The Magic of a Reverse Bucket List

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All of us have bucket lists, whether they are abstractly floating around in the corners of our brains, or are meticulously documented in a notebook. It’s fun to think about all the things we hope to do before we die, adventures, achievements, life events, and skills learned. It’s exciting to think about all the possibilities!

But after a while, the list can start to feel overwhelming, or even a bit depressing when you’re not checking things off as fast as you’d hoped…

Will I ever have the time and money to backpack across Europe?

I barely have the time and energy to take a walk around the block…how could I ever run a 5K?

And of course the whole “NEW YEAR, NEW YOU” pressure from New Year’s Resolutions doesn’t help. How will I ever get my life together and achieve all my goals??? There is SO MUCH I want to do, want to change about myself, want to grow in!

In this crazy mess of frustration with myself and my life, I have to stop and remind myself (sometimes a million times a day) you are enough. Anything else you want to do or be or see is just a bonus. 

Don’t let yourself live in the dreary land of “I’ll be happy when…”

I speak from experience…YOU. NEVER. ARRIVE. You reach your goal, it’s wonderful and amazing and exciting for a few minutes, or even a few days, and then life goes back to normal and you’re looking for the next high.

True satisfaction lies in gratitude…gratitude for your life.

A few days ago, I ran across the idea of a reverse bucket list, and it really resonated with me. The idea is, instead of writing down things you want to do and be and see, you write down everything you have already seen and achieved.

Reflecting on the people and places and personal growth I have experienced has helped me to remember what a wonderful life I have and settle into savoring all the small things that make my life full.

My Reverse Bucket List:

Learned How to Make Good Coffee

Growing up, I was the only person in my immediate family who drank coffee (although I soon recruited one of my younger brothers), so I had no earthly idea how to make good coffee. There was a lot of trial and error, and lots of internet searches. I discovered the pour-over method when I tried bringing an actual coffeepot on a camping trip and someone broke the carafe. I learned about french presses and the importance of the correct grind online. In college, I started working at Starbucks, and finally got access to TONS of coffee knowledge and free coffee! With Starbucks, I finally understood lattes and what you need to make a great one! Now I can make a stellar latte, but I can’t make any guarantees about latte art…maybe someday!

Traveled to Africa & Central America

When I graduated from high school, I was passionate about mission work and wanted to spend my life serving and sharing my faith with people who did not have easy access to the Gospel. (I still want to serve and share my faith, but choose to now in different ways than I did then.) God opened doors for me to spend roughly a month in Zambia, Africa, and then a total of 6 weeks in Honduras, working with missionaries who were already established there. It was an AMAZING experience. I grew in so many ways. In Africa, I got to go on a safari, take care of disabled kids, and teach the Bible! In Honduras, I helped build houses and feed the poorest of the poor. I almost can’t believe I went…it was such a crazy adventure!

Learned How to Survive Depression & Anxiety

Sometimes life gets to be a bit much. I hit a point of severe depression after being overworked and overwhelmed for a little too long, and it took me a long time to get a handle on it. When I went to counseling and a psychiatrist, we realized that I also had anxiety that was making everything even harder. It was so scary. I felt so out of control of my life, of my body, of my mind.

With a lot of help, I learned how to take care of myself, how to be gentle with myself. I took medication that helped me feel normal again. I learned how to ride out the scary days and not panic. Two years later, I am “mostly well” and am ready for if/when life tries to kick my butt again.

Hiked off the Beaten Path

In the spring of 2015, my best friend Rachel and I went camping with my family in Ruidoso, NM. My family loves to go mountain biking, but I don’t, so Rachel and I planned to go hiking while my family went downhill biking. We all took a ski lift up to the top of Ski Apache, and Rachel and I hit the trails. It was absolutely beautiful. We followed a trail until it started to curve downward. DOWNWARD? We wanted to climb up the mountains! So we headed off trail and up the nearest peak.

I had never gone completely off trail before – it felt a little dangerous – but it was so fun! We climbed, sometimes on our hands and knees, until we reached the top of the mountain. At the top, there was a mailbox with notebooks inside, with signatures and notes from people all around the world who had climbed this mountain!! We added our signatures and enjoyed the incredible view until some heavy, wet clouds enveloped us.

The way we had come up was extremely steep and we weren’t sure if we could get back down it, so we headed the opposite direction, along the ridge of the mountain. We saw so many beautiful things. Eventually we hit a treeline and started trying to hike down. It was…interesting. There was some sliding down snowbanks into sticker patches, and some spills into muddy spots. We found a brook bubbling out of the mountainside, and saw a mama deer with her little fawn.

We finally made our way back to meet my family by late afternoon. We were sunburnt and hungry, but so satisfied and happy!

It was such an empowering experience, feeling wild and free, exploring the mountains. I HIGHLY recommend exploring off-trail!

I have had such a good life so far. There have been lots of adventures and great experiences. This reverse bucket list is only a smidgen of small and large accomplishments, incredible people, and exciting things I have seen and enjoyed.

Little things keep on popping up in my mind as I ponder this list…so many little things to be grateful for. 

When you have a long day and feel like a failure who will never get your life on track, who will never get to go on any adventures, I encourage you to start writing down a reverse bucket list. You will be amazed at what a wonderful life you have! There is such magic in discovering (or rediscovering) gratitude.

Now…I have nothing against regular bucket lists. They can be so much fun, and can help you narrow down and identify your true loves and hopes and dreams. However, there is a balance that you must establish for yourself. Learn to appreciate where you have been and where you are now. Your life may feel ugly, plain, or boring. Painful and dead, dry times come for all of us, but they do pass and wonderful things have still happened and will happen. Your life is beautiful, unique, and full of possibilities. Take a little time to appreciate what you have, and you just may find it easier to appreciate and relax into the right-now moments that are happening every second.

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