About The List

What’s going on here: I’m spending my 53rd year to work on a 100-item bucket list. It’s like The Buried Life for 50+ year olds

When are things popping off: August 24th, 2019, my 52ndbirthday, though I’ve been pre-gaming the list for years.

Why: Though I could live until I’m 104, the odds are against it. I’m tired of not putting more work into the things I say I most want. The Bonus Why: To inspire you to get to your list, too. I mean, if you want.

“We bury the faint crackling of our inner fire underneath other, safer noises, and settle for a false life.” – David Brooks. 

How I got here…

My friends and I get together every few months for List Night. List Night is when we write down five to seven things that we really want to make happen sooner and later. But before we write, we color. We cut out rectangles the size of index cards from coloring books and color while we think. We think big, we think small. We stay in the lines, we venture out. Coloring lets our minds wander. Glitter, sharpies, soft colors, bold, we use it all. I never really have a plan when I color, I just go with how I’m inspired because really, coloring is just a meditation for The List. As soon as we feel ready, we flip the card over and start listing. When the list feels complete we laminate the card in a machine I bought fifteen years ago when my daughters were young and arts and crafts was a weekly occurrence in the house. Our laminated cards sit in our purses, hang above our desks, mark pages of books we are reading all so we can look at them often.

My friends and I have made a lot of things happen because of List Night. But I’ve wondered, what if I dreamed bigger than a 3×5 index card?

I heard a podcast with Ben Nemtin who was one of the creators of The Buried Life, a show about four young friends who traveled in a school bus crossing things off their preposterous bucket list. They had been inspired by a poem written in 1852 that suggested our dreams and our lives were buried; buried beneath responsibility, crushed beneath work, and especially piled underneath a life we think we should be living. And this keeps us from actually living a unique and completely fulfilled life. Nemtin cited a study of those dying revealing that 76% of people regretted not living an actualized life. I don’t want to be a part of the majority.

After hearing Nemtin speak, I immediately wrote a Buried Life 100. I didn’t actually get to one hundred things. I got to eighty-five, but there are spaces in my notebook for one hundred. Over the last five years, I’ve crossed off twenty-six things off the list, many that had spilled over from my 3×5 lists. Not bad though, right? I tackled the items that gave me a challenge and that I certainly wanted, but didn’t feel totally out of reach when I applied focus and effort. I’m not sure how the really big things will happen yet so I shrug when I read them and keep the channels of possibility open. 

But there are a couple of things on the list, the Passion Three, that are what I’d love to achieve most; things that privately thrill me; things I daydream about regularly; things I’ve said I’ve wanted for decades. And those are the things on the list I avoid the most. I need a psychotherapist to sort out all the reasons why I avoid these things, but I have my suspicions. All the usual fears are present, of course, including the frequent question: what if the fantasy will be better than the reality? I’m ready to explore if that’s just a cop out.

I recently revised my 100 List. I crossed off anything that felt mediocre. I don’t have time for mediocrity. Not everything will feel exciting to everyone else, but I want my list to feel like an inspired, custom, random mish mosh of actions that rev my engines when I see the words. I want to honestly wonder how I’m going to get it done. I want to earnestly work on the things I’ve said I’ve wanted for years, and I want to tackle some things that are fresh and adventurous. 

For a year — as a start at least – on August 24th, my 52 birthday, I’ll dedicate myself more actively to the list, especially the Passionate Three and another sub-sect I call the Constant Five. The Constant Five are things that aren’t necessarily achievable, but ongoing actions that I find important to living a meaningful life. “Let Shit Go” for example, is one of the Five. 

Anyway, I’m tired of the procrastinating, the putting off, the thinking I have all the time. I am, as a rule, pretty brave, but I want to be braver. And importantly, I want to be 100% myself in the process.

One of the most beautiful things about the show The Buried Life, was that every time those guys crossed an item off their list, they tried to make a dream of someone else come true. I’m going to incorporate that into my year challenge as well. 

Which means I want to hear parts of your Lists as well. I plan on taking all y’all with me if you wanna come. Every time I’ve heard a story of someone truly working on a dream, I am wildly inspired. I listen diligently about the amount of work it takes – it usually takes a lot – and I note the feeling they exude when speaking about the dream, the work, and if they’ve accomplished it. Not all do. And I imagine that as I work on my list, it will make you feel similarly. All our lists – our hopes, desires and dreams – are important. We may not achieve them all, but god, it will be worth trying. And I just want to try more. Trying more doesn’t cost anything but some energy. Not trying may cost everything.