I’m not sure when “bucket lists” became the rage. I don’t know if they’re only so with my generation, but I can tell you that these days it seems everyone I know has one.
It might be because so many of my friends are at an age where they’re suddenly aware of the limitations of time and energy. If they don’t do it now, they may never. I get that. Until recently, when I’d go on a trip, if I didn’t see or do everything I planned, I’d reassure myself that I’d return someday and have another chance. But now, realistically, there are too many places in the world for me to return to. I still have so many places I’ve never been. I guess those unknown places constitute my bucket list.
But that’s my age group—those who have time limitations. There are also people who have always had bucket lists. They’re the ones who had goals they wanted to accomplish—seemingly from grade school on. We may all have goals. But I’m talking about people with much more specific and ambitious goals, such as being President, writing a best seller, becoming a billionaire.
People with big goals—or ambitions—in my generation—were usually men. The guys who worked hard, kept their nose to the grindstone, sometimes in the same company, for their whole career. For many of them, as they reach retirement, they don’t know what to do next.
For some, golf is their only interest, but even then unless you’re a pro, you can’t play every day. For others, golf was never interesting, but they haven’t developed any other hobbies. For these guys, their goals were job related and now the job is gone. It’s probably hard for someone in the middle of life to imagine, but many of these men have no idea what to do with themselves. They have no real yearning to travel, never had bucket lists that included anything but work goals and don’t really care for museums, theatre or other urban pleasures. They’re usually not gardeners or putterers and now greet the endless days ahead of them with dismay.
Men like this are from my generation when the work force was owned and dominated by men. Women in my youth were usually relegated to subservient roles or jobs that were traditionally for women. Early on we learned to adjust, either lowering our expectations or developing enough interests to deflect the disappointment and frustration of seeing a man get more opportunities for advancement, fun and challenge at work. Whether by choice or circumstance, many women stayed home when our kids were young. Between getting them off to school, baking for the PTA fundraiser and driving car pools, we had a chance to connect with ourselves and figure out what was important to us and what we were good at. We were and are, in hindsight, the lucky ones. We know what to do with endless days and no schedule. We’ve faced those days before. We don’t have to define our lives by making bucket lists, though sometimes they’re fun to do so we’re ready when the next vacation opportunity looms in front of us.