Something about bucket lists, and the way that they develop in old age, indicates an end of the road. I’m more of the road goes on forever type.
I’m not young anymore and, to my constant dismay, I’m not even middle aged. Mathematically, middle age should start at 40 and end at 50. I’m past that by a decade or two.
I don’t have a bucket list, but I have a wheelbarrow full of things that I wish I’d done differently.
It’s always amazing and baffling to me that, in interviews with famous and accomplished people, when the question “If you had to do your life over again what would you have done differently?” is asked, the answer is invariably “Nothing.”
Really? You sure? That seems a bit arrogant.
If I could do it over again, I’d change more than a few things.
I wish I’d never shown anger. Everyone gets angry, but nothing much good ever comes from it. I wish I’d counted to 10 and taken deep breaths and exhibited composure instead of an ill temper.
I wish I had spoken out more—not in anger or frustration, but in a reasoned approach—on issues that might have been unpopular but needed to be addressed. Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
I wish I’d paid more attention to a poem we had to memorize in grammar school, particularly the lines, “If you can meet with triumph and despair/And treat those two imposters both the same.” Rudyard Kipling was on to something.
I wish I had known about and embraced two tenets of Buddhism— “The only constant in life is change” and “Pain is inevitable – suffering is optional.”
I wish I’d bought less clothes, eaten fewer animals, been kinder to people older than me, and more patient with people younger than me. I wish I’d planted more trees. I wish I’d spent more time with my family. I wish I had understood that the definition of success in business involved more than making money. I wish I’d worked harder to understand people—and to understand myself.
I wish I had practiced a bit more moderation. I had more of an “everything in moderation, including moderation” philosophy. That wasn’t successful when it came to alcohol. I finished with my drinking years ago. I embraced David Sedaris’ approach that my drinking life was marred by some sort of accounting glitch. I’d been allotted a certain number of drinks in life and I used them up too quickly—more of a bookkeeping error.
A bucket could easily contain the list of things I’d like to do in the future. I’m not enamored with the idea of bungee jumping, cave diving, fire walking, stunt flying, running with the bulls, skydiving, riding a motorcycle, or hundreds of other thrilling adventures.
But a wheelbarrow would not hold all of the things I’d do differently if I had the chance.