So I stumbled across a Buzzfeed Bucket List quiz, as one is wont to do in some spare time.
And it got me thinking about Bucket Lists in general.
And why I don’t like them…
A Bucket List is, quite simply, a listing of things to be accomplished during ones lifetime. Things that one doesn’t want to leave this life without experiencing. It’s a checklist… a checklist of a successful life.
And if you don’t fulfill these typical “life must dos”, is your journey on this earth less worthwhile?
CHECK, CHECK, CHECK
Let’s talk about this quiz.You can find a link to it here and take it yourself, if you so desire.
I will relay some of my “have / have not done” items, highlighted for maximum contrast:
- I’ve gotten a tattoo but never been on a game show.
- I’ve been to the Eiffel Tower, but not all 50 States
- I’ve ridden a horse, but never been in a band. (I was in Band, not in a band. Pretty sure there’s a fundamental difference)
- I’ve communicated with someone who doesn’t speak the same language, but never went to Prom.
- I’ve fallen in love, but never gone streaking.
- I’ve given a speech, but never made a bucket list.
At the end of the day (quiz), I checked off 76 out of 120. Not too shabby, I suppose.
However some of the items seemed fundementally imbalanced to me. How does seeing the Northern Lights compare to being mistaken for a celebrity? (And that one guy at a bar who compared me to Claire Danes was obviously drunk, obviously hitting on me, and obviously had no idea what Claire Danes looks like. I do not look like Claire Danes.)
It’s because this list is quantitative. A quiz is inherently about numbers, not quality.
Is this really a reflection of how much of life I have lived?
PERSONAL FAILURE, PERSONAL SUCCESS
In many typical “to be accomplished in life” things, I am a failure at 30. In my personal life, and in the typical expectations of society, I’ve totally bombed it.
- I am not married.
- I don’t have any kids.
- I haven’t bought a house.
- I don’t even have any pets.
- (I do have a couple of sorta-alive plants, thankyouverymuch)
In the expected check boxes in life, at this point, I am way behind.
I don’t feel behind.
Afterall, on my own, convoluted scenic route I’ve had pretty incredible expediences. I’ve pursued career dreams. I’ve moved to Montana then NYC on my own. And especially in traveling, I’ve scratched off a decent amount of gold leaf on that world map of mine. I’ve soaked up quite a bit of life.
Not all of that living shows up on a bucket list. Not all of my experiences can be quantitized. Not all my best expediences would make others lists as desirable experiences or boxes to be checked off.
But for me, they have been important. Simply, they have been my life.
They have been what make me, well, me.
IN THE REALM OF LIFE’S TRAVELS
In many ways, travel is a micro-reflection of your life philosophies. I think in traveling (and life) there are two main categories of people… check-mark people and experience people. It’s part of the reason I am very tentative about traveling with others.
Some people don’t think a trip is a success unless they saw x-number of things. Some people do absolutely everything, efficiently and logically. Others meander and accomplish some of the things, taking the scenic route.
Some people travel for the external and viable take-aways. Others travel for the internal take-aways. Quantity vs quality. Things vs feelings. Tangible vs intangible. Neither way is wrong or right… simply different.
For me, travel (and life) isn’t about accomplishing a certain number of specific items. It’s about feeling as though I really soaked up the experiences while there. As if I truly engaged in my surroundings. As though I let outside experiences infiltrate and better me, and become a part of me.
(I also, admittedly, like travel for photography opportunities as well.)
I don’t think life is a series of check-marks. A life well lived, to me, is measured in intangibles; in smiles put on others faces, in positive impacts made in lives, in joy spread and love shared.
A life well lived can’t be summed up in a list.
- I’ve done things that scare me. I’ve failed at things that scare me. I try to keep doing things that scare me.
- I’ve had my heart utterly broken. I’ve put the pieces back together.
- I’ve tried to enjoy the journey, even when the journey sucks.
- I’ve recreated myself when needed. I’ve reverted to a version of me that I thought lost.
- I’ve somehow kept me through it all.
- I found out that I am stronger and braver than I think.
- I’ve found out that I am softer and less independent than I want to be.
I’ve made a life that feels worthwhile and fulfilling, but still has plenty of room for growth and change and addition.
I’ve checked off 76 random “accomplishments” on some silly Bucket List quiz. But more importantly, I’ve tried to really live for 30 years so far.
AGREE TO DISAGREE
My problem, no my fear with check lists, is that they can keep you disconnected. They keep you on the outside and apart from the moment. Afterall, as soon as you can mark off seeing the Mona Lisa from your list, what’s the point in lingering in the Louvre?
(That is sarcasm. Heavy, heavy sarcasm. You could spend a week in the Louvre and be nothing but better for it.)
And some of my greatest experiences, the ones that really have impacted me on a base level, happen during the unplanned, the detours, the lingering. They take place in the quiet in-betweens and the unexpected turns. They happen off of the map and beyond the list.
Can I live with Bucket Lists like my childhood “To Do Over Summer Break” list? Yes.
I can appreciate a Bucket List as a dream list. As a motivation list. As an idea and maybes and would-be-neat list.
But not as a reflection of the quality of life.
Life is so much more than a List.
(Except if I don’t do number #332, my life will not be complete. I now have purpose in my life. Must. Experiment. With. Bill. Nye.)