It seems that the successful 2007 movie “Bucket List” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as aging gentlemen trying to cross several things off their ‘”to do” list before they “kick the bucket,” has many people thinking about their own bucket lists.
During the past several weeks, with a big birthday on the horizon, I casually surveyed friends, acquaintances and even strangers about what their bucket lists contain. There were some very interesting replies. One younger woman asked about the origin of a bucket list. Several of us quickly answered, “Things to do before you kick the bucket.”
Her question piqued my interest as to the origin of “kick the bucket.” It first appeared in print in Francis Grose’s “Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” in 1785. Patrick M. Carlisle refers to it in “Unfair and Unbalanced: The Lunatic Magniloquence of Henry E. Panky,” where he wrote, “A good man does not want to go gently into that blacky black night. He wants to cut loose, dance on the razor’s edge, pry the lid off his bucket list.” (FYI: magniloquence, according to my 1886 dictionary, means “a lofty manner of speaking or writing.”)
I prefer this explanation to those that equate kicking the bucket with suicide, hanging or with the slaughter of pigs (too gory and depressing).
It pleased and surprised me that lots of people of all ages have bucket lists. Now that I’ve done a little research, I’m changing my list to a “life list” instead. These are things I would like to do during my life rather than racing to check them off before it’s too late. It seems that younger generations are taking that approach as well.
“These are things you say you are always going to do and don’t. It’s not before you die, it’s just for fun,” suggests one 30-something.
As you would expect, the Internet is a fountain of information on bucket lists including “10,000 things to do before you die.” You would have to start in the cradle and live a very long time to complete such a list.
Bucket lists are meant to give us a chance not to go “gently into the black night.” Rather, they are meant to give us a chance to do something we’ve always wanted to but for whatever reason have not been able. I look on my list as having ice cream with pie— something special that you don’t have to do.
The responses to my question about what’s in your bucket list were fun and fascinating. One young man wants to “solve the Rubik’s cube.” Other items for folks of varying ages included: go to a N.C. State basketball game, have my own clothing brand, plan and organize a family reunion at the beach, learn to knit and quilt, study one’s ancestry, go whitewater rafting, swim with dolphins, do 36 acts of kindness (not sure why 36, but there must be a reason), donate blood and skydive, but not at the same time! Travel was a common theme from seeing our national parks to walking on the Great Wall of China.
My life list took a hit this past year with the passing of Pete Seeger and Maya Angelou—I had questions to ask and stories to write about them. Lesson learned: If it’s on the list, do it when you can.
So, what’s on your life list?
Email Robson at firstname.lastname@example.org