I was supposed to be savoring the moment when I saw singer James Taylor in early July.
After all, it was a perfect Chicago summer night at Wrigley Field to listen to Taylor, who is touring with another music legend, Bonnie Raitt. But as the 69-year-old entertainer began performing and explaining how his songs tied into his life, I started thinking about bucket lists. From that moment on, everything he sang I related back to bucket lists.
(Yeah, I know; I wonder about how my mind links topics, too.)
Anyway, it seems everywhere I look someone is suggesting I add this or that to my personal bucket list, which doesn’t exist.
The idea of a bucket list — a collection of things you want to see/visit/eat/whatever before you die or kick the bucket as the saying goes — became a pop culture phenomenon with the release of the 2007 movie of the same name. It’s been going strong ever since.
At first, I saw value in a bucket list. I’m at an age my old granny used to describe as “long in the tooth” so this seemed like something I should be doing.
But then I soured on the idea. Just like many things Americans embrace, it went extreme. The recommendations on what should be included became endless — one story touted a list numbering 10,000 — and more than a little judgmental; as if your personal desires had to meet a certain standard. Then it wasn’t just a checklist of things to do before the Grim Reaper showed up. Now it was being suggested that we needed one for the college years, and during summer, that most perfect of lazy, spur-of-the-moment seasons. Oh, no.
So while the idea lost its appeal, I’m not to the point where I’ve joined the online crowd sharing unbucket lists. That’s too far in the opposite direction for me. This decade of my life has me more contemplative than I’ve been in a while and it feels like there’s something I’m supposed to be pondering.
Taylor settled it for me. Bucket lists might be fine when you’re in your 20s or 30s, but once you get on the other side of 50 — and in my case that’s waayyy over the big 5-0 — Taylor’s approach makes more sense. He spent a lot of that concert doing songs he once performed as a young — and often troubled — man. But instead of pretending he still was that guy, he talked to the audience of how a particular song came to be, what it meant then. Then with pretty much a constant content grin, he’d start playing it almost like he was thinking, wow, I went through that and I’m still here. Even the melancholy “Fire And Rain,” one of his signature hits, was sung with some sort of cheerful-looking shooting stars on the screen behind him.
I think this is exactly what the army of baby boomers and I are supposed to be doing. Oh, not sing, but take stock of our lives. Look back at all of it, acknowledge what we have experienced — certainly the happiest of times but the sad and disappointing moments too. Taylor made me see the value in realizing I’m still here and that’s something.
We spend so much time rushing ahead. Maybe like James Taylor we need to put some effort into looking at where we’ve been and figuring out what it all has meant.
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