I spent ten formative years in a born-again Christian church. This meant from the ages of 14-24, I was hell-bent on Jesus-related activities, and nothing else. When I finally left church, I felt like I was way behind on life experience – there were so many teen and young adult-related activities I’d missed. So I started a bucket list – and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Bucket lists, I think, have gotten a bad rap. They’re sort of associated with wellness influencers or irritating people who go to the gym a lot. You know, the types that are 24/7 fixated on furthering their career or maintaining a toned ab. But for me, my bucket list diary serves as a regular reminder of things I’m yet to achieve – from the major shit down to little fun life experiences – as well as an indication of how far I’ve come.
When I started my bucket list, I filled out over 100 things I wanted to achieve. Here are a few:
- Earn over $60K/year
- Become a Beauty Editor
- Drink a martini
- Try weed
- Have sex outdoors
- Learn to cook Mum’s Greek tomato/potato/lamb dish
- Work for Pedestrian.TV (yes, really)
- See Niagara Falls
- Visit Uluru
- Do a Jagerbomb
You can see it ranged from stupid fun shit (Jagerbombs, foul) to big career ticks – I really did write down that one day I wanted to work here. Over the years, I’ve revisited the list every so often. It’s never been something I look at daily – when I remember, I fish out the diary I wrote it all in and cross off anything I’ve achieved since I last looked at it.
From time to time, I’ll look at the list and make plans to achieve some of the goals. Travel, obviously, requires planning. When I planned my recent trip around Australia, I checked my bucket list to find locations I’d written in there, adding them to my route. Others just happened – I originally had a LOT of sex-related bucket list goals because I was a virgin until I was 26 thanks to the Christian years, and felt really behind on sex stuff (more about that over here, btw), and generally the sex tick-offs happened naturally over time.
Occasionally, I’ve sat myself down to actively add to the list – sometimes by researching natural wonders I want to see in my lifetime, or countries I want to visit, sometimes by racking my brain to think of little things I want to try at some point, like eating pizza in Naples or going platinum blonde.
But usually I just add to it if I think of something. These days I have crossed a lot off – I’ve done some fantastic travelling, had lots of exciting life experiences and kicked some major career goals. It feels great to look at this list I wrote 5+ years ago and see so many goals crossed out. When I first started my list I used a normal diary, but I recently got this Kikki.K one which gives me space to write about each experience, something I’m trying to do for ~memory purposes~.
A lot of people would say keeping a bucket list is about keeping yourself on track for the big goals – career, travel, finances. But I find the method of using a bucket list to keep yourself accountable makes me feel guilty.
If I used my bucket list to keep myself vigilant when it came to chasing the big stuff, I’d end up in a constant shame spiral because career goals and finance goals take time. Even travel takes time – most of us can’t jet off to Europe for 3 months every year. Some years you won’t make any headway with big life goals, others will see several ticked off. And I’m sure for some people, sticking a “big goals” list to their wall and looking at it helps them focus, but for me it would just add to my ever-present anxiety over the future and achievement.
My bucket list works for me, because life is BUSY. We’re often on auto-pilot, rushing through intense work days and the myriad of plans we make every weekend. It’s easy to get to the end of a year and feel I’ve got nothing to show for it – another birthday down, and all I did was work and watch TV. But when you keep a bucket list, you have physical evidence of all the little things you achieved even if the bigger goals are still in progress.
The key, I think, is to use it more as a log book than something that pressures you into achieving. Sometimes I’ll even write down something I did or experienced that wasn’t originally listed, but felt like a life “tick”. Like the time I swam with dolphins in Kaikoura, NZ. It was a snap decision and one of the most amazing travel experiences of my life, so I felt it deserved a spot on the list.
2017 was a horrible personal year for me – my anxiety was making life unbearable, I’d spent thousands on seeing my psychologist weekly just to get me through. It had been a real gauntlet and besides the slow progress on my mental health, I hadn’t achieved much. I was feeling like the whole 365 days were an entire waste, but then I revisited the bucket list to tick a little thing off in December, and saw all these other little things I’d experienced – stupid stuff, but some of it I’d written that first year I began the list.
Even in my worst year, I’d done some cool shit. And it was nice to be reminded of that.Image: Getty Images