Many of us have become adept at selling an image of ourselves – our brand, if you will – especially since the advent of social media. We want to show the world that our lives are exciting, our kids are brilliant and that we’re well on our way to checking all the boxes on our bucket lists. When I jumped out of an airplane in 1988, I took pictures, but I had nowhere to post them. Today, if I were to jump out of an airplane, every person I’ve been in touch with in the last decade would know about my feat within seconds, and they might even get the false impression that I’m daring and interesting.
(This reminds me of my favorite line from the 1987 movie, Broadcast News. When William Hurt’s character asks, “What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams?” Albert Brooks answers, “Keep it to yourself.”)
The problem is that we’re constantly exposed to other people’s accomplishments, and I find myself reading other people’s posts and thinking I don’t measure up. What’s particularly bothersome to me are the dreaded Bucket Lists whose entries make me question whether the happy life I’m leading is all a fraud. I resent the implication that I haven’t lived until I’ve (fill in the blank: scuba dived, bungee jumped, swam with whales, dolphins, sharks or any other large aquatic creature, gone on safari, traveled to anyplace that takes longer than a ten hour flight to get to, rock climbed, run a marathon or any other kind of “thon”, attended the Kentucky Derby, deep-sea fished, fished anywhere for anything, eaten liver or tongue…).
Sure, my life is tame compared to some, but so what? Well, social media keeps telling me what, and I start to get defensive. I’ll even catch myself comparing my life to the lives of fictional characters while watching TV (“I don’t see Andy Taylor training for a marathon, and he seems pretty happy.”)
Yeah, it’s come to that.
So, in the spirit of the old t-shirt that displays an unemotional face with the caption, “Have a day,” I'd like to share my bucket list that mostly involves not dying:
1) Live at least another three and a half decades.
2) Stay happily married until death do us part.
3) Maintain a good relationship with my kids for the rest of my life.
4) Regularly challenge myself in small ways.
There. Throw in taking dance lessons someday and traveling to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and I think that just about covers it. And lest you think my goals aren’t aiming high enough, I leave with a question: how many people live to be eighty-two, happily married, and still have good relationships with their kids?