Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about death.
I don’t mean that in a morose way but the recent, unexpected deaths of Robin Williams and Joan Rivers, as well as a story told to me by a friend about a mutual acquaintance who suffered a heart attack at the age of 45, has caused me to think: What do I want to do with my time left on Earth?
The simple answer is: a lot. (I want to watch my kids grow up, I want to travel to China, I want to learn how to be a better photographer, etc.)
However, as I go deeper, I think about the things that I have been putting off or have on my unwritten “bucket list” that I plan to get to at some point, but may never get around to—especially if I go earlier than expected.
I am hardly alone here.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have spent a lot of time around the elderly and, overwhelmingly, the biggest regrets that I hear are the things that they didn’t do as opposed to the things they actually did. (This is true even in situations where the results were disappointing or things didn’t go as planned.)
While bucket lists vary from person to person, there are certain items that appear time and again.
Below are three of the most popular ones that are too important to put off until later. In no order of importance, here they are:
In my late teens and early 20s, I traveled throughout the world despite having little to no money. It was truly one of the best things I ever did, and it is something that I continue to do.
Traveling taught me things that books and movies could not. I learned, for example, that people are far more alike than different. I also learned that language barriers were no barrier to understanding or connecting with each other. Plus, the change of scenery for a few days or weeks was a great way to recharge my batteries.
While I love international travel, we don’t need to travel to other countries to have similar experiences. Just taking a day trip an hour or so away from where we live can provide the same escape. It’s also possible to “travel” in our own towns. Try hanging out at a cafe or a park you’ve never visited before. Talk to those who have just recently moved there as well as those who have lived all or a good part of their life there. Chances are great we will learn something new, and may even see the familiar in a whole new way.
Most of us have stuff we do not need and have been putting off going through and throwing out or giving away. Not only is it unpleasant to think of our loved ones having to sort through that once we pass, but clutter while we are alive isn’t a good thing either. (For one thing, it can be a source of stress.)
While most clutter involves physical stuff-clothing, papers, etc., clutter can also involve mental or spiritual stuff as well. This brings me to #3.
3. Forgive or forget
Very few of us get to go through life without encountering people who have hurt us, betrayed us or done some very bad things. While forgiveness is a good thing and should be something to strive for, the truth is that sometimes it is not possible.
In those cases, the best think we can do is to move on or at least not waste our time dwelling on past things we cannot change.
Finally, for those of us who desire closure of some sort, it’s best to do it now and not wait for later. Even if it isn’t the result we are hoping for or expected, it’s better to at least try for it than wait until it is too late.
In conclusion, a bucket list can be a good thing to have. But, arguably, there are some things we should start doing for ourselves now rather than wait until we approach the end of our lives.
As we’ve seen, we never really know when the end is—and, for some of us, it could be much sooner than we think.
We may not get to everything on our lists, but taking the time for the most important things now is one of the best things we can do for ourselves.
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Editor: Emily Bartran