Levi Hanson: Why I kicked the 'bucket list' before drowning in it
I realized that I was already living a life I’m fully capable of enjoying. I have a loving family, a group of kind friends, and no list can replicate the value these things bring to existence.
I am, without a doubt, what many people would refer to as a “List person.” I LOVE lists. My notebooks (and my phone’s “notes app”) are filled with lists of pros and cons, lists of favorite foods and favorite songs, lists of names that I like, grocery lists, and the most extensive of all: my bucket list.
It wasn’t until very recently that I learned where the term “bucket list” actually comes from; it was coined by a screenwriter named Justin Zachman when he deemed a list of things he wanted to accomplish before his death a “Kick the Bucket List,” later shortened to just “bucket list.” This means that although it’s an enumeration of things one wants to do during their lifetime, the name itself is a constant reminder of one’s impending death: an interesting thought to say the least.
I began my own bucket list before I started high school, and while it began with some typical ideas like, traveling, running a marathon, and learning piano, it quickly evolved to include slightly less ambitious activities like reading "The Odyssey" by Homer, learning how to flip off a diving board, and trying oysters for the first time. Pretty soon my bucket list had become quite a behemoth, stretching over five pages in my notebook with more than 250 things I “had to do” before my life was over.
Yet, despite spending hours adding ideas to my bucket list, I never spent nearly as much time crossing items off. Granted, some items were things I couldn’t do until I was much older, but the simpler things required very little effort, and I still never got them done. For some reason, this made me feel like a failure. Even though I was still going through daily life, working hard in school, spending time with my friends, and working a job, the fact that I wasn’t fulfilling any of these extra goals I set for myself was extremely frustrating. I suppose I thought that these separate objectives like traveling, learning new skills, and achievements of all different kinds were the things that made life worth living; but I now believe I was very wrong.
Upon taking a step back from both my bucket list, and my expectation of what a good life “should be,” I realized that I was already living a life I’m fully capable of enjoying. I have a loving family, a group of kind friends, a body that can dance, sing, and communicate with the world, eyes that can watch sunsets and star gaze, and hands that can feel the grass and earth with their own unique fingerprints and no number of boxes checked on any list can replicate the value these things bring to existence.
I’m not saying that no one should ever create a list of goals for themselves because it’s certainly good to achieve things. Yet, the achievements one uses to measure their personal success should only be things that bring actual value to their life. Like the author Ruskin Bond once wrote, “it is alright not to climb every mountain.” In accordance with that analogy, perhaps it’s also best to only pursue mountains with worthwhile climbs instead of mountains with appealing summits.
I thought about getting rid of my old bucket list after my change in thinking, but I genuinely enjoy looking back on it every once in a while. It reminds me that it’s okay to have a bucket list for my life, but that my life is much more than a bucket list.
Levi Hanson is a senior at Mayo High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters, email@example.com .