When I turned forty, I realized that I needed to get started on some of those things that I was going to do “one of these days”. Middle age was officially about to start and I hadn’t really made much of a concerted effort to get things done. The thing I picked? Run a marathon.
When I was a kid hanging out at my friend George’s place, his dad often spoke about the grueling effort required to run a marathon. This was in the days before sports technology had come up with things like drinking sports drinks to make sure you were hydrated and that your electrolytes were topped off or taking protein bars or carbohydrate gels. He told us how some people defecated in their pants to keep going. Yes, it was before porta-potties, too.
For some reason, pushing yourself to run a distance of 42.2km (or 26.6miles, if that works for you), seemed like a thing I wanted to try. And when I was about to turn forty, I realized that the idea had been bumping around my brain for over twenty-five years. So, I trained and ran a marathon. Yay. Check one thing off my bucket list.
The only problem is that I didn’t have an official bucket list (things to do before you “kick the bucket”). There are all kinds of things bumping around my brain that I’ve said that I wanted to do “one of these days”. And although many of them have been written down somewhere, I don’t have a one-stop, specific list of things I want to do before I die.
And why should you have a list to look at? I think it’s important to check in occasionally and see those things that you want to do. So many goals seem so far out of reach when you first think of them that you almost talk yourself out of pursuing them. The marathon was like that for me. It didn’t matter that thousands of people run their first marathon every year. For me it was a goal out of my reach. Until I decided I was going to do it.
Every time I ran a distance over 5km it was a new long distance for me. I endured sore muscles, aching feet, black toenails, blistered nipples and IT band issues in pursuit of that goal. I was fifty pounds overweight when I started training and lost almost thirty pounds with the effort. It wasn’t easy. But I was committed and focused.
The point is that with a list you look at regularly (weekly, monthly, annually – you choose), you can remind yourself what you want to do in addition to living your daily life. When you look at the list, see which goal jumps off the page. You don’t have to go through your list in sequential order – you never know when an opportunity will pop up that makes a seemingly impossible goal suddenly within your grasp.
It’s been nine years since I ran that first marathon and I’m doing what I should have done back then. I’m writing out a bucket list. I’m starting with 100 Things I want to do before I die. Not all of them will be attainable (“Win a Tony Award” will be a tough one), but at least having them on the list gives me a direction to aim for. The journey is always more important than the destination.
I didn’t realize it would be so challenging to come up with 100 things. I’ve plateaued at eighty-three things. But I will let the list percolate. And if I hear about something cool that I think “man, I’d love to do that some day…” it will go on the list.
And I don’t have to have a hundred things before I can start working towards achieving them. In fact, a few of the things I am actively pursuing: write a full length play, be commissioned to write a play for a professional theatre and have a play produced at a professional theatre. And I probably will add more things after I reach 100.
The really important thing about the bucket list is the fact that you have a reminder of the things that you want to do. And as long as you are trying to achieve something, you are living.
What kind of things do you have on your bucket list?