Kicking the Bucket List

When I was a senior in high school, one of my humanities teachers told the story of a man that had been homeless at a young age and a high school dropout that had gone on to great things in his life. His motivation was being told at sixteen that he should just give up as he wasn’t ever going to accomplish anything. He then went home and made a list of everything he planned on doing in his lifetime. From having a million dollars, to walking on the moon, the list also included owning his own home, starting his own company, running a marathon, getting married, having a vegetable garden, and various other things ranging from simplistic to wishful, attainable to dreams.

So I went home and wrote one of my own. Some things on it I’ve accomplished. I own my own car, I have a mortgage where I pay the bank for my own house, I graduated from college–twice, I have stayed at a job that offered benefits for at least five years, and so on. Some things I still have to reach–I am not married, I don’t have kids, I have yet to be debt free (thanks to that second college graduation), I haven’t been kite surfing, I haven’t been to see the Great Wall of China or the Great Barrier Reef, I’ve never base jumped from a bridge. There are quite a few additional things on my list, and slowly but surely I will work through them.

There was even a movie that had the same premise that came out last winter, The Bucket List. I have yet to see the movie (am going on Tuesday, actually) but the general idea is the same. Make sure you have no regrets when you go, do it all now.

(I do have a point to this, I promise . . . .)

You know those things that go around on a regular basis that are the ‘let your friends find out about you’ kind of thing? I think some of them are fun, although they tend to have the same questions. In fact a few years ago my friends and I took a survey of questions so that we could put together something that was different than the standard ‘how many times did you flunk your driving test’ sort of thing. We asked questions like ‘who is your favorite Muppet?’ or ‘Great Space Coaster or H. R. Pufnstuf?’ (For the record, it’s a tie between Grover and Animal and, duh, the Great Space Coaster. How do you pass up Gary Gnu?) But recently there was another wave of the traditional sort of survey to make the rounds. Mom started copying me on a bunch of ones from people I knew from my childhood church, and there was one thing that cracked me up. The answer to the question ‘Name one person, dead or alive, you’d like to have a conversation with’. All of them said the same thing. No matter how much exposition was given with each of the other answers, the only answer to that question was ‘Jesus’, which cracked me up since each of these women are, to the best of my knowledge, Christian women who are going to get that opportunity anyway. It’s like saying I want to have a conversation with my brother–it’s a fine answer, nothing wrong with it, but the odds are since I talk to him all the time that it’s going to be a goal that is fulfilled pretty darn quick. Choose something that you’d not normally get, like Ghandi, or your great great grandfather, or a celebrity you seem to like. Don’t choose someone that is a certainty. Just my opinion.

Back to the ‘to do’ list. Today was the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby. I know nothing about horse racing, but from the Derby on the first Saturday in May to the Belmont Stakes in June, it’s always fun to watch the hype. Big Brown was the 5-2 favorite to win, and win he did. Eight Belles was favored 20-1 to win, and while the filly didn’t win she did show. So my $1 ticket on her only won about $5 in the office pool.

And then ten minutes later, she was euthanized. Evidently, as she came around the bend after crossing the finish line, she stepped wrong and broke both her ankles. Such a severe injury is not one that a horse can recover from, and she was put down immediately.

For some reason, this really hit hard with me. On one side of the track you have the family of the jockey that rode for the roses in tears from joy, his son finally able to hear the crowds cheering thanks to cochlear implants. The trainer, who overcame his own personal demons, to get to this point in his life and be able to share it with his daughter, whose mother was killed in a brutal break in that almost killed the trainer himself. Incredible joy felt by these people, only to be tempered by the news from the other side of the track. Everything that Eight Belles’s owner, trainer, and jockey had worked for culminated in a second place finish at the Kentucky Derby, a remarkable achievement, only to have it tainted moments later by a misstep on the turn.

This completely reinforces the theory of ‘The List’. Work hard, play hard, and live each moment to the fullest in order to ensure you maximize every opportunity. If my humanities teacher is to be believed, then that gentleman she spoke about–who has made millions several times over, been skydiving, run a marathon, and is still trying to walk on the moon–has the right idea. Same goes for that ‘who would you like to meet’ question. Why answer with someone that you know you’re going to meet one day? Aim big. Aim high. Go for someone that you’d never have a chance with otherwise.

It may be crazy, but my thoughts are with that horse’s team. The sorrow they have after today’s event only makes me want to work harder to accomplish everything that I have thought of putting on that list. It’s been a while since I’ve looked at it, but I think of it often, and I need to get cracking on another one of the goals that I plan on accomplishing. And soon.

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