Quick! What do you want out of life?

As spring gets underway, new projects abound! To keep track of everything I wrote a life list. A life list can mean different things to different people. It can be a simple list of tasks or it can be a things-to-do-before-you-die list.

In my mind, the list was also an icebreaker sparking meaningful conversations and illuminating the hopes and dreams of friends and family. But that’s not how they saw it.

One night, at dinner with a friend, I beamed as I showed him my life list on my PDA. I awaited anxiously to see if he would in-turn construct a list of his own right there in front of me at the Hibachi restaurant while the chef made a flaming volcano of onions shoot fire to the ceiling.

Unfortunately, he did not. Not that he wasn’t game, but he said he needed some time to think about it. I understood, or at least I was preoccupied with my hot sake.

On vacation, sitting with my cousin eating space ice cream (a dehydrated treat that looks suspiciously like a block of sugar) outside of the Men In Black ride at Universal Studios in Orlando, I proudly presented my list.

After reading that I would like to own another Jeep in my lifetime, my cousin said he would have to consult his wife before coming up with his own list.

Once again, the life list didn’t seem to be a key to anyone’s soul. Bonding with my cousin would have to be done over a day of motion sickness-inducing rides and junk food – I highly advise against this combination!

But, as you can see, a pattern emerged, and it continued with other friends and relatives. I was disappointed. How come my scheme to get to know the people in my life better wasn’t working?

“It’s not always easy to decide what you want,” my wife said.

This didn’t make sense to me. Stating desires and needs seemed simple. To illustrate that point, I asked our dog if he wanted water. He danced around the kitchen on his hind legs eager with anticipation as I topped off his bowl. My wife didn’t buy it.

“People want to want the right things,” she said.

It’s an interesting point. I wasn’t asking people a simple question like would they like a drink. How we spend our time on earth is one of the deepest, most difficult issues we have to tackle. Being in my loved ones’ faces waiting for them to present their plans in writing probably made it harder.

But I still hope they give these lists a shot in private moments. To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, you only hit what you aim for.

Googling “life list” brings up the name John Goddard. He is the subject of many motivational Web sites. Goddard wrote a list while he was a teenager.

Sixty years later, he completed 109 of his 127 goals. He learned to fly a plane, swam in Lake Superior and drove a submarine, but he didn’t climb Mount Everest. He visited the Great Wall of China, built his own telescope and read the Bible cover to cover. But, to date, he still hasn’t owned a chimpanzee.

My list is nowhere near as ambitious. Although who hasn’t dreamt of owning a
chimpanzee? My list still gives me joy though, even just looking at it!

Somehow dreams, like singing in a band with my wife, seem more tangible now that they are written down.

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About genemyers

Gene Myers is a New Jersey poet, music journalist and columnist who learned to walk twice. His weekly column is called The Joy of Life. He was awarded first place in Arts and Entertainment Writing by The New Jersey Press Association.
This entry was posted in bucket list, goals, John Goddard, life list, prioritizing, The Joy of Life and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Quick! What do you want out of life?

  1. Therese Cox says:

    Gene, this is a great post. There’s an essay like this by Georges Perec (in his collection “Species of Spaces and Other Pieces”) called “Some Things I Really Must Do Before I Die” that I love. In fact, it’s bookmarked. There’s everything from “Arrange my bookshelves once and for all” to “drink some rum found at the bottom of the sea.” How many things are on your list so far? Or do you bother to number them?

    Thanks for sending me the link to your blog(s). I’ve been enjoying them. Feel free to come visit me too.

  2. Gretchen Rubin says:

    Dear Gene, I saw the nice mention of my blog, The Happiness Project, here in your blogroll. I very much appreciate you shining a spotlight on my blog! Thanks and best wishes, Gretchen Rubin

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