Living a life worth writing down

Off the Beat

Last Friday was my sister’s birthday. Aside from being my best friend in the entire universe and the freshman I mooch a Cafe 3 brunch off of once a week, Sarah is a remarkable young woman. She’s a thousand different emotions at once, but she still manages to be the most driven person I’ve ever encountered.

She spent her birthday petting her boyfriend’s dog — she’s really obsessed with dogs — and I didn’t get to see her, which is weird no matter how I try to justify it. So I resorted to texting her a happy birthday message that closed with the following sentiment:

“You deserve the world, and I hope you had a small taste of it today.”

Maybe I’m being self-indulgent, but that line has a really poetic ring.

Here’s the thing, though: Sarah definitely deserves the world. Yet I don’t think she necessarily wants to see the world, or if she does she’s never expressed a persistent desire.

My sister and I couldn’t be more polarized in that respect. She picked a major based on whether it guarantees a financially secure postgraduate job. I’m an English major who reads nonstop but rarely from a class syllabus.

Sarah wants her life to be a guarantee, a safety net to prevent her from falling. I just want to live a life worth writing down.

I don’t have a plan the way Sarah does. She wants a career, and I want a lifelong passion. I build my life off passions: boys or books or writing. I have one speed — fast — and sometimes I forget that not everyone likes to live at that same breakneck pace. Sometimes I forget that you can’t live on spontaneous passions; you need something safer if you want to be an adult.

But I’m still young and firmly set on chasing the craziest pipe dreams. Fate hasn’t so seriously injured me that I refuse to step on her toes. It’s never been a question that I want to see the world.

Hence the bucket list.

I know that sounds like a Morgan Freeman movie. It sounds lame or geriatric for me to have a bucket list. But it means the world to me, and I have it with me everywhere I go. The list is two pages, front and back. Eighty-one bullet points.

That’s all I’ve dreamt up so far. I want to fly an airplane and paint the Golden Gate Bridge. I want to have a lightsaber battle and go reverse bungee jumping (it’s absolutely insane, look it up) and truly forgive a long-held grudge. I want to graduate from UC Berkeley — that’s No. 26, sandwiched between riding an elephant and entering a hot dog-eating contest.

But the real kickers involve far-off destinations. I want to get drunk at the festival of San Fermin in Pamplona. I want to bartend in Barcelona and jump like the clavadistas in Acapulco and dive in the Great Barrier Reef — which is visible from space, by the way. I want to see every single state in America and maybe own a plot of land somewhere barren like Wyoming. And I really want to just bum around Europe for a few months after graduation.

There’s a hang-up. In the two years since the list’s inception, I’ve only crossed off one item: No. 16, Learn Latin. Yeah, I blew four units last spring on a Latin class, and let me tell you, it’s no wonder that convoluted language is dead.

That’s it. One goal accomplished. Even the simpler things like sing karaoke or learn to drive a stick shift I have yet to attempt. When an opportunity presents itself — there’s a typewriter at work that I could use any old day to cross off No. 80, for instance — something always holds me back. I tell myself the timing isn’t right. I tell myself I’m saving it all up for when I finally enter the real world. But what am I waiting for? I’ve got some money, and I’ve got time. What I lack is conviction and courage.

I like to say I’m a risk-taker. But sometimes I wonder: Am I really taking a worthy risk? Sometimes it feels like I’ve wasted my life on petty gambles. I convince myself I’m just gearing up for something bigger, but when I’m faced with something bigger I’m paralyzed. Am I gearing myself up, or am I just too afraid to move past the start?

Someone I barely know once said that you should do it for the story, no matter what “it” is. I’ll go one step farther and say that you should write the story of your life in pen so you can never erase it.

I don’t care how long it takes me — I’m going somewhere grand. I might be paralyzed now, but that won’t last for long. They say wanderlust is an intense desire to explore the world as well as yourself. In nearly 20 years, I’ve only had one small taste. I don’t know if I deserve the world, but I do know that I want to see every corner of it.

But if all else fails, I can always live in Sarah’s future mansion and mooch off her some more. Something tells me she might be used to it by then.