(This “ask me anything” answer is in response to a class of young college students’ questions.)
Do you have a bucket list?
No! I’ve always disliked not only the term, but the whole idea. The only things I really wanted to do before I died were the things that I filled my life with: raising my children, having a job that was meaningful to me, and writing. (Writing a book was a more specific goal that I was proud to reach.) I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the time, the privilege, and the opportunity for all this.
Things like visiting certain parts of the world or having particular adventures feels superficial to me. In fact those things feel rather like one of the symptoms of our consumer culture that leads us to want and collect both things and experiences. Now there are even websites that can tell you what to want with thousands of mostly silly ideas to add to your bucket list—all so you can post the photo or video on Instagram.
Do I sound cynical? I am. Those sorts of things won’t make my life richer or more meaningful, nor bring me peace on my deathbed. In fact they are most likely to create unnecessary wants and disappointment when I fail to check off everything on the list. Besides, making more memories for myself seems pointless: my memories will die with me, after all. We lead meaningful, memorable lives by loving those we are supposed to love and making positive contributions to society. We should definitely have fun along the way, but not by ticking items off a list.