#15: Eat a Philly cheesesteak….in Philly. As I marked that off my list last weekend, I crossed the halfway point of my “30 at 30” list, an evolving list that I kicked off on my birthday to do at least 30 new things over the next year. Fat and happy (Having scarfed down my sandwich while my friends continued to eat), yet eager to see what kind of pace I was on, I pulled out my calendar iPhone. “I’ll be damned,” I shouted out at Jim’s Steaks in Philadelphia. In mid-bite, my friends looked up quizzically, asking what was wrong. Nothing was wrong; no, everything was right. If I kept up the current pace, I wouldn’t do 30 new things over the course of the year, but rather 60, as I was just 13 weeks into it.

Whether we want to confess to it or not, we’ve all at one point or the other had something of a bucket list. After asking about it on Twitter, I recently found out that the term “bucket list” evidently skeeves some people out, something about not wanting death to be the motivator of living life or not wanting life to be viewed as a checklist. I get those reasons. But I think it’s more just the terminology, or that the term “bucket list” has been overused. The thing is that we all have some type of list that we’ve created sometime, somewhere in life, whether written on paper or not. Maybe we didn’t call it a “bucket list”, but it’s been some sort of life list, set of New Year’s resolutions, or list of goals. However, for any lists like these I’ve created, there was never any urgency to them. My life list was too open-ended. So I set a deadline. The day before I turned 30, I strapped on a parachute and said that for the next 365 days, I was going to do 30 things that I had never done, but always wanted to do. Evidently that list has now become “as many things that I’ve never done, but always wanted to do.”

House boat on Lake PowellI recently observed a conversation on Twitter between some travelers and writers who were discussing how bucket lists seem to put life in a box, as if it’s a problem to be solved or a checklist, rather than a “reality to be experienced,” as Søren Kierkegaard famously put it. Which I agree about, to a point. I advocate for a type of life that isn’t a checklist, but rather a story. Yet I think the things we do and the places we go help make up the framework of those stories. I think if there isn’t some sense of urgency to do things that we’ve always wanted to do, then they never get done. It then takes a major life event or old age to be that inciting incident that brings urgency, but by that time, it’s often too late.

The goal of my list this year has never been to come out on the other side with a completed checklist. The items themselves are not the end. They are a means to the end. What is that end? Who knows. Maybe writing a book transcript turns into a published book. Maybe a web video series turns into a television show. Maybe taking a road trip leads to love. Maybe making a batch of my own bourbon turns into a new hobby, or even career. At the end of the day, this is about challenging myself, chasing dreams, and living life. I am like a sponge right now, soaking up every ounce of life I possibly can. And you know what, I feel like I’m learning more in the classroom of life, than years of going to school and giving into the expectations put upon me ever taught me.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Man On Fire [Official Video]

“He’s on fire.” There is no phrase that my friends and I said more when we were young, doing so in our best Marv Albert voice. The catch-phrase came from many hours of playing NBA Jam, where the ball would actually catch on fire and singe the net after a player made several shots in a row. Each made shot built on the momentum of the last, as the crowd got all the louder. Am I on fire? I wouldn’t go that far, since it comes across somewhat conceited when I say it out loud. Yet with every new experience I do, it builds off the last, teaching me something about myself, my limits, and the world around me. I rather prefer the term “man on fire”, taken from Edward Sharpe’s song by the same name, which I think sums up this year better than any other song.

I’m a man on fire
Walking down your street
With one guitar
And two dancing feet
Only one desire
That’s left in me
I want the whole damn world
To come and dance with me

You might have to replace “guitar” with “banjo”, but you get the idea (yes, I do in fact know how to play the banjo, even if it’s just a few songs). If you look at the list I currently have going, not all of it is travel. Some of the items pertain to relationships, while others pertain to hobbies, others pertain to my career, and stil others are just for the hell of it. Travel is only a means to the end. I am resolved to living life on my terms, how I want to, in a pursuit of happiness. And I want others to come along with me and be a part of the ride with me, as they embark a similar pursuit. It’s not just a bucket list. It’s my life. My story. The one I’m trying to write.