Jo Seagar: a bucket list worth bragging about
Jo Seagar is all for having a bucket list, but wonders if we are using them for the right reasons.
I’VE ALWAYS HAD a bucket list, way before Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson made them popular with their 2007 movie of the same name. Mum and Dad had a short article cut out from a Reader’s Digest entitled ‘Fifty things to do before you die’ – I’m sure this was in the late 1960s – that was stuck on our fridge door, and I was greatly influenced by its theme.
I think the term ‘bucket list’ derives from ‘kicking the bucket’, meaning to die, and this is said to refer to the bucket kicked out from underneath someone in a hanging – so there’s a slightly sinister connection there.
The idea of the list, of course, is that you write down all the things you want to see and do before you die… then you get on with it and start ticking off a few. But, I wonder, do you get to your deathbed, give a huge sigh of relief just as the life flame extinguishes, and thank goodness that you swam with the dolphins even if you didn’t see the Eiffel Tower or pull that parachute ripcord?
I don’t know, but I’m thinking maybe a bucket list just sets you up to fail because it is so never-ending. I’m certainly revising mine constantly.
You have to be careful it doesn’t become a list of disappointments – the list of things you didn’t do before you snuffed it. Instead of the emphasis being on dying, perhaps it should be a ‘how to live’ list. One about aspiring, not expiring.
Through my hospice connection, I have read a lot about regret in the older generation. If you ask people in their 70, 80s and 90s what their regrets are, most talk about missing out on experiences and emotional connections with family and friends – the breaking down of walls, not the climbing up of mountains.
You have to update that bucket list frequently – hopefully to do a bit of ticking off, but also to eliminate things that don’t seem so important any more. On my list, I’ve scratched out ‘running a marathon’. I don’t know why I had it there in the first place, because, let’s be real, it was never an achievable goal for this girl. Frankly, I don’t even care about it, so delete, it’s gone.
I guess you realise, as you get older and wiser, it’s all very well having goals, but some wonderful things in life happen unexpectedly. Things your younger self could never imagine, such as putting your arms around a friend in crisis, having the wise words spontaneously available to soothe a person in distress, seeing a baby being born, or being privileged to be with someone in death… it’s a powerful experience, that final transition.
Bucket lists sometimes turn into brag lists and I am as guilty as the next guy of this. My list has been ticked often. I’ve flown on the Concorde and travelled on the Orient Express. I’ve been to Abergavenny and Abu Dhabi, right through the alphabet to Zanzibar. I’ve ridden a Vespa through early-morning Rome, I’ve kissed the Blarney Stone (you might have guessed that one) and seen the movie Casablanca in Casablanca. I’ve ridden a camel, an elephant, a jet-ski, a Harley, a helicopter and a mechanical bull. I’ve roller-coasted and skied in Europe. I’ve even jumped into a New York taxi and said, “Follow that cab” (a silly thing on my list, but now ticked off all the same).
All too often a bucket list is nothing more than a way to boast about our experiences. You might be thinking I’ve missed the point – that a bucket list is all about the individual. Yes, it should have a personal focus, but it needn’t be exclusively self-centred. A list that includes charitable and altruistic goals has the potential to improve not only our lives, but also the lives of others.
Becoming a hospice volunteer, joining the reading-in-schools programme or working in a charity shop. Fostering a child, buying footy boots or a musical instrument for a kid who can’t afford them. Helping someone learn English. Cleaning up the beach or adopting an animal from a shelter… That’s a bucket list worth bragging about.
I’ve even jumped into a New York taxi and said, “Follow that cab!”