Every year in late summer, the fall color sighting guides come out in my local paper. Each year I save these articles, fully intending that this will be the year I go on an expedition to see the glorious changing of leaves in a nature preserve near my home. Better yet, I’ll take that fall color trip to New England that has been on my bucket list for the last 30 years.
I’d never heard of the term “bucket list” until a movie of the same name came out. It was a comedy about a couple of older gentlemen who meet in the hospital and decide there’s no time like the present to do all those things they’d wanted to do over the years. Soon people were talking about their own bucket lists and announcing that they’d checked one off after a certain trip or experience.
Most of us have ideas of things we’d like to do and places we’d like to visit someday. The problem is the generalized nature of that “someday.” We never get around to these dream activities. For me, fall color treks, bird watching, maple syrup tapping exhibitions, museum visits, and the glass pumpkin event at a local arboretum sit forlornly on my bucket list, waiting to be accomplished.
One of the reasons I’ve had for never getting around to these activities is time, or the lack thereof. As my children grew, I had the best of intentions to make time for these ambitions, but I always seemed to be busy with the kids. Invariably, the weekend of an event I’d always wanted to attend coincided with an important athletic event or recital for one of my kids. Even taking piano lessons had to wait until I could find an hour of time within my day free from childcare responsibilities.
Another thing that has happened as I’ve gotten older is that I no longer have the energy or physical stamina to accomplish some of the items on my bucket list. For instance, I’ve always thought it would be fun to take an extended biking trip in Europe. I used to think a Windjammer Barefoot sailing cruise sounded like an exciting idea. But who am I kidding? I’m lucky if I get myself to take an hour-long walk around the neighborhood these days. Some bucket list items are for the young, or at least the young at heart.
I also can’t handle crowds anymore. My favorite thing to do when I was young was to go to the free festivals on the lakefront in Chicago: Taste of Chicago, Jazz Fest, Printers Row Litfest. I always intended to take my kids downtown for the Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Michigan Ave. and the Fourth of July fireworks on Navy Pier. But the thought of traffic, parking hassles, and especially the hordes of people at these events discouraged me from my best intentions.
Some of my bucket list items have simply faded in importance over time. I’m no longer enamored of the idea of spending a week at a boozy all-inclusive resort in Jamaica or the Bahamas. (Plus, I’m married and don’t look good in a bikini anymore.) I’m not really interested in getting a Masters degree, becoming a gourmet cook, or opening a cafe/bookstore at this stage of my life.
As I’ve aged, I’ve realized that if something is really important to me, I’ll find a way to fit it into my life. A good example of this is an annual event in Chicago called the Carl Sandburg Literary Awards dinner, which features local authors as well as some renowned nationally-known writers such as Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, and the late great Toni Morrison. The event is a fundraiser for the Chicago Public Library system, and friends of ours, knowing my love of literature, invite us to attend it every year. No matter what else is going on in my life, I make a point to be available that evening for the dinner. I’ve even attended without my husband when he was unable to make it.
Another example is taking my children downtown to see the light show at Buckingham Fountain. Buckingham Fountain is a majestic creation that sits overlooking mighty Lake Michigan. In the summer, the fountain is turned on, and there are nightly light shows with music that enhance the majesty of the beaux arts sculpture. Visiting Buckingham Fountain is a fond memory from my childhood, and I was determined that my children experience its magic.
Whatever the items on our bucket list, it’s okay if we don’t accomplish all of them. Respecting our ever-evolving priorities and making the effort to do what is truly important to us can be a fulfilling way to live a life.