By Karen Osborne
The movie “The Bucket List” inspired the public to reflect on what each person wants to do before he or she dies. That prompted the question: What’s on your bucket list?
From the time I was a teenager, my list was always full of flights of fancy. I wanted to sing on Broadway, play the violin at Carnegie Hall and visit New Zealand.
Even teens I know have made bucket lists, too. Ever since the movie came out a few years ago, everyone seems to have been busy imagining what they would like to do in life.
I have actually been able to accomplish some of the crazy things on my bucket list, and until recently I was pretty proud of that. I visited Roman ruins, got married and saw the pope.
I honestly thought I was doing well – until the cancer scare.
Recently, I sat in a doctor’s office in a revealing, embarrassing white paper gown, watching the doctor put me on the fast track to the surgery suite. A few days later, I was being wheeled down a hallway on my way to anesthesia and a biopsy.
I became terrified of the road ahead, of the possibility that the decades stretching before me had become years or days. It was easy to think I was invincible, before that hallway and that white paper gown.
When that changed, so did my bucket list.
Gone were the “things” I wanted and wanted to do: the Victorian house with the wraparound porch, the birthday trip on the “vomit comet” space plane. Suddenly, I found that my bucket list was small and topped off with people.
I wanted to talk with my mom and eat her chicken soup, to hang out with my dad and hear his “dad jokes,” see my friend from Boston and talk about obscure books and movies, sing with my band from college again, babysit my best friend’s new daughter and reminisce with my post-college theater group and my friends in Florida.
All of the material things I wanted suddenly didn’t seem so important anymore. In fact, they didn’t seem important at all.
A common complaint from parents about teenagers is that teens don’t always understand that they are not invincible: They drive too fast, risk too much and don’t think about their future enough.
Caught Up in Cultural Noise
On top of that, it is really easy to get caught up in the cultural noise that says our self-worth is based on having the newest iPhone or being able to drive at 16 or how popular we are on Instagram.
Our culture puts an emphasis on things, when we really should be focusing on people.
It’s not healthy to be morbid or crazy about the future, especially when you’re young and looking forward to a long life, but the truth is, our time in this life is transitory. We’re only going to be here a short time, and we’re not going to be able to take our things with us when we move onward.
As you are putting your life together – and your own bucket list – don’t forget to put people on it: your friends and your family, your college best friend.
Don’t forget the moments that seem small, but are unforgettable: That feeling you get on a sports team or drama cast, when you’ve won a game or closed a show, laughter at a school dance, high-fives, jokes, hugs, triumphs, emotional moments, singing along at concerts, smiles and just people doing what people do.
That kind of bucket list is one full of life.
Karen Osborne contributes to a syndicated column series for Catholic News Service.