I, like so many other people, I’m sure, have this List. The List of Things to Do Before I Die. So important that I even think of it in capital letters. It’s not an uncommon concept, I’ve found. Mandy Moore’s character in A Walk to Remember had one. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman starred in a movie entirely devoted to the concept.
I’ve had The List for years, saved in various Word documents or written on scraps of paper tucked in the back of old journals. But at the beginning of July, I made The List official. I compiled all the items onto one handwritten List that I’ve tucked in my current journal…one that’s devoted to the fulfillment of those dreams.
Six months later, that List has become almost mythical. It’s a guiding force in my life. When The List began, the 50 items that it contained were HUGE. All the big things I want to do in life–mostly travelling–a road trip down all of Route 66, a trip to the Outer Banks, living for a year in Hawaii. Other things like getting my Ph.D. and becoming a foster parent.
Since I first wrote the list, I’ve added 25 more items. It can no longer be contained on one single sheet of paper. And I’ve added more attainable things. I’ve found that if I really want to do something, but I worry that I’ll lack the motivation or that I’ll just get too busy, I’ll add it to the list. And then I’ll think, “If it’s on The List, I have to do it.” Things like going to a minor league baseball game or going to Chimney Rock. Both are small adventures that are easily accomplished. Both are included in the 9 items I’ve marked off since July. Would I have done them without The List? Maybe. Maybe not.
The List allows me to have a bit more planned spontaneity. For example, when I drove home for Christmas just last week, I stopped at Musgrove Mill Historic Site outside of Clinton. I’ve driven past the signs on I-26 for five and a half years and always wondered what it was. I looked it up online a few weeks ago and discovered that it was the site of a Revolutionary War battlefield. I wandered around the site for a little while, looked at some of the displays in the visitors’ center, and then drove a few more miles to hike several hundred years into the woods to a waterfall on the property, in the middle of nowhere. In the hour or so that I delayed my trip home, I marked two things off The List: Musgrove Mill and visiting a waterfall that requires slightly more effort than walking through downtown Greenville or driving onto the campus of NGU. 🙂
Even more than adding adventure to my life, The List has done something else. Having The List has taught me about myself. The things that are important. The things that aren’t. For example, just six months ago, my #1 was to live in Hawaii for at least a year. My goal was to save as much money as possible in order to move to Maui after getting my Master’s. Now, my future seems less focused. I’m back to seeing life in terms of semesters, and I’m not sure where I’ll end up after graduation. Here in Greenville, maybe. Maybe Maui. Maybe somewhere completely unexpected. I have no major plans beyond this next year, even. And my #1 goal from just a few months ago has been starred on the list, relegated to the status of “Things to Do If I Have Enough Time.” If I never move to Hawaii, I don’t think I’ll be heartbroken. I still have every intention of visiting, though. But having The List has shown me how priorities can change vastly in just a short period of time. Life happens.
The List has given me courage, too. Some of the items scare me. Things I want to do, and things I should do, but things that make me afraid. Having The List gives me, in a weird way, a sort of external self-motivation. I’m accountable to myself, in the form of The List. I think about the regrets I would have if I didn’t accomplish certain items. Even if they’re difficult or risky, most often, they’re worth it. It’s empowering and euphoric to do something that I never thought myself capable of.
In terms of My List, a milestone approaches. The Leisters, Harvin, and I have tentative plans to go to Stumphouse Tunnel in Walhalla sometime this week. When that happens, I’ll have marked my tenth item off the list. Very exciting. And I finally have a design in mind for a tattoo; I’m going to think on it for a little while longer, and then hopefully, that will be another item that will require a certain amount of courage. I’m a little worried about the pain, but I think it could be worth it, too. At the very least, it’ll certainly be an adventure. 🙂