When I was in my twenties and just starting adulthood, my grandmother shared a wise observation with me: “Pa and I always said we’d do this and that when we retired, but then when we retired, his health was so bad, we didn’t do any of it.” She advised me never to put off things because the future is not guaranteed.
This lesson was driven home many years later when I was sorting through my mother’s files after she died, and I found her passport. My mother had always dreamed of taking a trip to Europe, and so when it became clear that my stepfather, Jerry, wasn’t going to survive Melanoma, she sprung into action. She applied for their passports and started searching for tours. Unfortunately she ran out of time, and they never made that trip. After Jerry died, I told my mother that someday I would go with her, but then a few years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and we never made it to Europe either. Now I keep her unstamped passport as a reminder that the future is not guaranteed, that if there’s something I want to do, now’s the time.
About ten years ago a movie called The Bucket List came out. I think the term “bucket list” must have preceded the movie, but the movie made it popular. Now everyone seems to have one. A couple of weeks ago, I started worrying that I might be the only person in my demographic without one.
“Do you think I need a bucket list?” I asked Dave one morning while he was reading the newspaper.
“Not really.” I like the way Dave gets right to the heart of the matter.
“I don’t really have anything to put in one.” I wasn’t quite ready to give up on the idea.
“How about the places you want to go?” He was trying to be helpful.
“Going on vacation isn’t really an accomplishment. You just have to have money and TripAdvisor.”
I spent a few more days thinking about bucket lists and wondering what it meant that I didn’t have one and couldn’t even imagine what I’d put in one if I did. It finally dawned on me that the reason I don’t have a bucket list is because I’ve always tried to live life the way my grandmother recommended. If I get a hankering to do something, I try to act on it right away, not save it for “someday.”
When I told Dave about my epiphany, he said, “It’s more like you have one of those carousels they use in diners to keep lunch orders organized. When one order is complete, the cook pulls it off and moves to the next.” The perfect analogy.
I’m sure when I reach the end of my life that carousel will have a few orders still hanging. Chances are I’ll still be searching for the justification to buy a bookmobile and Moby Dick will still be sitting on my bookshelf. But I’m okay with that, as long as I don’t have a bucket of unfulfilled dreams sitting at my feet.