the reverse bucket list

When we’re about the reach a milestone, creating a bucket list is a common suggestion. As someone who calms herself through organization, a bucket list is pretty much a to-do list with a different timeline. A to-do list we create so that the event that happens at the deadline is a lot less daunting. It can be longer or shorter, just depends on when you started it and when you need it done.

I was watching Our Friend one night, and there was a part where Dakota Johnson’s character, Nicole, started her bucket list after being told that her cancer’s turned terminal. She managed to check off the items on her list with the help of her family and friends (and a proper use of the cancer card), and it was probably the last happy bit of the movie before everything turned real and dark. Overall, I thought the film was more realistic in its representation of what it’s like, but I could go on about it and maybe I’ll save it for its own post.

But back to bucket lists.

When I turned 25, I made a “before I turn 30” bucket list. I remember feeling an enormous amount of pressure from my own damn self in 2018, because I still haven’t crossed a thing off. The list was the embodiment of my anxiety towards aging, and completing items off the list was my way of conquering that dread. On the other end of it, the pressure was because I didn’t want to “fail” and be a thirty-year-old with an incomplete bucket list. I’ve lost that list since I was 28, but in the end I think I got two or three of the five or six things. There were also other significant goals that were achieved, although I didn’t think of writing them down at the time. Perhaps they weren’t “proper” goals to my 25-year-old self. Not proper enough to ease my worries about turning thirty at least.

After receiving a cancer diagnosis at the end of 2020, I only had one thing on my list: to live. I kept thinking that there was so much I still wanted to do. More goals, more dreams, more milestones. I was haunted of all the things I would miss – birthdays, holidays, little moments, bigger celebrations. But thinking of the future only made me sad, so I tried reframing the list.

What are things I'm proud of in my life?

If I was describing my life to someone else, what would I say?

It’s the summary of my life so far, some lows and many highs. It was me, on a page. Not like a blog post, or a little blurb, but a sketch of my little existence. Perhaps this reverse bucket list is a bit like an obituary I was writing for myself, but it was the first thing that eased my worries about dying. Thinking about what I have done and grown into during the first three decades of my life made the struggle for survival easier. Most of all, it got me fearing death a lot less.

When waves of grief and anxiety pass through, I find myself revisiting this list in my head to carry myself back up.

Dream (The Sandman) talking about his sister, Death

(If you thought I’d write that list here, you’re mistaken. I’m keeping it hidden… until the day my advanced directives are executed)

One thought on “the reverse bucket list

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