“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

"Everybody dies. Not everybody really lives."

The saddest sound in the world is a man saying, "I wish I'd have done that."

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Bucket List

There is an epidemic among baby boomers. As we age and come face to face with our mortality we are starting to reflect on what we have—or haven’t--done with our lives. The result is often a commitment to do those things we always wanted to do “someday”. Now we realize we may not have too many “somedays” left.

So we come up with a list of things we want to still accomplish. This has recently become a big deal as witnessed by the popularity of the recent movie The Bucket List. There are Facebook sites where people compare their lists and websites where you can maintain an online list. The bestselling book 1000 Places to Visit Before You Die has spawned dozens of similar books and lists. Google “bucket list” and you’ll get 221,000 returns. Everybody is suddenly putting a bucket list together. I suspect most people will tuck them away in a drawer and never look at them again, but some will actually start checking off items on their lists.

Well, I beat the crowd on this one. I started my list years ago during my college days. Of course, I didn’t call it a bucket list. My mortality was only a vague thought on the far distant horizon in those days. It became my “gonna do” list (I wasn’t the most articulate student) and I remember the night I sat down in my dorm room and listed the things that I wanted to do in my life.

The original list has grown considerably since then. I never considered it a static list and I have added things over the years but I’ve never taken anything off--that is my only rule and it has turned the list into an intriguing glimpse into how my hopes and dreams have changed over the years. The original list has items on it that were probably not going to happen from the get go, like breaking the sound barrier or standing on the North and South Poles and it reveals the limitless world of a college student.

Others I’ll never do simply because I no longer share the same interests I did thirty years ago. I don’t care to learn to juggle anymore and I have no desire to rollerblade a 10K. And I saw Mt. Fuji but didn’t feel the need to climb it. And there are items on there that I now wonder why I ever wanted to do (Milk a cow? Why?). But all four are still on the list (see rule above).

As I look at the list, it has grown considerably over the years. My college scratchings have grown from an initial 78 items to the current 377 on three typed pages. Many of the items I have added are things I wasn’t even remotely interested in in college but of course your interests change as you age.

Everybody’s list is different, mine is no exception. I have two intense interests: river running and wildlife. I have 29 rivers I want to either raft, canoe or kayak. I’ve done 19 so far. And I have 68 wild animals that I want to see in their natural habitat. So far I’ve spotted 49, including a bull elephant that charged us in the Serengeti, grizzly bears that kept us on edge on a Denali backpacking trip, and a leopard that was crouched less than ten feet over our head in a tree in Tanzania. I still think I will see all 68 before I go, although mountain gorillas could be problematic.

I have basically given up on some things either because of lack of money (climbing Mt. Everest) or age (running that marathon ain’t gonna happen). But I have climbed Mt. Shasta and I still have hopes of climbing Kilimanjaro--not Everest, but on the list. And I have run 10Ks. Then there is the ability thing. I have no musical ability so I’ll never be able to play the guitar or harmonica or saxophone.

What is interesting is that some things that are easy to attain, like learning to play bridge or parasailing or taking karate classes or going to Mardi Gras or the opera remain unchecked but I’ve checked off writing a novel, flying a glider plane, trekking through New Zealand, playing golf at St. Andrews and buying a round in an English pub, things I once thought were just dreams.

So far I have checked off 223 of the 377 items. I’m close on a few more—I have visited 47 of 50 states and five of seven continents, not even close on others—I’ve climbed the high points in only 10 states, and I have only about 400 birds towards my 600 bird life list.

I don’t know how many more I will check off, I don’t really care. I just like having something to look forward to. Will I ever check off all 377? No, but so what? The list doesn’t dominate my life and I rarely talk about. No one has ever seen it. I keep it in my dresser drawer and pull it out periodically to reminisce or make plans. That’s it. But it is nice to have; it gets me off the couch and out doing things. For that reason, I love my “gonna do” list.

1 comment:

  1. You've written a novel?!? Wanna fill me in? And what do you mean you have only 400 birds towards your 600 life list? Does that mean your GOAL is 600? Aw, you can beat that! You just gotta get serious! :) LOVE YOUR BLOG!