Kicking the bucket list

I’ve been feeling a little inadequate ever since I overheard a conversation between two dreamers in a restaurant recently. I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop. It’s not my fault people talk so loudly—and about such interesting things. Anyway they were discussing their bucket lists which among other things included getting a pilot’s license, living abroad and running a marathon in every state. One of the women said just once before she dies, she’d like to pet a whale.  

Just once before I die, I’d like to get my checkbook to balance on the first try, so you can see why I’m feeling inadequate.

I decided to come up with some bigger goals. Before I say more, let’s make sure we’re on the same page—or in the same bucket. A bucket list refers to the activities you want to accomplish before you die—kick the bucket. After the 2007 movie The Bucket List, bucket lists became as common as to-do lists and probably as likely to be completed.

When I typed “bucket list ideas” into my search bar there were more than six billion results. There are health bucket lists, foodie bucket lists, fitness bucket lists and even one called Ridiculous Bucket List featuring goals like sleep in a coffin, bring a fishing pole to an aquarium and hire two private investigators to follow each other.

There were so many suggestions I had to have ways to narrow them down. First while I do want to have some once-in-a-lifetime experiences, I don’t want them to be once in a lifetime because I don’t survive them the first time. That eliminates running with the bulls in Pamplona, high-wire walking and cliff jumping, which is exactly what it sounds like—jumping off a cliff. For fun. Incidentally when you do the jumping without equipment, it’s called tombstoning which should tell you something.

My dreams also have to fit my budget. That leaves out space travel which runs anywhere from $125,000 to millions. Unless you’re a gazillionaire—or an astronaut—that wouldn’t leave much for other dreams. Or food, clothing and shelter.  

An around-the-world cruise can run up to $100,000 per person which is more affordable, affordable being a relative term.

Also out of my price range but less expensive still is attending the Super Bowl. This year prices ranged from just under $5,000 to around $36,000. That would be a waste for me because I don’t like football. And if I’m going to spend a lot of money on a bucket list item, I should enjoy it. That leaves out smoking Cuban cigars in Cuba (I don’t smoke), publishing a science fiction novel (I don’t even read science fiction) and hunting and bagging an alligator (I don’t hunt. Also I’m afraid of alligators.)

A challenge is good, but I want my goals to be realistic. That eliminates playing in the NBA, climbing Mount Everest and learning to do the splits.

Finally I don’t want anything embarrassing on my list. You’d be surprised how many people include skinny dipping on their bucket lists. I’ve never skinny dipped but if I had I wouldn’t tell you anyway.

But in my research, I discovered that I’ve actually accomplished a lot of common bucket list items. I’ve seen Old Faithful, Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon. I’ve gone rappelling, ridden in a hot air balloon and been in a parade. I was the last chair clarinetist marching with my high school band and it was as embarrassing as skinny dipping would be for me—and probably for the band director too. But I did it.

Realizing I’ve done things other people dream of doing has encouraged me to think bigger. There are so many more trips I want to take and so many other adventures I’d like to have. And just once before I die, I’d still like to balance my checkbook on the first try.

Dorothy Rosby is the author of ’Tis the Season to Feel Inadequate; Holidays, Special Occasions and Other Times Our Celebrations Get Out of Hand and other books. Contact her at