There are six billion people in the world, and based on my own personal research and anecdotal evidence, all six billion of them want to climb Mount Everest. Not only do they want to climb Mount Everest, but the adventure makes it onto their “Ten Things To Do Before I Die” list. Certainly, you have one of these Life Lists going-a compilation of adventures and accomplishments you hope to check off before the Grim Reaper asks you to dance. Most people fill their Life Lists with travel destinations, charitable contributions, and obscure fantasies like “meet Duran Duran.” Inevitably, one of the top ten slots is reserved for climbing Mount Everest, even though the majority of the world's population can’t be bothered to climb the hill in their backyard. It’s disturbing how unoriginal we can be.
What’s my personal obsession with Life Lists? It’s simple: I’m turning 30. In 22 days and 13 hours I will officially be “in my 30s,” which is a completely different marketing demographic than “in my 20s,” so overnight I’m expected to become interested in knee braces, luxury sedans, and investment portfolios. Naturally, I’m freaking out. Everyone is telling me that 30 is no big deal, but anyone who doesn’t believe the big 3-0 is one step closer to death doesn’t have a firm grasp of elementary math. Time is slipping away from me and I still haven't heli-skied in British Columbia (number 3 on my Life List). I’ve never published a book of poetry (number 9, added during college when the “sensitive poet” identity was doing quite well for me with the ladies). Here I am, one foot in the grave and I’ve hardly checked off any items on my grand list of things to do.
It turns out that I’m not alone. According to Superviva.com, a database of personal Life Lists uploaded from people all over the world, most of us are still struggling to check off even the most mundane of our life goals. For instance, one of the top ten items on Superviva’s uploaded Life Lists is “buy an iPod.” Call me crazy, but any goal that can be accomplished with $200 and a 10-minute trip to Best Buy shouldn’t even make it onto your Life List, let alone sit there unaccomplished for months on end.
Some life goals of Superviva members are even more disturbing. Number seven on one member’s list is “lick a 9-volt battery.” Unless there's a rapper out there named 9-volt that I don't know about, it’s shameful that this person hasn’t checked that off their list yet. I don’t know about you, but licking batteries was a rite of passage where I grew up. It was the initiation into my neighborhood gang. (We had matching bikes and everything–Go Wolverines!)
Superviva is supposed to be inspirational, (log on, upload your list, and check it off as you go!) but I see it more as an interactive scorecard where you're compelled to compare your life to the life of some stranger in Chile. As if feeling outdone by your close friends isn’t depressing enough, now you can watch as some stock boy in Indiana checks off “run with the bulls” while you devote your two weeks vacation to painting the house.
And there’s nothing that highlights your own selfish tendencies like seeing “give a kidney to someone in need” on another person’s list of lifetime goals. There is absolutely nothing altruistic on my list. Volunteering at a soup kitchen wasn’t as important to me as “surfing the entire California coast” when I made my list. Sure, I could put something do-goodish on my list now, like “dig irrigation canals in an impoverished African village,” but that would just be pandering to the audience. I may as well just add “impress strangers who are reading my Life List with an altruistic deed so astonishingly selfless, they’ll revere me immediately.”
That’s not to say you can’t find true inspiration in other people’s life goals. I never gave much thought to owning a dune buggy before, but after seeing it as number four on YankeeFan’s Life List, I’m starting to understand the magnitude of such an accomplishment. Think about the joys of commuting to work in an open-aired dune buggy a-la “Mad Max.” Nobody would cut you off in traffic. Dune buggy owners are inherently bad-ass. Everyone knows that.
Not that I should start adding more items to my own list. Like I said, I’m turning 30 and my list is shamefully incomplete. I could give excuses about finances, familial obligations, and time constraints, but the truth is, I haven’t checked off many items on my Life List because I’m fond of napping and reading magazines. Honestly, when I wake up in the morning, or early afternoon, I’m not thinking about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail or going sky diving. I’m thinking about arranging my schedule so I can squeeze in an hour long nap.
So maybe I should amend my Life List to include “take a nap everyday.” After all, in our goal-driven society where everyone is trying to outdo each other with trips to the Amazon and solo climbs up Everest, isn’t clearing your schedule for a daily nap an accomplishment worth bragging about?
WHAT’S ON YOUR LIFE LIST?
Send us your top five things you hope to do before you die (in the Blue Ridge and beyond). The best lists will be published in the magazine and winners will receive free outdoor gear. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail to 44 Merrimon Avenue, Suite 3A, Asheville, N.C. 28801.</em>