I turned 30 this past year and it wasn’t life-changing. Here’s why: For the few years leading up to my 30th birthday, I watched several friends hit 30 first. A surprising amount of them wrote up a whole bucket list of things they wanted to accomplish before the big birthday. For most of them, the 29th year meant racing to finish a made-up list by an arbitrary deadline: the 30th birthday. I watched one friend successfully finish all 30 things on her list (which involved a lot of frantic racing the few weeks leading up to her birthday and a few all-nighters). Another friend even started a blog about the 30 things she planned to accomplish before she turned 30. I think she blogged twice that whole year. On her 30th birthday, she wrote about how she remembered how much she hated doing new things. When she turned 30, she felt bad about not hitting her goals for about ten minutes, and then she realized that was dumb. Being 30 meant she was free from the “decade of decision” and she could own who she was. Her goal after that was to have no adventures and fully enjoy what she actually likes to do.
I have the benefit of being among the youngest of my friends. And watching them all set goals for themselves that were uncharacteristic, not enjoyable, and a stress to achieve made me avoid making one altogether. When I was 28, I got roped into taking a karate class with one of my 29-year-old bucket list friends that had “learn martial arts” on her list. Three of us took it together with a 12-class Groupon and had an absolute blast. We were the oldest people there (by a lot) and were called the “karate moms.” I didn’t have a bucket list, but I jumped at the opportunity to do something I hadn’t before. I realized that I wanted to make my own list, but a different kind. I call it a “fill-the-bucket” list and it has no deadline at all.
So what is a fill-the-bucket list? Life is full of opportunities, changes, and unpredictability and it’s all about experiences and filling your bucket so that by the end of your life, your bucket is full. Instead of making a list of things you would like to see happen in your life, a fill-the-bucket list focuses on the opportunities you have had and the things you’ve taken a chance and done. Here are a few things that are on my fill-the-bucket list.
- Riding an Elephant in Cambodia: I was working on my undergraduate degree at the time and never anticipated getting married before graduating and going to Cambodia. Because Mr. T had lived there for two years before we met, he wanted me to experience it as well, so we headed there six months after we got married. When we were asked if we wanted to ride an elephant, we took the opportunity.
- Taking Salsa Lessons: Penny took a dance class when she was little. At her holiday recital, I won a door-prize of free salsa lessons for me. They were also running a promotion that night that all lessons were $100 off. So, Mr. T and I signed up for 12 weeks of salsa lessons for $120. We would never have spent the $440 it would have cost to take them and we probably wouldn’t have even tried to figure it out with two young kids at home, but we took the opportunity and had an absolute blast (and don’t we look like we know what we’re doing?).
- Seeing the Northern Lights from my Neighborhood: A lot of things on my fill-the-bucket list are Alaska-related. I never anticipated living here. And I really never anticipated being able to walk right outside and see the Northern lights.
- High-Fiving a Musher on his way to Nome for the Iditarod: One year we packed up the girls and headed North to Willow to see the official start of the Iditarod. We went to the ceremonial start in Anchorage every year, but after the mushers go through the ceremonial starting line, they wave at the crowds, run a couple of miles, and then pack up their car to drive to Willow the next day. The start in Willow is real. The mushers are all bundled up and hugging family members they won’t see for nearly a week or more. And they race right past you on their long journey to Nome. I stuck my hand out and got a high-five. And amazingly, Mr. T caught it on camera just before contact. “Going to the Iditarod” may have made it on my bucket list, but something so awesome and specific can only fit on a fill-the-bucket list.
- The Running of the Reindeer: Every February, Anchorage holds a big two-week festival called Fur Rondy. One of the events is called “The Running of the Reindeer” and involves people dressed in crazy costumes running down the street downtown being chased by reindeer. One year, a friend of mine was working for the festival and called to see if Mr. T and I wanted to do the race because she had two extra shirts and two open slots. We donned our trapper costumes (last-minute and warm!) and ran with the crazies and the reindeer.
The fill-the-bucket list focuses on finding joy in life’s unpredictability. My fill-the-bucket list is long. And every item on it has one thing in common: taking an opportunity. You’ve done amazing things, too. And you’ve had opportunities that I haven’t. Challenge: Start a Fill-the-Bucket list. If you have a blog, share some things that are on your fill-the-bucket list. If you don’t have a blog tell me some of the awesome opportunities you’ve taken in the comments.
LIST OF AWESOME PARTICIPANTS! – Check out the links to all the Fill-the-Bucket Lists! (It’s also never too late to add yours!):
- Half Banked
- Ditching The Grind
- The Yachtless
- Mr. FireStation
- Generation Y Retirement Account
- Frugal to Free
- Mortimer’s Money Machines
- Amber Tree Leaves
- It’s a Kate Life
- Debt Discipline
- Notorious D.E.B.T.
- The Personal Economist
- Our Next Life
- Slowly Sipping Coffee
- Financially Alert
- FI Big Sky
- Dream Beyond Debt
- Hey, It’s Just Money!
- Creating My Kaleidoscope
- All-Around Better Me
- The Freedom From Money