Do you have a bucket list? Do you even know what a bucket list is? I guess I had a vague idea what one was from movies and television, but never paid much attention to them or what they might mean.
For the sake of any of you who may not know what a bucket list is, it is a list of things you would like to do before you die. You know, like travel the world, see the Grand Canyon, climb Mt. Everest, etc. Things that most ‘ordinary’ people wouldn’t be able to do within a lifetime for one reason or another.
I guess I get it. When most of us are faced with our own mortality we tend to think about all the things we haven’t done. Usually we’re so old and infirm most of those things are impossible by the time we figure out we aren’t going to live forever.
And were never perfect…
But that’s a different post.
I was watching a show the other day and one of the secondary characters had cancer and knew she was about to die. So she and her husband decided to make a list of all the things they wanted to do before they did. Most of the things were pretty innocuous and the show where she finally died was bittersweet and endearing.
But, damn, she could and should have done most of those things before she found out she was going to die. I mean, seriously, what was she waiting for. If these things were so important that she had to write them down then they should have been a priority way before she was given a death sentence.
No matter what comes next we only get one go round on this rock. One chance to make this life count. And our time is so limited to begin with. If we’re lucky we have a decent quality of life for 70 or 80 years. That’s it. And what happens if we develop some debilitating disease or have a life-altering accident?
Or, you know, have a heart attack at 40?
I know some younger people who have bucket lists. I’m talking in their 20s, which is okay I guess. It’s good to have dreams and goals and a plan, but there’s something weird about that, too. When did life become all about the vacations and larger-than-life experiences? When did the basics become boring and not enough?
You may be wondering at this point if I have a bucket list. Sure, I have things that I would like to do in my life, but it’s weird because while I would be disappointed if some of them never happened I wouldn’t be devastated. I learned pretty early on that living a life with the least amount of regret possible is the ultimate goal.
Once I had that figured out I understood that having a list is useless and distracting. Priorities need to be on a wheel because at any given moment they can change. Sure family comes first, but when they’re fine then other things shift to the top.
See, a wheel.
And the idea of having a list seems limiting to me. I’ve changed my dreams and goals so many times over the past decade or so that if I saw some of my old dreams and goals written down I would feel like a failed because they are no longer a priority. But I didn’t fail. Most often those dreams and goals simply morphed into something bigger and better and more in line with who I really am.
But if I couldn’t have checked them off this mythical bucket list, well, then…
Look, I’m not saying having a list is horrible. It may work for some of you. You may need to see a written reminder of what you want to accomplish before you die. There is a sense of satisfaction to be able to check something of a list. My inner type-A agrees with that wholeheartedly.
But I also know there is much pleasure and joy to be had in seemingly everyday, mundane, ordinary things. Seeing the sun rise or set, seeing a flower bloom, making a friend or loved one laugh, completing a project that has been put off for too long…
So maybe it isn’t so much about having a list of the big things we want to do before we die, but appreciating the little things we get to do every day. And living with the least amount of regrets possible…