Why I Don’t Believe in Bucket Lists

I like goals. (Maybe a little bit too much, if I’m honest….) But I’ve always been the type of person to make check-lists, charts, schedules, etc. I like knowing what I want to do and planning it out. Once it’s on paper, it becomes more of a reality–and with clear, timely steps, I know how to make that reality happen.

So you would think that I’d be a fan of bucket lists.

Actually… no. Not even a little bit.

If there is one certainty in life it is uncertainty–and if we didn’t know that before, we definitely know it after 2020. Creating a list of “must do’s before I die,” honestly seems a little bit like testing fate. And, while I definitely have several things I’d like to do (visiting Japan is at the very top), I’ve never sat down and made an actual list. Why? Well, not just because the future is promised to no one (and I don’t want Afterlife Sarah to feel bummed about an incomplete checklist), but also because I believe more in celebrating what has actually been, rather than what might be.

Goals and dreams are great, but have you ever taken a moment to look back on what you’ve already accomplished? On what you’ve experienced?

We live in a very fast society. Whether it’s instant updates on LITERALLY EVERYTHING through social media, or the demanding pressures of a job, we’re constantly looking toward the future. And I think that’s why bucket lists are so alluring: They tie directly into our need to “go, go, go.”

But rarely do we take the time to stop and think about our own pasts and relish the treasures found there. If we did, we might find ourselves smiling over fond memories, or even feeling a little bit of pride over what we’ve already accomplished. And that’s okay–we should feel good about our lives. It’s not egotistical or self-centered.

I suppose you could say I’m more of a fan of “Reverse Bucket Lists.” It’s difficult right now to make new memories and go on exciting adventures. This year, my plans to go to Nashville, Graceland, Gatlinburg, Mammoth Caves, Las Vegas, and the Arches National Park all… well, went kerplooey. (Remember what I said about uncertainty?)

Instead, I’ve been spending time going through pictures and scrapbooking. (Admittedly, I’ve also been doing some vicarious living by flipping through travel books.) I’ve gotten ideas for the future, but I’ve also had a lot of fun reliving the past.

I’ve thought back on the ocean lapping at my toes and the sand squishing between my feet. (A memory from just last year.) And I’ve revisited the satisfyingly cool relief of a pineapple Dole whip at Disney World. (Three years ago.) (Seriously–if you ever go to Disney World, try to Dole whip. It’s amazing.)

I’ve also looked back on some accomplishments: graduating from high school and college; graphic design awards I won back when I worked at the local paper; the first Library Comic Con I planned. Like a lot of people, I’m feeling at a bit of a deadend this year: There’s only so much we’re even capable of doing. However, remembering things I’ve done before inspired a bit of fire in me: A time will come when I can do cool things again.

In short, thinking of my own “Reverse Bucket List” helped me put a lot of the “2020 craziness” in perspective. Life hasn’t stopped. It’s just different right now.

So here’s my challenge today: Write a Reverse Bucket List. Take a moment to think back on what you’ve experienced, what you’ve already done during your time on earth. If you want to think ahead afterward and make some plans, go for it. The future might not be guaranteed, but it is still waiting. Carpe diem, my friend.

But don’t forget to also appreciate the other diems you’ve already carpe’ed.

Stay positive, everyone. Lots of love!

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