Three years ago I became a cliché.
After staring down my mortality at the age of twenty six, I became the poster girl for women who thought they were living life until a health scare sucker punched them in their faces and told them that they weren’t. As I recovered and my life (thankfully) continued, my quarterlife crisis began. Like every good crisis, the question at the center of mine was “How different is the life I have (or thought I should have) than the one I really want?” Like any good crisis victim, I set about making important changes: reducing my hours at work, taking time for myself, doing things that really made me happy. As I began living what was left of my (hopefully long) life to its fullest, I determined that it was about time to get serious about my Bucket List.
I decided that I needed to take the list in my head and commit it to paper, because when you lay out your goals in front of you, you are more likely to get them accomplished. I had found that when you put your desires out there for the universe to see and hear, the universe will help you actualize them, often in strange, unforeseen ways. You’ve experienced this, haven’t you? I also decided that as much as I like lists, I didn’t want to just cross these things off my Bucket List and forget about them. Instead, in my mind, I envisioned placing them in an actual bucket, where I could collect them, hold onto them, and cherish them like treasures I collected after a day at the beach.
I spent the next few years filling up my bucket with all sorts of things, placing precious items in it that I had already collected that had been sitting on shelves in my memory and tossing in shiny new items to add to the colorful collection. What have you collected?
I now find myself becoming a very different, yet again all-too-common cliché: The Successful Yet Single Twenty-Nine Year-Old. As I hurdle toward thirty I start thinking about everything I’ve put in my bucket, and perhaps more importantly, what I haven’t. Does the fact that some of the “biggest” items on my list, like “get married,” “start a family,” haven’t made it into the bucket yet devalue all the things that are already there: the visit to my dad’s birthplace in the Dominican Republic, traveling to Ireland to see where my mother’s ancestors came from, conquering my fear of heights by scaling pyramids in Central America? Do some items have more weight than others? Is the lack of certain items wearing a hole in the bottom of my bucket? How often have you questioned the value of your choices?
I decided that maybe it was time to dump my bucket out and take a look at its contents, to remind myself of all the wonderful things that I had put in there and to assure myself that I had time to collect those things that were “missing.” Fortunately, I had been documenting the items in my bucket even before I had realized I was collecting anything. I had photos of many of my adventures and accomplishments to remind myself of what I had achieved: pictures of myself grinning in front of my first home, waving from the bottom of the ocean, skiing down a mountain. I created a photo album on Facebook to remind myself and the universe of my desire to live a rich, full, colorful life. After all, what better way to release something into the universe than to put it on the internet?
As I got ready to ”publish” the album, the fourteen year-old girl in me freaked out a little. What will other people think of what I had collected? Undoubtedly, some people would think it was stupid and a majority of my five hundred plus Facebook friends probably wouldn’t even view it, or care. Some would probably think it was bragging or shameless self promotion. Once I clicked that button I was opening myself up to worlds of ridicule in a place that has no takebacks, that doesn’t forget.
At that moment my twenty-nine year –old self spoke up. Of course my bucket would be self-indulgent. That’s the point: to fill your bucket with the things that fulfill and enliven you. Who cares what anyone thinks about the contents of my bucket? It’s mine. They can put whatever they want in their bucket. Your secret dream is to scale like Eiffel Tower like Spiderman? Good for you. All you want in life is to see an ocean, any ocean? Get after it. Like my friend Amy says, “Live your truth.” After all, that’s what makes you, you. What’s your truth?
Within half an hour of dumping my bucket out into cyberspace the “likes” and the comments started pouring in. One of my high school friends said he shared my dream of visiting every major league ballpark and another admitted that she was also afraid of being eaten by sea creatures. My family was touched by how much our ancestry meant to me. But my favorite comment of all was simply “love this album…so you.” Both of my selves were vindicated.
Last week after a barrage of tests, my doctor called to tell me that I am completely, spectacularly healthy. With a tear in my eye I reveled in the fact that I am going to be collecting treasures in my bucket for many years to come.
I think I’m going to need a bigger bucket.