by Rachel Campbell
I have an innate inclination – I would even go as far as to say an affection – for lists. Lists provide me with an oasis of order in times of stress. The briefest glance at my cell phone would confirm my little fixation. I am a detail person who gets a bit of a buzz from checking off my ‘to dos’. Not that I’m what you would call a purist list-maker; I often start with two or three already-done items, giving me a head of steam to complete the remaining tasks. I confess that making the list, and ticking off the items, is much more fun than completing what’s actually written!
Given this gravitation to lists, it is quite surprising that I’ve never actually written a bucket list. It’s certainly not that I’m without aspirations, it’s just that my future hopes are found in a swirl of floating daydreams in my head, too delicate to commit to the solidity and reality of print.
But if I’m honest, the real reason that holds me back from shepherding my floating hopes into an orderly queue is fear. And that fear originates in two closely linked sources. The first is fear of admittance. To pluck my future hopes from my head and line them up on a list would be to lay myself open to someone (perhaps even myself) pouring a dampener on these delicate hopes. To allow dreams to emerge into the light of day would be to risk ridicule and judgement. And should that happen, my dreams would be relegated from tomorrow to yesterday.
The second, and bigger reason, is simply fear of failure. If I were to write a list of ten or so experiences that I would like to have in my lifetime, I risk failing to achieve any, or even all, of them. Failure is one of the most common fears, and to produce a bucket list, a tangible manifestation of my hopes, would be to tempt future regret. If I were to write my list of ten experiences and only achieve nine of them, wouldn’t I deeply regret the elusive tenth experience? And how would I be impacted if I were only to achieve 8, or 7, or 6, or fewer? I could try my usual cheat and start with two experiences that I’d already had, but what if that was it? It would be soul-destroying to never live out any of my hopes.
So, it seems likely that my list will remain an ethereal presence in my head, mere floating bubbles of hope, and as each hope presents itself to the fore front of my cluttered thoughts, I shall savor it briefly, before the pressing realities of life chase it back to the dark recesses of my mind.
But times are changing.
My fiftieth birthday at the beginning of the year caused a ripple of previously repressed boldness. I dared to voice one of my dreams to my husband, and encouraged by his very positive response, I acted. A hope that has swirled in my mind for many years has materialized into acceptance to do an M.A. in Pastoral and Practical Theology. And so, in September I will resume the mantel of a student.
Now, one dream does not a bucket list make, but it might just be the start!
Rachel Campbell, having recently completed a two-year Biblical Literacy course, is looking forward to starting her MA in September. She has had the opportunity to contribute to this site, Morning by Morning and other journals. She tweets at