In this day and age it’s important to have strong feelings against things.
One of my best friends feels strongly about savoury foods that pretend to be sweet, manifesting in violent thoughts against muffins (“Inferior cake!” she cries).
And I have chosen the hill that I plan to die on: I hate bucket lists.
Society loves bucket lists. So much so that the beloved Morgan Freeman lent his incomparable face to a Hollywood effort entitled The Bucket List. You don’t get more of a ringing endorsement than that. In the film, he teams up with Jack O’Lantern Nicholson, careening around the world ticking off the things they want to do before they die.
In essence, an acceptable goal. With mortality looming, how better to spend your final days than doing all the things you wish you hadn’t done? That, I understand. What I don’t understand, however, is my contemporaries doing the same: 20-something men and women treating the years remaining in their lives as some sort of list of things to accomplish, as if from first breath to last, life is nothing but bullet points, waiting to be checked and abandoned.
I hate bucket lists (and the people that relish them)
What it leads to, in my opinion, is the sort of people who sit opposite you in pubs, flicking through your passport and questioning the lack of stamps. “I’ve been to 152 countries,” Fictional Smug Stranger says, glancing in your direction. “How many have you been to?” And responding with the understandable, “I’m actually not sure, can I have my passport back please?” leads to the listing off of conquered countries. Never mind that his time in Honolulu was spent on a 6-hour airport layover. Never mind that he was so preoccupied whilst dashing around Paris that he barely paused for a croissant and a snide sidelong glance. Saw the Eiffel Tower, checked the box, got back on the plane.
Taking time to enjoy travel
Everybody has things they want to do. I would like to road-trip across America at some point (a novel thought, I know, and one that will become infinitely more achievable once I actually learned how to drive). I would like to spend time in South America expanding my vocabulary beyond “Dos cerveza, por favor” and “No entiendo”.
But while I plan and save for these things, I savour others. The ability to return to Spain, for example, and eat tapas, and lie in the sun. I’ve not been to Italy, but I’ve returned to Spanish sunshine some six times, delighting in my ability to do so. This comes at the expense of the long list of European locales I might have discovered instead, but makes up for it with familiarity, the ability to explore more deeply beyond the first six listings on Trip Advisor, the feeling of calmness that comes upon me when I book it.
In my worst moments, I worry that it makes me boring; unadventurous. I know myself to be a creature of habit, who enjoys the comfort of the known while having no real fear of the unknown. And that flies in the face of so many people I know who will never return to the same place twice, ticking off places of interest like questions in a pub quiz or answers in a crossword. For me, I’ve come to realise, the best part about discovering somewhere new that I love is the knowledge that one day, it’ll still be there – and I’ll be able to go back.
Comfortable as a creature of habit
Treating life as a series of individual conquests, to my mind, fails to take into account the fact of life as a journey. One long timeline on which there might be standout moments, but on which everything adds up to a whole. A trip informs a memory, and then an opinion, and then a decision, one leading to the other like beads on a string.
Come 95, I might feel differently. But I suspect I’ll never look back on long weekends spent with friends, and holidays spent on familiar beaches, with regret or chagrin, wishing instead that my metaphorical bucket list were longer. Instead, I’ll be glad for the repetitions and deviations that took me to where I am. Life, I would like to grandly state, is not a box-ticking exercise.
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