After losing my aunt to pulmonary fibrosis this week, I spent a great deal of time sifting through old photo albums as Polaroid told her sepia-toned life. Although she had been ill all of her life, nothing stopped her: she faced each day with a “live-like-you-were-dying attitude” because, in fact, she was.
Now, I’m not certain if she ever had a physical bucket list written out, but if she did, there was undoubtedly no item left unmarked. Her marvelously saturated photo albums left me contemplating a few things, namely bucket lists, life, and dreaming.
For many years, I was afraid of a bucket list. I know how absurd that must sound, but it’s true. The finality of it all, of writing down the things you most hope to accomplish in life, intimidated me far more than it should. Although I had a mental bucket list for years and was fortunate enough to see many items scratched off, it always left me with the bitter, cold taste of inevitable disappointment on my tongue. Now matter how I gnawed on the idea of a list, one question always stopped me:
What happens when the last item is marked off?
This question haunted me for years, keeping me from ever etching my aspirations in ink for fear of running furiously into a dead-end street. As odd as it may sound, I found my answer in a Disney film. “Of course,” you say, rolling your eyes. “With you, the answer is always Disney.” Perhaps, but this time is different.
In my favorite scene of Tangled, on the threshold of watching her greatest dream fade into reality, Rapunzel turns to Flynn with a skeptical look.
Rapunzel: I’ve been looking out of a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what I might feel like when those lights rise in the sky. What if it’s not everything I dreamed it would be?
Flynn Rider: It will be.
Rapunzel: And what if it is? What do I do then?
Flynn Rider: Well, that’s the good part I guess. You get to go find a new dream.
Of course, it was everything she dreamed it would be and also my answer. Only a few short days after seeing Tangled for the first time, I decided to write out my first bucket list: 25 items that a 19-year-old Laura would like to see for herself.
It’s remarkable the things I’ve seen since then: meeting the Backstreet Boys, traveling to another country, and learning a new language, just to name a few. But just as Flynn said, with each accomplished dream comes a new one, and that is why for each item completed from the list, a new one takes it place. And of course, as a reminder of this mantra, my bucket list is buried inside of a custom-made Disney journal that a friend made me from her Etsy site.
So, if you’ve never written a bucket list, I encourage you to. You will no doubt be surprised by the marvelous things you are capable of, even in just a few short years. If, like me, you wrestle in vain with the suffocating fears of post-dreaming, the “now what?” at the end of the road, I pray you remember the greatest part of all: finding a new dream. So here’s to us and bucket lists! May we always remember the dreams we dreamed.