Ahh, the bucket list: That which we carry around to remind us of all we have left to accomplish. While rarely comforting, the bucket list is definitely necessary. It helps to remind us that life must be truly lived before it is over.
I got to thinking of my own bucket list the other day and was overwhelmed by all the things I have left to do in this short life. I haven’t been to Greece; I’ve never found a four-leaf clover and still haven’t won that Pulitzer...
Just as I was nearly driven mad by the tally of thresholds left uncrossed, I considered the benefits of focusing my efforts not on all the things I need to do before I die, but on the things I need to do before I’m ready for the next chapter of adulthood.
I got to thinking of a different kind of bucket list: the rites of passages I’ll need to accumulate in order to grow up. I think I’ve settled on 25 that should probably be on your bucket list, too:
1. Do one thing that scares you
No, you don’t have to go jumping out of an airplane anytime soon, but facing your fears is essential to personal growth. Determine what it is you’re afraid of and do your best to confront it in a way that encourages you.
2. Take a first class flight
Nothing quite compares to a hot towel and complimentary cocktail 10,000 feet in the clouds. Of all the travels you take in this life, be sure to take at least one in style.
3. See your favorite band in concert
The great philosopher, Plato, once said that music is what gives soul to the universe. You know how good it feels to catch that perfect song on the radio, now imagine those words streaming not from an FM speaker, but straight from the sweet lips of the source. It’s audible euphoria that is so powerful.
4. Learn to cook a signature dish
I’m no Julia Child, but I’ve mastered an adequate chicken parm. Having a go-to meal is key to being self-sufficient; so find the one thing you know how to make and learn to make it well.
5. Get a handle on your student loan debt
It’s not likely that you’ll rid yourself of Sallie Mae’s persistent phone calls any time soon, but it’s vital to maintain control of the debt you’ve accumulated.
Take the time to get your financial records together and reach out to a loan representative regarding your payment options. At the very least, it will help you to understand all the facts upfront and determine your best shot at paying that money back in this lifetime.
6. Actually read one of those great American novels you were assigned in high school
CliffsNotes may have been enough to help you pass those exams, but there will come a time in your future when you’ll need to know that "The Great Gatsby" wasn’t just a Leonardo DiCaprio blockbuster.
7. Purchase one killer piece of furniture
Image is your strongest form of non-verbal expression and home décor is no exception. You may acquire a dozen pieces or paintings you love as you begin to build your life, but you’ll never forget the first time you were overwhelmed by good style. As you begin to develop and decorate your personal space, keep an eye out for that one addition you can’t go without and build from there.
8. Skinny dip
It's non-threateningly sexy and insanely freeing; taking a dip in the buff is a guilty pleasure of the best sort. Have you ever felt the delicious fluidity of natural water embracing your naked body? No? Do it. NOW.
9. Complete a marathon
Get a good group together or sign up solo; just get involved in something of the sort. Training for and finishing a race is not only good for the body, it's good for the soul. Chances are the event will be donating proceeds to a charity, so it’s beneficial full-circle.
10. Learn to drive stick
I once saw a horror movie where the girl didn’t make it away from the killer in time because she was unable to operate a tractor. That sh*t should never happen to you, period.
11. Take a vacation alone
You may not have the resources to take that backpacking trip through Western Europe just yet, but whether it be a quick stay at the bed and breakfast downtown or booking yourself one night in a fancy hotel, it’s important to reboot every so often. Get away from the emails, the schedules and the common hustle to take a break from your day-to-day and just enjoy your own company.
12. Get a pedicure
Men, this one’s for you. I urge you not to be deterred by the fear of metrosexual behavior. Personal maintenance is necessary, and if you work as hard as I believe grown men should, chances are you deserve a little indulgence. Take some time to get pampered as a personal reward for contributing to the daily grind.
13. Pick your clique
The relationships we choose to nurture say a great deal about who we are and who we’re destined to become. As you prepare yourself for the next chapter in life, do some inventory of your circle and be confident that your story is filled with characters of caliber.
14. Spend too much on an outfit
Everyone should have that one outfit they had no business buying. You deserve that killer suit or little black dress that costs more than your monthly groceries and hangs dauntingly in the closet to convince you an unforgettable night out is just upon the horizon.
15. Take a road trip
Before settling in and deciding a future, you’ll need to see at least a small fraction of this world we live in from a rearview mirror with the sun on your face. Grab a few adventurous friends, throw some gas in the car and let yourself be guided by some unknown highway for a few days. You’ll discover some direction in more ways than one.
16. Send someone flowers
It doesn’t so much matter who you send them to or why. Flowers are beautiful and they make people happy; it's that simple.
17. Donate to a charity
I know the struggle is real, but we’ve all got a little to give. It could be an hour you spend at the animal hospital or throwing an extra five dollars to those calorie-peddling little con artists, often referred to as Girl Scouts. An added bonus is that making others feel good, makes you feel pretty damn good, too; it’s a win-win.
18. Sing a karaoke song
The beauty of karaoke is that you’re not actually expected to be any good at it. There’s just something so shamefully satisfying about belting out a 90s pop song to a room of drunken supporters.
19. Have a one-night stand
Do it once, if for no other reason than to have the story. Not a story you’ll tell the grandchildren, but a story you should have, nonetheless.
20. Learn to change a tire
I, personally, have yet to nail this one; it’s merely a precautionary suggestion.
21. Watch a political debate
Even if you don't have a solid political stance, it’s important that you at least understand the issues that are out there and have an idea of who is petitioning for the rights to handle them.
22. Write a letter
In an age of texts, tweets and e-vites, it’s a wonder any of us remember how to print our name on paper. The written word stands as an extremely influential form of communication and we shouldn’t discount that. Instead of catching up on an old friend’s Facebook wall or Instagramming that birthday collage, take the time to grab some stationary and put those beautiful thoughts in writing.
23. Throw a dinner party
…Mostly because it’s a very adult thing to do. Have a small, but elite group of friends over and serve colorful cheeses on over-priced crackers for the hell of it.
24. Spend a day in a museum
Take an afternoon to become entirely submerged by culture. It is the artistic voices and views of the public that keep this world interesting. Seeing life through different perspectives may just enhance your own.
25. Have your heart broken
The meaning of this life is to find what you love and the purpose is to give it away. Sadly, of all the lessons one must endure before reaching maturity, conquering a broken heart is perhaps the most important. It may seem cynical to say that you aren’t ready for adulthood without the scars of heartbreak, but I have found it to be true.
Life is, after all, a series of heartbreaks: the kind that inspire you, the kind that destroy you and the kind that force you to grow. So while you are young and foolish enough to be careless with your heart, fall in love. Fall in love without boundaries or sensibility and leave your heart open to the pain. It is only through the loss of love that we can come to truly appreciate just how special a gift it really is.