This past Wednesday, my linguistics professor was taking a moment to jot down the lesson plan for the day on the whiteboard before class started. She sectioned off the lecture topics into seven neat bullet points, and the girl three seats down from me happily mused, “I respond well to lists.” We all laughed in agreement and quickly penned down the clean little list, which is something that our quirky Anthropology professor, Bonnie, rarely blesses us with. Her typical approach to our class, The History of Linguistic Theory, is to feed us lengthy, winding sentences at a rapid-fire pace until she realizes we only have ten minutes left of class, and all she’s covered so far is why Ferdinand de Saussure is a verified nutjob. For a complete breakdown, see figure below:
For some reason, our collective happiness as a class about that list stuck with me for the rest of the week. “I respond well to lists.” Why, I asked myself, do I find myself relating so much to this? Looking back on how I’ve approached my life so far, it makes sense. I’ve been journaling since I got my first diary on Easter in the third grade, and when I can’t find the inspiration to write, I make a list. Just a few bullet points about what I did that day, what I’d like to do, songs I found, or whatever else that comes to mind. A list seems to take the effort out of everything; forget about syntax, forget about line breaks and figuring out where to end your paragraph, and forget about making your writing ‘good,’ whatever that means. When I went to write my research proposal today, I had to break up the instructions, which were in paragraph form, and make them into tight, concise bullet points. My agenda is a self-made bullet journal. I’ve never not made a list of New Year's resolutions.
The king of all the lists, though, remains the almighty bucket list. Whether in a game of truth or dare, across the table at a first date, or under a particularly poignant sunset or sky of stars, I’m sure we’ve all been asked at some point or another to name something on our bucket list. For a self-proclaimed writer, dreamer, list-lover, and all-around romantic, I still have never gotten around to starting a bona fide bucket list. My far-flung dreams have never made it onto paper as a group, lined up single-file next to a row of dauntingly empty boxes, devoid of check marks. I think I’ve always been hesitant to pen a list of the things I want the most, because it makes them real. In writing them down, I’m committing to that pursuit of happiness; and if I don’t follow through, I’ll have that list reminding me of all the things I’m always longing to do, but never actually chasing.
Nowadays, I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. I’ve always found it hard to ‘live in the moment,’ as everyone and their mother likes to tell me. I’m either reminiscing or cringing about things that I’ve done in the past, or worrying about things that I still have yet to do. Honestly, since mentioning my New Year’s resolutions list in the second paragraph of this article, I’ve been kicking myself for not following through with them. Maybe making a list of things you "have" to do is counterproductive to the joy you’re seeking to get from completing them. Life isn’t a formula you can plug goals into; things get in the way, people change, priorities shift, and one day you wake up and you’re in a completely different place than you were last week.
So, this is me kicking the bucket list. I’m in my third year of college, and I still don’t know what I want to do with my postgrad career. I haven’t been nursing grand plans to go backpacking through Europe after I graduate, and I don’t already know what the color scheme and venue for my wedding are going to be. I have no expectations to be married with kids by the time I’m 30, or to travel "while I can" before I inevitably settle down with a job or a family that keeps me firmly, indefinitely rooted in one place. I don’t need sweeping, shiny adventures to fulfill me. If I never make it to Iguazu Falls, but I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve gone stargazing with a loved one or laughed until there were tears in my eyes, then I’ll have made it anyway.
So, here’s to measuring my life in concert halls, eggs benedicts, long drives, fine-tipped pens, bear hugs, americanos, and anything else that makes me happy along the way. Instead of making a list that gets smaller with every crossed-off line, I’ll make one that gets bigger with the addition of every new memory. I’ll leave room to grow. I’ll be present. I think it’ll be better that way.