I’ve never really sat down to make a bucket list. Perhaps you have, and it would be interesting if some of you would be motivated to share it. You don’t have to give your name if you would prefer anonymity. But if you have a bucket list of things you want to do in life, please share.
One of my favorite lines from the movies is one uttered by the Burt Reynolds character in The Longest Yard: “I’ve had my shit together a long time. It just doesn’t fit in one bucket.”
I guess that’s how I feel about bucket lists too. If I got started making one, it would never fit in one bucket.
But having done some fun things in life, I’m not feeling guilty about not having a truly defined bucket list. As a college sophomore I drove through blizzards and studied bird art for a month at the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York. It was a stretch experience. Thanks to absolute naivete and overall lack of money at the time, I lived in a house down the road from the Lab that had no hot water. The house sat next to the wolf reserve, and one night I went out to wash my hair to find a large wolf staring at me through snowflakes in the dark.
I only ran occasionally during that month of study. But toward the end of the trip, I slipped into the indoor track facility at Cornell and did some interval training on the track. A few of the Cornell guys were there, and things got competitive as they kept perfectly synchronous pace on the opposite side of the track. I tired fairly quickly for lack of training, but kept the pace out of a sense of pride in my Luther College tee shirt.
That same week I visited the college dorm room of a childhood friend that I’d left behind back in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. And had I not been such a self-conscious geek in those days, that night could have fulfilled a major bucket list checkmark.
Such is life. We fill our bucket in some ways, and dump opportunities out in others.
But the running bucket list in my mind is relatively full. I took those years in the early 80s to train full time and honestly got as fast as I could get. I never broke 31:00 for 10k, which was on my bucket list at the time, but came damn close.
The cycling bucket list was always looser than that. I raced a bunch of criterium races those first two years. It was fun, but the appetite for that kind of riding comes and goes. I talked with a guy this past weekend who said it best. “It would be okay if you could be sure that everyone in those crits knows what they’re doing. But you get into CAT 4 races and some guys are crazy and others know how to ride. I’m not sure it’s worth it. Too much chance of a crash. Broken bones. Road rash. Who needs that?”
Indeed, neither of those two painful things are on anyone’s bucket list to pursue. “Let’s see, this weekend I want to go out and crack my clavicle in two and get oozing sores all down the same side of my body. And oh yeah, a nice brain injury would complete that bucket list.”
It’s not just age that convinces you to move past the most dangerous forms of racing. It’s experience. All of us get some road rash eventually. If you ride fast at all, there will come a time when things just don’t add up. The bucket, as it were, is forced to tip over. So you learn from that, and move your bucket over a couple squares. And you place those cautionary experiences into the bucket holding the bucket list as well.
That does not mean you stop taking chances. You just learn to avoid the really dumb parts of the bucket list.
Now I’m doing triathlons, and this summer the swimming improved to the point where a bucket list effort came about during the Holidayman Triathlon. I swam a half mile with no problem in the open water. That opens the channel for bigger efforts next year.
Some of us do our bucket list accomplishments incrementally. We wish they could all be peak experiences, but in many pursuits in life, that’s just not how it happens. Someone who walks into their own home the first time may have rented first. Someone getting into the car to drive the first time requires lots of practice. Someone having real sex for the first time likely engaged in some heavy petting first. Some things are meant to be incremental. It doesn’t mean you can’t check them off on your bucket list.
Some bucket list items are unintentional. Taking part in the Horribly Hilly ride in Wisconsin took a place in my uncalculated bucket list. Riding up that long climb to the top of Blue Mound was epic. It was hard. It took all my concentration. That’s a bucket list accomplishment right there.
There are plenty of things that I might like to add to a bucket list that I’ve accepted as part of an Unbucket List. Making a guitar cry and sing is one of those. I don’t think in music, and the learning process to do that would distract from so many other things I’m not sure it’s worth it. I don’t think I’d ever get good enough at guitar other than my trade in stock strumming of chords. And that’s okay.
But perhaps my imagination is too limited. Would love to hear what’s on your bucket list. Anyone care to share?