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A sniper made me write my bucket list

Camino de SantiagoAs many of you know, I lived in DC back in the day.  On October 14th 2002, I was at a Home Depot, getting tile for a mosaic project.  When I got home, I turned on the news and saw that a young blonde woman had been shot and killed in the same parking lot I was just in, fifteen minutes ago.  I was young.  I was blonde.  Was I in the crosshairs?

That very next Monday, I was on a flight to Chicago for business.  Looking out the tiny clouded window at the clear blue sky, I was amazed at the similarities and how close I was to being shot.  I was young and blonde, in the same parking lot, and possibly even viewed through the scope of the gun.  I wondered if it had been me, what would they have said at my funeral.

As a guest during my imagined eulogy, I realized there were so many things I wanted to do, but hadn’t done yet.  Immediately, I looked for a piece of paper to write everything I wanted to do, but it was in my leather briefcase in the overhead bin.  My seatmate was asleep and I didn’t want to go through the hassle of making everyone move.  I didn’t need a proper notebook, I just needed something to write on.  I rifled through the seat pocket in front of me and found a barf bag.  Perfect.  It was hard to write on waxed paper so I pushed the pen down hard.

1.  Walk the Camino de Santiago

The Camino is a 500+ mile pilgrimage.  The popular starting points are either in St. John Pied de Port, France or Roncesvalle, Spain.  I had heard about this at a World Bank happy hour that I attended.  I missed a gap year trip so I resolved to do this instead.

2.  Get a Master’s Degree

MFA was the only thing that I would be interested in.  If I did go, I wanted to be accepted at a good school and only when I was ready to go to school.

3.  Write a novel

By the time I was three, I wore hearing aids.  Socially, school was very hard for me.  I was different, I was bullied.  It wasn’t fun, so by the time I was in the 6th grade, I had learned to escape my reality by reading books.  I wanted to inspire people, encourage them, and write about a reality that was infinitely more interesting than mine.  The advice was always to “write about what you know” so since then, I resolved to have something to write about.

Eleven years later, here’s what I’ve found out about bucket lists.

Living your dream can be one of the hardest things you ever do

In a good way.  It’s worth it.  Don’t give up.  Here’s what happened to my initial bucket list and what I learned.

#1 Walk the Camino de Santiago

CHECK:  In 2005, I walked the Camino de Santiago.   Before I did so though, I wanted to be ready to walk, and knew I would be ready to walk when I straightened out certain things in my life.  What did that mean to me?  I wanted to be living in the right place for me.  That meant, I wanted to be closer to my family who was in California and Montana.  I moved back home, got “laid off”, moved to Seattle and got “laid off” again.  That time period in my life was one of the most difficult I’ve ever gone through, the kind of change where you listen and understand Winston Churchill quotes like, “When you are going through hell, keep going.” When but as a result I was left with no job and a decent severance.  I had time and money, so I walked 500 miles across Northern Spain.

#2  Get a Master’s Degree

REVISE:  When I was little, there were lots of things that I wanted.  I wanted a horse, chickens, and a farm.  When I grew up, I realized that this little dream was a lot of work.  Much like a masters degree.  I am still in the process of deciding whether a Masters degree is right for me.  I always thought I had to have a Masters before writing my novel.  Since then, many authors have broken through the NYT Best Sellers list without a degree.  I have left this bucket hanging on a fence.  The truth is though, if I thought it would be fun to do, I would do it.  We will see.  After my kids go back to school, it may be something I need to do to get a foot back in the door.

#3 Write a Novel

IN PROCESS:  I have amazing stories at my fingertips and walking the Camino is one of those stories.  I have finished the draft and in the process of having it professionally edited.  The big debate for me is whether to put it out as fiction, memoir, or based on a true story.  It’s scary letting those personal details out in the wind to be judged.  Will my skin be thick enough?  What would my daughter think if I published it, if I didn’t publish it?  Does that even matter?  I don’t know.  My goal was to write the novel.  Most dreams can do require persistence.

A bucket list is never really just a bucket list

Even if your desire is to visit Bora Bora, there is always subtext behind your wish.  The reasons for going to Bora Bora could be endless such as “I’ve finally lost fifty pounds and this is my reward because I am going to look good in a bikini.” or “I deserve to be pampered!” or “I am going to celebrate my honeymoon here so I can brag about it!”

Find out why you want what you really want from your wish.

If you don’t know what your subtext is, then you should find out so that when you DO go to Bora Bora, or do whatever it is on your list, you are truly satisfying your desire.  Trust me, you are good enough and special enough to want something to brag about to your grandkids.  As you write your dream list, remember to spend quality time to think about your hidden agenda.

Change your list as often as you want or not

A bucket list from your twenties is never going to be the same as it is in your 40′s.  There are definitely exceptions, like, let’s say meeting Brad Pitt.  The point is, what you want in your 40′s is going to be different than in your twenties.  Maybe not though.  A lot of the items on my list are still the same, they are life long dreams that I want to accomplish in due time.

Everyday do something

Even if it’s as simple as creating a list of what it will take to accomplish your dream.  Even if it’s just doing a little research or finding like minded group of people.  Make it a regular part of your daily schedule to get closer to your dream.  If you have big dreams, they don’t just happen.  The old saying about a journey taking a thousand steps is truer here than it has ever been.  Very few people have overnight success.  I don’t want to diminish that, but for many people the odds are just unrealistic to plan a whole life on it.  It’s up to you, how to execute your dream, so at least start walking towards it.  Giving up is stupid when living your dream is just one step every day.

Counter negative thoughts with positive ones.

James Altucher gave an interview on Mixology about the negative chatter than even the most successful entrepreneurs have.  He has a simple way to combat the sometimes overwhelming tidal waves of self doubt.   Watch the video here.  We all go have the negative chatter and there are several ways to accomplish this.  Dedication and persistence to positivity is key.

I LOVE comments! What is on your bucket list? What was a monumental moment for you?
7 Comments
  1. I have an MFA in fiction writing and I don’t recommend it. The centerpiece of my program was the workshop, but my classmates (and I) weren’t good at critiquing. What you’re doing now is probably giving you a better education.

    And you know you totally have a memoir in the narrowly missed being shot/walking the Camino de Santiago thing, right? I know of at least one person who has sold a memoir about walking the same exact trail as Cheryl Strayed, so I don’t think the similarity will hurt.

    • Interesting … always great to get real world/real life feedback. Critiquing is the hardest part about writing … I think. That’s what I’m working on now and about 1/3 of the way done on the editing! Looking for a publisher or self publishing next.

  2. Congratulations for achieving the first two items on your bucket list. I haven’t really created a bucket list as I have done alot of things in my life that I have wanted to do. I do want to do a few things with my toddler before my back condition gets worse and makes things more difficult.

  3. I love this idea for a post! I actually JUST updates my bucket list yesterday, lol! However, it’s a lot more basic than yours ;-)

    • I can’t wait to ready them Lisa!!! Hurry up already :) While I’m waiting, I’ll go read your blog and salivate!

  4. Wow you still to this day amaze me. So many
    things I know and do not know about you. We have been
    friends since 9th grade and I still envy your up and go attitude. You have always been that person who sees a challenge and follows it.A bucket list is something I have never written and maybe someday will. I would however be the first to read your book on the walk. I remember the day you told me you had done it and once again I looked at you in amazement.

    • That is one of the best compliments I think I’ve ever gotten!! Thank you so much! You are no slouch yourself with foster babies and foster dogs. When I started to see the pictures, I looked at you in amazement! You do what you want as well, you just don’t have it written down :) .

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