6/12/2012

Bucket List

                                                               Dubrovnik, Croatia
I recently asked my friends "What's on your bucket list?" The replies were varied: some answered me earnestly, some ridiculously or with great fancy/fantasy, some with ridicule. I know this is a cliche from a movie, (Isn't the point of the movie to get out of your rut and try new things? How can that be all bad? Don't we celebrate the adventure quest in most of our great stories? Doesn't the on character in the film grow from an embittered old coot who has given up into an empathetic, loving member of the human race , as a result of his experiences? isn't that what we all want?) and maybe at this point folks are tired of thinking in those terms or calling it  "Bucket List". OK, let's call it something else. What's on your "To Do " list? What are your goals to be highly effective? A positive self-actualizer? Life goals? 5 Year Plan?

In my young adulthood I had life goals, most of which I have since achieved: 1) get accepted into a prestigious, academically rigorous university (check), 2)graduate from that prestigious university (check),  3)travel and see as much of the world as possible (check-in progress), 4) get a professional corporate American job right out of college (check-hated it-soon left), 5) find a career that is meaningful to me, where I feel I am contributing to the world, not taking from it ( check), 6) get married (check), 7) have kids (check), 8) own/live in a nice home (check), 9) own/drive a luxury car ( no check), 10) earn enough money to stop worrying about money (no check), 11) have a rich life full of family and friends (check), 12) earn a graduate degree (check), 13) teach at a university (check), 14) write a published novel (still working on that one). I am now at what is called "mid-life" and re-evaluating it all - although let's be real: given the health and longevity of my parents, I'm 2/3 or 3/4 done. Do the last last few years in a vegetative state really count? What do you plan to do with the rest of your life, when you have accomplished really pretty much all you set out to do ?

Having taken care of aging sick parents for the past several years, I have realized I may not have that many good years left. In spite of statistics that tell us that our life span ( in western nations) is expanding, many of those added years are not good years- full of mental health, with painless mobility, free from disease, full of loved ones, adventure, financial security, happiness. I fear that when I retire I won't have the money or the zest to do all the things I want to do, and maybe I need to try to find a way to fit them in, NOW.

I think I need to take a page from my m-i-law (yes, the very one I complain about so frequently), who spent the decade of her 50's taking painting classes, traveling to Europe every summer, driving fancy cars, and generally living life to the fullest. Good thing she did bc she is now incapacitated with rheumatoid arthritis and can barely walk. Her traveling days are over. My mom didn't know she would have a series of strokes in her 70's that would render her incapable of functioning independently. She put away several hundred thousand dollars for her old age- and will never be able to enjoy the funds. She is under medical care and will end up in a nursing home soon that is paid for with her social security benefits.

If you knew you had 10 years left, or 5 years left, what would you do with them? I was having this conversation with a gf the other day, and she decided there is no point saving money for some future disaster- she might as well put that pool in now, when she can enjoy it. Once I'm old, poor, senile, and enfeebled- all hospital beds look the same ! It won't matter if it's a "nice" one or not! (Note to my relatives: please just bring me some luxury sheets! That's all I ask!) I know I don't want to jump out of a plane, sing karaoke, learn to fly, perform at Carnegie Hall, meet anyone famous, scuba dive, or hike Mt Everest. I've already swum with the dolphins (and sharks and barracudas and sting rays) in the coral reefs on the Red Sea, have ridden a camel to the pyramids (It was hot, windy, and I was thirsty.The camel smelled bad and I was worried it would bite me with its giant gnarled yellow teeth. Riding a camel is not a smooth process- they rock and sway, and it rubs you raw. Still, it was a gas!), traveled to most major European locations and seen the sun come up over (fill in the blank...............Paris, Rome, Athens, London, Jerusalem.....) I am fortunate in that regard. I did most of these things as a young person, and my advice to anyone young is to go for it ! You will never have more available income to travel than when you think you are your poorest. The minute you get a "real" job, settle down, buy a house, have kids- the joke is over. You now have to pay for multiple people to travel, not just yourself, and you will never have the time to get away. My advice to all young people is to bum around and travel as much as you can, while you can, before you settle down.

So what is on my bucket list? I take stabs at the small tasks- painting, yoga, redoing various parts of my house, volunteering for causes I believe in- each summer.  Someday, when the time is right for my sons, I'd like to have grand kids. I hope to keep finding causes and activities that interest me, make me feel like I am contributing the the planet in some small way. I'd like to (in the words of Scarlet O'Hara) "be able to tell every old fat cat I've ever despised to 'go to hell' if I felt like it". I'd like to own one nice car in my lifetime. I wish I had a swimming pool too! (But probably never will.) I am grateful for the many blessings of my life: a wonderful husband, smart funny delightful sons, good friends old and new, a pleasant home . And yet I'd really like to be able to travel to a few more places before I have to stop, altogether. Many of the places I've been to before, I'd like to go back to again - especially Venice, Sicily, Greece, France ( Paris, Provence), London. There are also some new places I'd like to visit :

Dubrovnik (picture at top)
A UNESCO world heritage site, Dubrovnik was an ancient Greek colony along the Adriatic Coast (former Yugoslavia, now Croatia) and has been continuously inhabited for 1000's of years.  It has a unique mixture of Mediterranean and Slavic cultures. Hubster was slated to go to a conference there, last spring, which put it on my radar screen. Then the conference was cancelled, but my desire to go there was not.


Machu Picchu and the Galapagos islands.
When I was a kid, my bff and I co-wrote a series of comic book/kid stories called "The Gosharootie Gang", about a bunch of kids whose various escapades took them to foreign countries. It was kind of like Scooby Doo meets Captain Underpants, and we did a lot of research for each story we wrote through books and encyclopedias in our local library. I only recently realized that some of my wanderlust was formed by the places we wrote about in those stories. One of my favorites was the book set in Hawaii, and last summer that's where I took my kids. It just came bubbling up, out of the deep recesses, this desire that had lain dormant all these years. I didn't even know I wanted to go there, but once I realized it, the urge was powerful. Same with Machu Picchu, and the Nazca Plains. I think that came from reading Chariots of the Gods as a kid. I've also always wanted to see Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. Some of this interest was sparked by that childhood friend, whose mother had family in those places and who visited frequently, bringing back souvenirs and tales of sites.
Bali
I'd love to tour all of southeast Asia: Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam, and various parts of Indonesia. There are places from the evening news of my childhood, places from novels and dreams, places of interest from my Buddhist leanings.Many folk from these nations have settled in Texas, sharing their culture, food, music, art, religion and literature. It is interesting to me and I'd love to learn and experience more.
St Petersberg
Russia is the one major European nation I've never been to, and I've long been an aficionado of Russian literature, music, food, culture and art. I'd love to do one of those cruises that goes from Denmark to various ports o' call through Scandinavia, ending in Russia.

  

Africa- Tanzania , or Kenya
I'd love to go on one of those "no kill" safaris where you get to drive through the wild game park and see the flora and fauna. I might even consent to ride in a small plane to do this....I'd have to think about it (and pack a xanax!) Yes, I know I can do a facsimile of this experience at Fossil Ridge, just south of Dallas, but I'd like to see Mt Kilimanjaro, too. Just experience Africa one more time.

What's on your bucket list? Why?

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