In which I hate on Bucket Lists

Last Sunday, a friend asked me what’s on my bucket list.

I rambled for a few minutes about all the things I want. It all felt like a load of crap. 

Bucket lists are an admirable practice. It’s important to take time to assess where you’ve been, what you want and make a plan to get there. If you’re into that sort of thing…

There are some people who have amazing creativity and nerve in creating their lists. These lists are awe-inspiring and put the standard “101 things to do before you die” to shame.

Uncomfortable without a list, and waiting for midnight to strike on my 28th birthday, I sat down to brainstorm one.

Then, I answered some emails.  Then, I hung up my laundry. Then, I took a phone call that turned into an hour of pleasant rambling.  Just before starting to do the dishes, I recognized the avoidance and shelved the whole thing. I don’t want one and, frankly, I don’t need one.

High-fiving a penguin sounds really awesome, for example, and the journey it would take to get there could be such a great story. Traveling is fun, penguins are adorable and who doesn’t love a solid high-five?!


But the reality is that most people don’t want to high-five a penguin, they want to have experiences that rock the heart. 

Maybe it’s just frustrating because ‘the rest of my life’ feels like a long time (that will inevitably race by like wildfire) but I’m not convinced you need to a bucket list to truly live. You can run around the entire globe and meet a million people and become completely fearless without really ever letting anything sink in deeply. Running around is often just that: running around.

For many of us, the last few years is proof that there is no way to know what life will look like in the upcoming few.  With that, and my mom’s brief life in mind, I do something every day that scares me. That daily commitment has led to amazing experiences and incredible connections in a way that feels accidental but… perfect. None of it was on a bucket list anywhere.

I’m convinced that even if I experience none of the amazing things that could be listed on a personalized bucket list, life will be better than if I did them all because what I can imagine is nothing compared to what is possible with an open mind and heart.

4 comments on “In which I hate on Bucket Lists
  1. Wayne says:

    I’m torn on this one; I agree that focusing on “big bucket list” stuff can certainly make us forget to pay attention to the joys of the everyday because we are always looking for that next big thing, however I think the opposite is true as well. In this day and age, more so that at any other time *I* have known, it is SO easy to get caught up in the everyday and forget larger, or more unique, or longer term goals (of course, this could be just how it is for me). Between making a living and dealing with the deluge of data and interaction that technology has allowed, I find that a week can zip by and I can forget about other things that I have always wanted to experience. Not to say that I did not enjoy the week and have some great experiences, but that time can also go by quickly in larger chunks, like months or years.

    I guess as usual, what works for me is a more centrist approach; I try to make each day interesting and strive to have interactions and experiences that make me FEEL (and not always feel GOOD; helping a friend who is having a tough time or watching a poignant but sad film makes one FEEL, though not necessarily feel GOOD), but I also want a place to write down ideas for experiences I might like to have one day. I have no problem adding to AND deleting from this list as I grow and change, but I like having it out there. I want to capture possibilities, but I won’t be a slave to a list that I created years ago, because as you said, things change and my desires change with them.

    But maybe it’s all because I am old and can’t remember anything anyway. :)

    Thanks for a great post.

    • Shauna says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment! Your perspective is great… People who take things to a (very public) extreme are great role models to help the rest of us find an equilibrium.

      Also, you know you’re in a good place when you can edit your bucket list without feeling guilty!

  2. Laura V. says:

    I couldn’t agree with your post more. Thanks for putting into words what I have always felt about bucket lists and have been too reserved to say in the face of all the hype they have been getting as of late. I feel like everything I do is what I want to do before I die, boring things included. Thanks for the thoughtful post!