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.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

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!”

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