I don’t have a formal bucket list, but I’m about to visit a place that would be on it if I did: Iceland, where we hope to view (weather permitting) the weird and mysterious phenomenon of the Northern Lights, one of the wonders of the natural world. Score one for us.
The term bucket list is terribly overused. But behind the cliché, the concept is instructive. Not only does the idea get you thinking about life goals or cherished daydreams, it also forces you to confront the fact that one day, it will be too late. We are living on borrowed time. Why wait?
I’d like to see Rome again before I die, and visit the village my grandfather came from. An old high school friend lives in Italy, so traveling there is a real possibility. And then there’s Poland, the country of my father’s parents. Maybe Warsaw and Krakow should go on the bucket list too.
If it’s fun to fantasize about things to do, it’s just as interesting to list the opposite—stuff you don’t want to do before you die. Call it the anti-bucket list.
Where to start? There are so many things I hope never to experience, like major surgery, widowhood or being the victim of a natural disaster. But a lot of what happens in life is accidental, unforeseeable and completely beyond our control. Better to fill my anti-bucket list with stuff I do have a choice about.
In travel, there are many places I have absolutely no desire to visit, such as Iraq, Antarctica and Manitoba. Meanwhile, I stand firm by my lifelong avoidance of bungee jumping and sky diving. Friends have done the latter and loved it, but I’m afraid of heights and don’t trust small planes in the best of times, never mind jumping out of one.
I never want to do a triathlon, but I wouldn’t put a marathon on the anti-bucket list. True, at my age I’m unlikely to become a distance runner—not with these knees. Yet, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s to never say never.
I have no urge to climb Mount Everest or, closer to home, hike the length of the Appalachian Trail. If I wanted a thru-hike, I’d pick the Camino in northern Spain, a 490-mile pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Maybe I’ll get there one day.
I don’t want to study calculus or make pie crust from scratch. I might learn a new language—but not if it means learning a new alphabet. I won’t read “Finnegan’s Wake”; couldn’t get through “Ulysses.” And I hope never to play a Vegas slot machine again.
Finally, I never again want to work late on Thursdays, as I did at my last staff job. It was a weekly newspaper, and Thursday meant deadlines. We’d work till 8 or 9 p.m., sometimes later, to get it all done. One thing about being older that beats being younger: you can just say no to a schedule like that.