My NOT a Bucket List


***This post was originally published in the Beaver County Times on July 30, 2018***

I find the title “Bucket List” unnerving. The last thing I want to do is make a list of super cool things I must finish before kicking the bucket.


Why does a list of fantastic life experiences have to be motivated by the final countdown? That is not a list I’d race to complete!

No offense to passionate bucket-list checker-offers. I simply don’t want kicking the bucket to be the driver for my trying new things.

However, I do like lists. I also have many “Oh, I’d love to ________” moments. And while I can embrace the idea of creating an organized mechanism to ensure those visions become reality, must they be packaged along with the pearly gates?

I recently turned 49 and decided to create a list of 50 things I would like to experience by my 50th birthday. Rather than it being a “before my time is up” list, my motivation for creating this blueprint of new experiences is to provide some fun and frivolity during what is about to be a very challenging year for my family.

A little background: my husband is finishing his 2nd and 3rd graduate degrees in the spring (overachiever much?) and embarks on a year of internships, an assistantship and final classes this August. His schedule for the academic year is mind-boggling. My daughter is entering her Senior year of high school and with that comes the question of, “What’s next?”. My son is switching from a familiar school to a new one – during the wondrous middle school years. What could go wrong? And me? Well, Mom is just juggling the family schedule and working full-time trying to keep Beaver County healthy and happy! (Insert dysfunctional smile here.)

With the year ahead of us, we could very well burrow ourselves at home on the weekends, exhausted by the kaleidoscope of colors on our shared Google calendar during the week. Or we could choose to respond by scheduling intentional outings and experiences we may otherwise be tempted to put on hold until “life slows down” (Which usually turns out to be a myth).

We are going with the latter; all because Mom turned 49.

Recently, I crowdsourced to garner ideas for my “50 Before 50” list, quickly realizing that only I could create it. Without specific parameters, asking the public for input was often hilarious. For example, I will not be learning a new language this year and then flying off to a country where that language is spoken in order to go parapenting.

Maybe next year.

Perhaps you are desperately feeling the need to experience some “new” in your life, but are in a similar situation with a busy family that needs attention and support. If that’s the case, consider experiences that meet the following criteria:

1.Fiscally responsible: I have no interest in breaking the bank or making major purchases to finish my list.
2.Geographically accessible: This is not the year for major travel.
3.Time-efficient: With my head engrossed in the family calendar, I want to experience “quick-wins”, rather than trusting myself to commit to and finish a long-term project.

A few examples that get me excited:

  • Volunteering as a poll worker for an election
  • Taking a walking talk of Pittsburgh
  • Pitching a story to NPR’s “Moth Radio Hour”

    The good news? You don’t have to have a birthday or be pondering the end of life to create and live out your list. You can create one simply as a positive diversion for a hectic season of life.

I’ll be documenting mine here and on Instagram @joline_atkins.

Please follow along!

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