The fact that our lives can be taken away from us in a matter of minutes or even seconds, it sure is frightening. Whether you’re in the office, in school, on the road, or even at your home, death could knock on your door any time of the day. Hearing stories of death makes us live our lives with urgency. This is why we constantly search for the meaning of our existence – our purpose, our legacy, the story that will define how we lived – so when we hold on to our last breath, we don’t have what if’s and should have been’s running over our head.
What are you afraid of? Dying, or not living at all?
This is the question that motivates us to create a bucket list. Social media keeps telling us that life is short, so we’re urged to travel, go out there and live. I bet you’ve read articles over the internet about “10 Things You Should Do Before You Die” and felt like you need to do something about it. But believe me, you don’t.
Your Life Is Not A Bucket List.
We all want to make the best out of life, that’s one thing for sure. We list down anything, even the most impossible ones, and we dare to dream. There’s nothing wrong with having a bucket list, I have a bucket list myself, but people make such a big deal out of their lists nowadays that they’ve become more focused on crossing out an item on the list rather than savoring the moment.
I was in high school when I first created my own list. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do before I hit my deathbed, so I just wrote down things out of the ordinary – even things I’m not sure I would like to try in this lifetime (such as bungee jumping and skydiving). In those days, images of Aurora Borealis were all over my Tumblr feed and it was just so dreamy. It was first on the list. Then I wrote down other stuff that was too ambitious such as crossing the Great Wall of China, swimming in Maldives, and biking around Paris. I also wrote down things like speaking in a different language and skinny dipping just to have something more realistic.
At 15, looking at the list almost made me laugh. What a joke. But after college, my perspective changed when I realized I succeeded in slashing a big item off the list (going to Oslob to swim with the whale sharks). The list is actually possible! Since then, I craved to finish the rest of the items. This was only the beginning of the chase.
Little by little I was reaching my travel goals. But to be able to sustain this life-long chase, I have to constantly prepare and save up for the next journey. So to sum up what my life is like, it goes like this: work, work, work, travel, work, work, work, travel.
Today, everyone is so addicted to the idea of adventure, outdoors and all that wild stuff to a point where (I think) their bucket list became their reason to live. I guess I can’t blame people for having this kind of thinking. Accomplishing an item on the list gives a feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction. When you craved for it all these years and… at last! It’s happening! You did something spectacular in your life! But the cloud 9 feeling only lasts a few days. After that big experience, you feel empty again. There’s a void in your heart that needs to be filled again, so you go back to that list and stare at it for hours thinking, “Which item should I go for next?”.
At 22, it’s frustrating to look at The List. I feel like I should’ve crossed half of the list already, but I’m still far from completing it. The thought of writing the list years ago and here I am still staring at the list, it makes me feel like I’m wasting my life not pursuing these things.
Stop Chasing Other People’s Bucket List.
As I travel with people my age, I get to hear stories of where they’ve been and what they’ve done. All the crazy stories, the fancy photos, the too-good-to-be-true videos and here’s-where-you-should-go-next blog articles written by my co-Generation Y’s turn me into an eager traveling beaver.
As much as I don’t want to compare myself with them, I can’t help but feel pressured of going for the same things they’ve achieved. It may even come to a point of envy, wherein I ask myself these questions,
“She probably doesn’t need to support her family financially. They must be rich.”
“I feel like a loser with the job I have now. Why can’t I afford to travel like her?”
“Last weekend, she went camping on the island. I was at home. Did two days of my life go to waste?”
“She went bungee jumping! If she did it, why can’t I?”
The more I learn that they’ve experienced more adventures than I have, met more people than I have marked more places than I have, I start to feel inexperienced. I feel like “My stories are not worth telling anymore. It’s not as cool as theirs.” Then I realized that I’m losing sight of what really matters. I forgot that the main purpose of travel is the experience. I focused so much on trying to validate my social status (that I am living my life to the full, too), to the point where I crave to walk in other people’s shoes and see the same things they saw. I’m losing track of who I really am and what I really want.
This is no competition. Don’t compete with others. Most especially, don’t compete with yourself. Take it easy. With or without a bucket list, you don’t have to do extreme stuff just to say you have lived a remarkable life. Your life counts, whether you have climbed a mountain or not. It’s not a wasted year if you haven’t jumped off a cliff or went spelunking last summer. So what if you chose to binge-watch over the weekend? Nobody can tell you your life is boring.
Get Out There Because You Want To, Not Because You Need To.
Let’s be honest. Sometimes, it feels more like an obligation rather than a pleasure to travel. Time is running out but there’s still a lot of places to see. You save up, plan and travel. Aside from stressing over your flight details and accommodation, don’t forget that you also need to take a gazillion of photos, follow the itinerary, and document every single thing on this trip. At one point, you probably went to the beach all dolled up, prepared with multiple OOTDs, and ready to pose for an Instagram-worthy photo while you failed to notice the water hitting on your toes and the wind blowing on your face.
You’re physically there, but your spirit isn’t.
Social media says we’re allowed to publicize what’s going on in our lives, but for what? To brag? To express? For whatever reason, you can enjoy yourself without showing people you can. You don’t have to keep up with other millennials just to say that you’re one of them whose lives are to be envied. Relax, and take the time to notice the things around you.
You’re not traveling for the sake of checking things off your list.
If you plan to go on a tour with a jam-packed itinerary thinking you’ll be able to slash multiple items in just one trip, think again. While you want to take in everything at once and visit too many places in a day, it could get overwhelming. You compromise your time in each destination so you could keep up with the schedule. You lose the chance to connect to the place because you’re always in a hurry. And because you’re in a rush, once you’ve visited the spot you came there for, it’s like everything else is not worth your attention anymore because they’re not on The List. The purpose of the trip is accomplished, and so you move on to another destination.
In doing all these, you become so distracted that you can’t even appreciate what’s in front of you. You’ve become too preoccupied to bring home things to remember rather than to make memories that actually matter.
Stop Pursuing The World And Look Around You.
So you crossed out another item on your list, congratulations. But really, how did that change you? Will you just keep on pursuing your list until your final day comes? Time is precious, but what we don’t realize is that while we run fast to catch up on life, we have already missed it. If you’re always chasing your list hoping that it will make you happy, your life will be over before you even know it. You don’t have to pressure yourself accomplishing the long list you made after watching the “The Bucket List”. Your life is not a movie. Your life is the daily struggles and lessons, the wounds and the healing, the tears, and the laughter, the work and rest, the success and the failures and everything in between.
You don’t need a checklist to feel fulfilled. Your life’s worth is not based on how many items you’ve crossed out on your list of things.
Stop trying to keep up with the world. Stop living in the future. Stop thinking that you have to work hard now to enjoy life later. Because what if there is no “later”? What if your time on earth ends today? Live now. I don’t mean you should travel today. Just take a look around you. Be happy with where you are and what you have. Take a step back. While you’re busy traveling, how many family dinners have you missed out? How many girls’ night out invites have you said no to just because you’re saving up for your plane ticket? We keep running after our personal goals that we forget that time is also important for the people around us. Our vision became too narrow that we slowly became indifferent with what’s really going on.
We take for granted the simplest events in our lives like being able to get a good rest, to eat breakfast with our grandparents, to talk to our sister or cuddle our pets. In a snap of a finger, you’ll regret not making time for the people you love. While you could have celebrated your life today with your loved ones, you’re too busy living in the future. And your family and friends are not in that future. In that future, it’s just about you, you, you.
But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere. Ecclesiastes 2:11 (NLT)
You see, satisfying your wanderlust will make you yearn for more desire and more envy. You are putting your worth in your ability to achieve these earthly things. You may feel fulfilled now but sooner or later, it will suck the life out of you. The good news is… it’s not too late! The secret to joy is by having a grateful heart. Focus on what you have. Notice the simple pleasures around you. Appreciate the fact that you are alive! Lastly, start practicing a habit of gratitude. Instead of serving yourself, lose yourself in service of others. Instead of chasing the wrong things, set your eyes to what really gives you the purpose.
For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. 1 John 2:16-1-7
Anchor your happiness to one thing that will always remain constant – Him. It is only Christ who can fill the holes in our hearts and it is only Christ who can give meaning to our existence. You’ll be robbed of peace when you try to find life’s meaning elsewhere, so stop overdoing your travel goals.
You are not your bucket list! You’re young. Breathe.