Why I Write Myself A Yearly Bucket List

“Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. Walk away, try something new. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming.” – Shauna Niequist

I hadn’t given the concept of a bucket list much thought before. More than anything, I liked the idea of writing a list of things to do, see, and accomplish in a certain amount of time—but it was never a ‘before I die’ type of list. I thought of it more as a “becoming” list. In the months leading up to my 23rd birthday, I was feeling particularly stuck and I noticed myself thinking of things I wanted to do while I was 23: leave my soul-draining office job, go back to Australia, run a 5K without stopping, etc. It seemed like an epic collection of things that would make life as a 23-year-old particularly awesome. After tons of brainstorming and daydreaming, my list totaled 23 things that I thought would push me out of my comfort zone a little in my year ahead. I wanted to tackle the nagging feeling that I wasn’t doing enough to make my twenties memorable; that I wasn’t doing enough to enjoy my twenties, period. I was inspired and motivated to explore the season of becoming.

By my 24th birthday, I hadn’t finished all 23 items on my list—but I finished 18 and had more than 18 awesome new stories to tell. I left that office job. I went back to Australia for a month-long adventure. I ran a few 5Ks, but there was a lot of stopping (baby steps, right?). The list not only motivated me to try harder, but also to try new things. I like familiar. I tend to stick to things I know, people I know, and places I know. This bucket list had me breaking all kinds of barriers I would have been afraid to cross otherwise. I felt a spark in my chest that I didn’t want to lose.

I know that so much of a twenty-something’s life revolves around “what-ifs,” dreams, and doubts. We’re often feeling like we’re stuck in ruts or like we’re not where we thought we’d be at insert-age-here. Which is exactly why I think it’s important to continuously challenge yourself. As I checked things off, I found myself wanting to write about my experiences in hopes that I would inspire my friends to challenge themselves in the same way.

I’d suggest starting small. Think of five-10 things you’d like to accomplish within a year. Pick goals that you know are attainable, but will still require some time and effort on your part. Let’s say you want to travel somewhere new during the year. Pick a place you can easily budget for, put aside a few dollars at a time, and keep the trip small enough that it can be a weekend getaway. Keep some goals on your list more general, so that you can be generous in checking them off. For example, every list of mine includes “fall in love (with a person, place, or hobby).” I repeat it because I’ve enjoyed crossing it off every year and it’s broad enough that I’m not going to get stuck on it. There are always new people, places, and things to fall in love with. You just have to find them!

Just remember, this list is all yours. Do these things for yourself. Think about changes you’d like to make or new experiences you’d like to have. Do things that will allow your mind and your heart to grow. Make some things more feasible than others. Add something you’re passionate about. Throw in one thing you know will take you out of your comfort zone. When you look back at your twenties, what do you want to remember? Where do you want to go? What dreams do you want to make a reality? What do you want to accomplish? What fear do you want to overcome?

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a woman standing by the train window

As my 26th birthday approaches, I’m proud to say that this is a tradition I’ve kept up with. I’m continuing to focus on expanding my horizons from familiar to new as I cross things off my lists. I guess what it all comes down to is: a bucket list should be whatever you want it to be. I write myself a yearly bucket list because every year I accomplish things that I want to celebrate. Because I want to keep growing and improving. Because I want to look forward to my birthday every year, rather than dread it. Because I want to keep that spark in my chest glowing. I like the idea of looking back on my twenties and remembering all the awesome things I did, the incredible places I went, and the people I met along the way.

I write myself a yearly bucket list for me. For the person I’m becoming.

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