Saturday, November 29, 2014

Kicking the bucket (list)

If you've read my blog for a while, you'll know that I tend to chafe at the notion that just because I don't have kids, I should be doing something spectacular with my life, make some sort of grand gesture -- sell all my possessions to live on a tropical island, for example, or become a missionary in Africa, or travel the world or learn Mandarin -- as if I need to somehow justify my existence or compensate in some way for my lack of offspring, or simply just because I have the extra time and money to do this sort of thing -- so I should! (I know I've written some previous posts on this subject, which I can't find at the moment, but Msfitzita had an excellent piece a while back along these lines, here.)  

More recently, I've been fending off the same sort of expectations now that I'm unemployed/early-retired. People want to know "So, what do you do all day?"

So I had a bit of a chuckle when I saw this article in this morning's paper: "Why I don't need (or want) a bucket list when I retire." The author begins by noting the current mania for creating "bucket lists." Here are a few excerpts from what he had to say next: 
Not only don’t I have a bucket list, “make a bucket list” isn’t even on my to-do list.  
Can’t we all just relax?...  
If you’re lucky enough to be able to retire — a big if, given how many people simply can’t afford to stop working — you’re expected to then learn a new language, travel to a wildlife preserve in Kenya, take up Bikram yoga or sharpen your culinary skills. Leave it to us baby boomers to turn retirement into summer camp....  
What does it mean to live a full life? Is all this activity essential? That’s a big question. And I have no idea of the answer. But at 56, I’m getting old enough to start giving it some serious thought.  
...I don’t need a bucket list filled with stressful things such as jumping out of an airplane or hiking to the top of a mountain to motivate me. And besides, I don’t want to be motivated. I just want to relax and spend time with family and friends....
Now, let me be clear -- there's absolutely nothing wrong with making a bucket list or beginning a second career or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or learning Mandarin or running a marathon. I have no desire to do any of these things (at this point in my life, anyway -- that could change) -- but if that's what you want to do and you have the means to do so, then by all means go for it.

The problem, as I see it, begins when there's an expectation -- voiced or implied -- that this is the kind of life we SHOULD be leading as childless or retired people -- when others make us feel less than or crazy or boring or wanting in some way if we aren't doing these things. (Yes, I know, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent, etc. etc. -- but that is sometimes easier said than done...!)

For the record, I DO have some things I want to do in retirement, including travel -- if not written down in a formal "bucket list."

But there's absolutely nothing wrong with taking some time to sit back and watch the wheels go round & round either. ; ) 


  1. I so agree. I absolutely loathe the "shoulds" that are placed on people throughout life. "Should" get married by a certain age. "Should" travel the world at a certain point in life. "Should" complete some amazing thing by midlife. And "should" have a bucket list. It's not that people do any of this, but just that we are all expected to follow a certain formula. Maybe it's time to recreate the bucket list?

  2. I completely agree. Just because we don't have children, or just because we have free time, we shouldn't be under any pressure from other people to live our lives any other way.

    I have had a post on the question "what do you do all day?" half drafted for a long time. I have a theory about the people who ask this. Maybe you're encouraging me to finally write it!

    Though as you know, I'd be travelling a lot if I could afford it! But that's my choice. It isn't everyone's. (And I certainly don't want to climb Mt Kilimanjaro or run a marathon. I do want to brush up on my Mandarin though so I can finally visit China, and a Kenyan safari is on my wishlist.)

  3. I love this post! I think it's a helpful perspective in general. I read a blog post the other day that was about the pressure of goals and accomplishments and the big question was "to what end?". Obviously goals and projects give us a sense of purpose that can be pleasurable, but just as having kids is not my sole purpose in life (and while I think parenting is really important, I would also feel bad for someone who felt it was their SOLE purpose), I don't think being childless means you have to invent some kind of greater purpose. My favorite childless aunt recently retired and is enjoying travel and golf and brewery tours. Sounds like a nice life to me! I know things get warped when we measure ourselves against others, but if losing a baby has taught me anything, it's the pain of those comparisons and the freedom that comes from doing what I need to do to feel okay--no matter what other people think I should be doing.

  4. I agree! I don't have children and I don't want to travel the world. Every time someone talks about living a full life without children, he or she mentions the ability to travel and how all childless people should be excited about that. I traveled a big part of my life and I moved every two years all over the place and probably will move again. I don't like the process of traveling, don't like airplanes, don't like driving, I don't like going to National parks and cabins, don't like boating and cruising, all those super fun things childless people should love. Next time I'm in Paris I plan to just spend a few weeks living there, i.e. eat, walk the streets, watch people, read, talk, think. I don't plan to even visit a museum.

    I want to learn Spanish, though, and write a book :)