Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bucket List

I'm taking a few years to travel the world and hope to continue to live a life of consistent wonder and discovery. I've been reading the blogs of other world travelers in order to learn about places to visit and gather wisdom on the lifestyle. Some of them have their bucket list displayed on their website and we can follow along as they check them off: go skydiving. check. see the Taj Mahal. check. swim with dolphins. check.

Last year I decided to write down my bucket list and I will share it here:

1. Fall in love. Mutually. With, you know, a woman. 

Aside from youthful puppy love with my first girlfriend, I have never been in love. It is the one void in my life that I would really like to fill. This is the one area of my life that I really feel like I'm missing out on something special (perhaps along with being one of those people who actually enjoys their work/job). One of the reasons I'm traveling the world is because it was extremely difficult for me to mutually connect with a woman over the course of many dates in the last 15 years. I'm hoping that if I better understand myself and lead a life that is more close to my authentic self that it will be easier to meet the right person who also understands herself and is living authentically. And when I say "understand myself" and "live authentically", I really mean being able to go beyond what society deems as normal or expected of us. I mean digging deep to understand who we truly are and what we truly believe when unfettered by the pressures of society or our parents or the Joneses next door.

When I was going on countless first dates, there was always this barrier for me of: she has a career she likes or she has two dogs or she just bought a house. These are all signs of someone who does not appear to be compatible with the abnormal life I'm interested in living. At the time, however, I could not have articulated it as such. It was buried down in my subconscious and only recently have I been able to bring that part of me to the surface where I really understand it. It took me more than 20 years after college to unlearn much of what I was taught (read more about that here).

Love. It has eluded me. I hope I'm getting closer to experiencing it. It is #1 on my bucket list.

UPDATE (2/28/17): I wouldn't write this goal the same way today as I did when it was originally written. First of all, I think the idea of "falling" in love is part of the problem. When we "fall in love" with someone after a few dates, it's usually driven far more by lust than actual love. What is love, exactly? It's a word that I think is thrown around too liberally these days. Second, being part of a long-term committed monogamous relationship doesn't interest me right now. Achieving that sort of relationship is one definition of success in our culture, but for me I don't see the value in placing such a high desire in conforming in that way. If I do grow to love a woman and we choose to have a traditional relationship, then that is okay. But I no longer have this as a top goal. My life is awesome right now. I'm very happy with myself and the path I'm on. I'm taking chances, exploring the world, learning new things, pushing my boundaries, and growing as a person. This is what I want in life...well, this and the physical pleasure that comes from great sex. I may have been doing a lot of meditation and spent 3 nights recently at a Buddhist temple in Koyasan, Japan, but I'm a long way from becoming a celibate monk. So I rescind "falling in love" from #1 on my bucket list. The rest of the items here are still valid, though.

2. Achieve pretty good mindfulness

TV's "Brain Games"
What I mean by this is that I want to have a clear head. I want to quiet my monkey mind that's always chattering in my head about stuff that really doesn't matter. I want to be able to thoughtfully respond to potentially challenging or shocking comments instead of just immediately reacting, without thought, often in a negative or unhelpful manner.

I wrote a little about this when I was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014. Being alone on the trail with nothing to do but walk for 8-10 hours a day for weeks allowed me to better understand what my brain is doing. Mostly, it's doing a lot of worthless crap. I plan to write more about this in the future, about what science understands about our brain and how the brain is not the perfectly evolved instrument that we sometimes believe it to be. For more see Daniel Kahneman's book "Thinking Fast and Slow" or the TV show "Brain Games" that is available on Netflix.

Bottom line: our brain is not always our friend (it likes to take shortcuts) and it behooves us to better understand how it really works.

3. Spend regular, quality time with a couple close friends

Friends are fun. 
Relationships are vitally important to happiness. 
As I've matured, however, the number of good friends I spend time with on a day-to-day basis has drastically declined. In grade school and high school and college I was always surrounded by friends. In my twenties I lived with roommate friends. In my later twenties many of my friends were getting married. Some were moving to different cities. In my thirties it felt like time to buy my own home because we all knew that (1) professional adults own homes and (2) renting is like throwing your money away. My thirties were spent living alone in a condominium while my few remaining single friends also bought homes of their own. At this point gatherings of friends were the occasional happy hour after work or going to a bar at night, perhaps to see live music, or to a hockey game. The gatherings always involved alcohol.

In recent years I've been (1) at a stage in life where most potential friends have a life partner or children, and (2) not spending much time in any one place. As a forty-something vagabond introvert it is not easy to make deep, lasting friendships. Pretty much all the new friends I made in the past 15 years I made in Bozeman, MT and some of them don't live there anymore either.

This bucket list item appears to clash with my current lifestyle. It might need to wait until I either settle down somewhere for awhile, fall in love with a new best friend (see #1 above) or until my lifestyle re-aligns with other long-term friends.

4. Help a friend accomplish something on their bucket list

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. It would be great to help a friend accomplish something important in their life. This sort of action would deepen a friendship and make me feel good, both of which are desirable things. Plus I'm sure I would learn something either about my friend or about a new place or activity that would also enrich my life.

5. Work to help something I believe in

This is another one of those items that falls under the category of both loving and selfish. I won't get into whether true selflessness actually exists or not. Did Mother Theresa devote her life to helping people because she was completely selfless, or did she do it because it made her feel good? It doesn't really matter. It helps us feel worthy as a human being to think that we are making the world a better place, whatever our definition of "better" is. So maybe it's worthiness I'm looking for. If I had children of my own then I imagine I would devote much of my life to encouraging them to be full of love and generosity. I don't have children but I still want to make some sort of positive impression on the world. It probably stems from a selfish place, but I'm okay with that.

During my travels, I'm hoping to find a new passion -- a cause or a place or a woman (hopefully more than one at the same time) -- that will force me to change any plans I had made. For the cause, I could see it being something related to the conservation of nature or education. I dunno, but I think I'll know it when I see it.

So that's my bucket list. If your bucket list also includes "help someone accomplish something on their bucket list", then by all means feel free to introduce me to your cute, single female friend who enjoys a life of consistent discovery and wonder.

1 comment:

Ann Vinciguerra said...

A nice change from the traditional bucket list. I really like it!