By: Katie Story | Photos Contributed by: Morgan Balsam, Caroline Caldwell and Emily Henderson
Whether you believe in the idea of a bucket list or not, everyone has things they want to do before they die. It’s a fairly straightforward concept that conjures up images of one day scaling Mt. Everest or skydiving from an altitude of 30,000 feet. However, this is a fairly recent notion. According to an article on Slate.com, the phrase “bucket list” was not popularized by the media until 2007 when the movie of the same name, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson as terminal cancer patients, debuted.
Although the phrase “kicking the bucket” has been around since the late 18th century, why is it now so popular to have a fantastical list of things to do before you die?
“Now we have advance means to do crazy things,” says Laurel Haislip, a sophomore communications studies major from Decatur. Haislip is about to check one item off her bucket list in a few weeks — studying abroad.
“Study abroad was just something that I didn’t want to graduate college without doing,” Haislip says. “I believe college is so much more than what happens in the classroom or on the campus.” While some items on her list has her taking far-off adventures and maybe learning a new language, she also has more realistic (although still difficult) goals, like running a full marathon.
But for most people, it seems these lists feature items that are more lofty than achievable. Popular culture has made it seem that bucket lists must take you to far-off places or consist of extremely dangerous things for them to be worthwhile.
“This is the YOLO-ization of cultural experience, whereby the pursuit of fleeting novelty is granted greater value than a patient dedication to an enduring attention,” says Rebecca Mead, a staff writer for The New Yorker, in an article titled “Kicking the Bucket List.”
“For a lot of people it has to do with goal setting,” says Carly Shortland, a sophomore social work major from Marietta. “[They] love setting goals and meeting goals and crossing things off of a list.” Shortland has already crossed an item off her bucket list—getting a tattoo. “I just felt like ‘This is what I want to do,’ and I got to do it.”
However, neither Shortland nor Haislip has an actual bucket list written out. All the ideas they have are just fantastical ideas in their heads. There are two camps in the “bucket list” scenario — one side believes that writing down your hopes will help you to better achieve them, and the other side thinks life isn’t just about checking things off of a list.
“[The bucket list] partakes of a commodification of cultural experience, in which every expedition made, and every artwork encountered, is reduced to an item on a checklist to be got through, rather than being worthy of repeated or extended engagement,” Mead says.
Whether you have an actual list written out or just ideas in your head, college is a great time to take advantage of experiences you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to partake in and to do things out of your comfort zone. You might find a new passion or hobby, or you might never want to do it again, but at least you’ll have a good story to tell.