart, I find more urgency to get things done. The deadline gets tighter. I have fewer somedays to do the things that I would like to do someday. If I want to do something I need to get busy doing it.
I need to live while there is life to live.
I don’t know if that equates to a bucket list. It does mean that I need to plan a trip to Arizona. For real. For most of my almost fifty years, I longed to see the Grand Canyon. I don’t want to get to sixty still hoping to do that. Or eighty.
The reality is that I am not guaranteed the rest of my life expectancy. I am not guaranteed tomorrow. I am not guaranteed someday.
Unfortunately, I can’t accomplish everything today either.
I need to find the way to get the most out of today because that is all I really have and then make some solid plans for the future. Set a day to go the Grand Canyon, a real day not someday. Then make the most of each today until that day is the today I get to see it. I hope I have that many todays to work with.
Maybe I find myself trying to prove I lived life, that I enjoyed my days while on this earth. Maybe I represent everything that I mock about bucket lists. Maybe I just need to plan better, just need to plan better.
The scariest part of not chasing dreams is that I don’t want that to be a habit that I pass along to my kids. I want my girls to boldly embrace life, to bravely take risks, to rise to challenges. I fear that my life does not provide an example of how to do that.
Does a bucket list fix that? Or exacerbate that?
I know this, I need to live while I can. I pray that it becomes contagious.