Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Bucket List

A few years ago, when the movie “The Bucket List” came out, it was all the rage for people to write up their own bucket lists of everything they want to do before they die. For some reason, I never did. And maybe it’s my mother’s and brother-in-law's recent deaths making me realize my own mortality, or perhaps it’s the knowledge that my family is now complete, or maybe it’s just looking around and seeing all the wonderful and exciting places there are to go and things there are to do, but I’m suddenly being inspired to come up with a bucket list of my own.

I wasn’t sure exactly where to start, so I went online and looked at other people’s bucket lists. Some of them were quite mundane: graduate from high school, get a driver’s license, lose 10 pounds. Some of them were rather unrealistic: shake the hand of the President of the United States, win the lottery, climb Mount Everest, kiss Justin Bieber, win a Grammy Award, star in a Broadway musical. Some of them were kind of vague: become a better person, be more forgiving, cook more often. Some of them were ambitious but achievable: learn to speak fluent Japanese, complete a marathon, make a speech in front of over 1000 people.

But a lot of them were fairly reasonable: visit [x country], learn to do [x], do volunteer work with [x] charity. In fact, the majority of the “normal” bucket list items can be grouped into just a few categories:

• Travel (take an African safari, kiss the Blarney Stone, see Niagara Falls)
• Learning or trying new things (learn to speak Japanese, learn to make a quilt, learn to play guitar)
• Personal achievements (write a screenplay, adopt a child, rent an apartment)
• Professional achievements (become vice president of a company, become an MBA, start a business)
• Daredevil stunts or overcoming fears (skydive, parachute, ride a roller coaster, hold a tarantula)
• Physical achievements (ride in a bicycle race, lose 30 pounds, climb a mountain)
• Fun stuff (go scuba diving, swim with dolphins, own an exotic pet)
• Philanthropy and making the world a better place (donate $1000 to a children’s charity, volunteer to build wells in a third-world country, become a mentor to a troubled teen)

Some of these categories are overlapping, of course. Graduating from college could be considered either a personal or a professional achievement. Skydiving could be both a daredevil stunt and something fun. Climbing Mount Everest falls under both travel and physical achievements. But most of the items on the majority of people’s bucket lists could be classified into at least one of these categories.

Looking over other people’s lists and dividing them into these categories helped me to create my own list. And they also made me realize how many things I’ve done that would have been on my bucket list had I made it earlier in life, so I’m giving myself credit for them. This is the list that I came up with, by category:

1. Live in a foreign country
2. Go snorkeling
3. Take a cruise
4. Swim with sting rays
5. Go on a safari
6. Feed a giraffe
7. See Niagara Falls
8. Go to England
9. Go whale-watching
10. Take a Duck tour
11. See a Broadway show
12. Tour a vineyard
13. Travel in the sleeper car of a train
14. Take a trip across the country
15. Visit Fenway Park
16. Visit the Smithsonian Institution
17. Visit the National Zoo
18. Go to Hawaii
19. Go to France
20. Go to Italy
21. Go to Ireland
22. Go to Australia
23. Go to Germany and Austria
24. See the Aurora Borealis
25. Take an Alaskan cruise
26. Visit all 50 states (still remaining: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Wyoming)
27. See the Highland Games (either in Scotland or in Nova Scotia)

28. Make a quilt
29. Take ballroom dance lessons
30. Go skateboarding
31. Go snowshoeing
32. Ride a horse
33. Ride an elephant
34. Ride a camel
35. Ride a tandem bicycle with one of the kids while my husband rides one with the other
36. Learn to build a campfire
37. Drive a convertible sportscar
38. Shoot a gun
39. Ride a motorcycle

40. Get a college degree
41. Get married
42. Have children
43. Own a house
44. Write a blog
45. Have a lead role in a musical
46. Win an acting award
47. Costume a musical
48. Write a book
49. Read the Bible all the way through
50. Be a movie extra
51. Read all of Anna Karenina
52. Dance with one or both of my kids in a dance recital
53. Serve on a jury
54. Sing the National Anthem at a sporting event
55. Perform in a murder mystery dinner
56. Direct a musical
57. Go rollerblading

58. Publish my writing for pay (book, blog, or article)
59. Get 100 or more blog hits every day for a month
60. Be someone’s boss

61. Eat sushi
62. Eat escargot
63. Go skinny-dipping
64. Go hot air ballooning
65. Go ziplining
66. Go up in a small plane
67. Ride in a helicopter
68. Go waterskiing
69. Eat kimchi
70. Put my hands up in the air while riding a roller coaster
71. Go parasailing
72. Go Zorbing

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73. Become an organ donor
74. Give blood
75. Sponsor a needy child
76. Serve on the board of a non-profit organization
77. Adopt a pet from a shelter
78. Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity

79. Drink really, really expensive wine
80. Own a grand piano
81. Get a massage
82. Get a manicure/pedicure
83. Get a facial
84. See a shooting star
85. Taste caviar
86. See a baby being born
87. Fly first class
88. Go to a Renaissance Fair in costume
89. Go on a blind date
90. Sleep under the stars in the open air
91. Attend a taping of a television show that I like
92. Win a contest (chance or skill)
93. Host a fancy dress ball
94. Have my portrait painted
95. Saber a bottle of champagne
96. Be in a flash mob
97. Eat at a famous chef’s restaurant
98. Have my own vegetable garden
99. Buy an original work of art
100. Eat at a chef’s table

Looking at my list, I am struck by two things: First, that the “Physical Achievements” category is conspicuously blank. (Which should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who’s ever met me.) And second, that out of 100 goals, I have already reached exactly 50 of them. What is more striking is how the goals I have already achieved break down by the age when I achieved them.

Ages 0-17 (prior to graduating from high school):
Go skateboarding
See Niagara Falls
Visit the Smithsonian Institution
Visit the National Zoo
Take a trip across the country
Take a Duck tour
Go whale-watching
Give blood
Have a lead role in a musical
Become an organ donor

Ages 18-21 (between high school and college graduations):
Live in a foreign country
Taste caviar
See a baby being born
Go on a safari
Fly first class
Sponsor a needy child
Visit Fenway Park
Go snorkeling
Travel in the sleeper car of a train
Feed a giraffe
Get a college degree

Ages 21-30:
See a shooting star
Go to England
Read the Bible all the way through
Tour a vineyard
See a Broadway show
Go on a blind date
Make a quilt

Ages 30-40:
Serve on the board of a non-profit organization
Win an acting award
Take a cruise
Costume a musical
Eat sushi
Write a book
Eat escargot
Take ballroom dance lessons
Write a blog
Drink really, really expensive wine
Get a manicure/pedicure
Get married
Get a massage
Own a grand piano
Swim with sting rays
Go skinny-dipping
Own a house

Age 40 or above:
Be a movie extra
Go to a Renaissance Fair in costume
Have children
Get a facial
Read all of Anna Karenina

The division of achievements over time is surprisingly even. (Okay, I may have been a bit of a slacker in my 20s but I made up for it in my 30s.) So as long as I continue on this trajectory, I might just be able to meet all my goals before I die – as long as I live into my 80s, anyway. But even if I don’t quite make it, it’ll sure be fun to try!

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