It’s easy to obsess over bucket lists. It’s easy to think of all the things you want to do, to make plans and lists around what is yet to be accomplished. It’s terribly easy to focus on all the failures you’ve had, the “what ifs” that can keep you wide awake and immobilised with fear and regret.
Unfortunately, I do this a lot. Despite my firm resolution as a teenager to live a life without regrets, I have “what if” moments, often all at once. What if I didn’t listen to the Voice of Reason and kept studying philosophy and writing instead of switching to teaching? What if I did go travelling before I started Uni instead of going straight into tertiary study? What if I didn’t eat that block of chocolate last night? What if I did go to Scotland instead of Singapore? What if I did … What if I didn’t …
Believe me, you can lose a lot of sleep over thinking back on the things you did and didn’t do.
Apparently it’s good to have a bucket list. Good to have plans and ideas of what you want to accomplish. I’ve been writing lists like this since I was a teenager so writing another one over the past week has not been an unfamiliar process. I’ve been writing lists of all the things I want to do, because if I write them down then perhaps there’s less chance of me forgetting them. They become more than something on my “to do” list, and instead become something on my “I will” list.
So here I am focusing on all these things I want to do. They’re endless, really. Languages I want to learn, books I want to read, places I want to visit, stories I want to write … and I’m overwhelmed.
This list is huge.
Is it possible for me to learn fifteen languages? Should I narrow it down to five?
Will I ever write out every single story? Do I have the time and patience? The energy? The motivation to switch everything off and just write without distraction or self-doubt?
How can I read all these books if I have to set time aside to work? To earn money to fund these pursuits?
How can I travel to all these places when I have to rely on getting leave and holidays?
OH MY GOSH! IT’S NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN! I’M NEVER GOING TO ACHIEVE ANYTHING!
That was pretty much my thought process last night. Hyperventilating under the covers, I thought of the things I haven’t done and the things I want to do. There’s just too much!
And then my mind wandered. My mind often wanders.
I thought of the no-regrets-teenager I was, once upon a time, when people seemed to be as beautiful as the world they lived in and it seemed so easy to set a goal and achieve it. I thought of her bucket list, the things she wanted to achieve.
Backpack around Europe.
Write a novel.
Fall in love.
These are the things I’ve done. I can already tick these off the list and know that I’ve achieved a lot already in my life. While I’m busy thinking of the overwhelming tasks that I’m setting myself and fearing for my failure, I forget about the overwhelming tasks I’ve already set myself and achieved.
It wasn’t luck. It was a few good decisions and a few bad ones. It was a touch of spontaneity and a dollop of impulse, mixed with equal parts “what if” and the potential for regret.
And for all the “what ifs” that have passed, all the paths I chose and didn’t choose, I think teenage-me would be pretty pleased with where I’ve ended up. And I’ve still got so far to go.
My writing wish for you this week is for you to focus on your achievements. Instead of writing a list of all the things you wish you could do, write a list of all the things you have already accomplished. You’ve already done so much, and you deserve to be proud of everything you’ve done.