Life To Do List
November 17, 2008 4:52 AM   Subscribe

Help me make up a life to-do list

I've been trying for a while now to come up with a list of things to do with my life. I've come up with the basics (career and travel goals) and some random specifics (start a garden, take a cooking class, etc.), but I thought I'd query the hivemind to see what other things I should definitely do in this lifetime. What places should I visit? What activities should I take up? What books should I read? What is the one thing that you would have left this world unfulfilled had you not experienced it?
For what it's worth, I'm a twenty-something female. Thanks!
posted by karyotypical to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
Are you familiar with 43 Things? If not, it might be useful - users contribute to-dos of a grand variety and can comment on the usefulness/value of them if they achieve them.
posted by carbide at 5:47 AM on November 17, 2008

For what it's worth, I'm a twenty-something female.

Get laid. Get laid a lot. Chances are very good that you'll never look better than you look now. Don't be afraid to try anything or anyone that appeals to you. Go get laid now and then come back and read the rest of this thread.

And speaking of physical stuff, do all of the other physical stuff right now, before you start falling apart. You should be thin and strong and have good knees and a strong back and no worries about leaving children and home and career behind if you're going to climb dangerous mountains and bicycle across continents and dive to the bottom of the sea and leap off bridges. Go dancing every week at least once. Learn new dances, old dances, and martial arts. Learn to swim every stroke. Don't exercise in a stinky gym when you could be out exploring, not unless you're on a team, which is a good way to get exercise and socialize and have fun at the same time. Go go go every day until you fall over. Then go get laid again. Don't be sedentary until your body and your responsibilities make you do so.
posted by pracowity at 5:48 AM on November 17, 2008 [9 favorites]

Think about who you wish to be when you are much older as well as what you want to do along the way. Goals to expand wisdom, tolerance and love will bring you joy for a lifetime.
posted by Kerasia at 5:58 AM on November 17, 2008

Absolutely, 100%, learn to scuba dive (in the sea).

I was in Thailand this summer, and thought I should give it a go since it is very cheap there. I figured it would be something I would find kind of interesting in an 'at least I can say I have done it' way.

I ended up staying at the dive resort for a week, did 11 dives, and got 2 PADI qualifications, and I can't wait to go again. I found it mind blowing, and everyone doing the courses at the same time seemed to agree.
posted by latentflip at 6:01 AM on November 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

What is the one thing that you would have left this world unfulfilled had you not experienced it?

Absolutely great question…and I'm going to give you an answer which would have been absurd even five years ago. It's something that I am going to leave this world unfulfilled for having never experienced it, but that you may not have to:

Get into space.

Start preparing now, and that could mean any one of a number of things: stay in shape, invest wisely to be able to afford a ticket, get an aviation-related career so that you (conceivably) don't have to afford a ticket, get into a scientifically-oriented career to become a mission specialist or support crew member…anything, but get into space.

If you are in your twenties now, by the time you are in your forties space tourism is probably going to be plausible, and marginally affordable. You can watch the sunset off Phuket (and by all means, do), but before you die you can watch a sunset every hour in earth orbit, or have a latte behind the moon.
posted by dinger at 6:28 AM on November 17, 2008 [5 favorites]

The lists like this I've seen tend to get the big things right (learn to scuba dive! climb Kilimanjaro!) but not spend a lot of attention to the little things that actually fill your life. And personally, I'd much rather be someone who has never climbed Kilimanjaro, but who is known to friends as supportive, trustworthy, and generous.

So along with the usual assortment of big, exciting things, think of ways to describe and measure (because it's a list, after all) the small things -- the little decisions you make a thousand times every day that in aggregate make you a good person or a mediocre person.

And I couldn't agree more with Pracowity about focusing on the physical when you are young. In my thirties, my body is enormously more creaky and slower to recover than a decade ago. We are physical beings, and I think that filling your life with intense physicality is a wonderful way to live. Even in intellectual pursuits, find ways to discover the physical -- the paper and covers of old books feel different than new books, and each book has a smell all its own.
posted by Forktine at 6:47 AM on November 17, 2008 [4 favorites]

There is a book out there somewhere, "2001 things to do before you die," that's a bit different from the current rash of "1001 [books/movies/albums/buildings/foods] you must [read/watch/hear/visit/eat] before you die" books. It's actually a checklist of quirky things to do -- some are pretty far out of reach ("wake up next to Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie" is one of them, if memory serves) but others are smaller and subtler, yet equally interesting, things ("learn how to make really good gnocci" or "cornrow your dog" or "use words like 'balderdash' more often").

I stumbled across it years ago, and picked up a copy -- every so often I flip through it, and am pleased to find that I can check off a couple things. I got a bunch of copies a couple years ago and gave them all out to everyone as their birthday gifts that year.

It goes in and out of print, but you can order it used via Amazon fairly easily and cheaply. If nothing else, it'd spark ideas.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:06 AM on November 17, 2008

I've always liked this quote from Robert Heinlein: "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly."

To those achievements, I would add: Visit a country with a culture markedly different from your own, where you are visibly a member of a minority. Go somewhere so far from civilization that the silence is absolute in the early morning. Wrap your mind around Descartes' Meditations and Kant's First Critique. Learn a second language, then a third. Learn to meditate.
posted by bricoleur at 7:49 AM on November 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well I would do your physical stuff first. If you have any crazy ideas about climbing mountains or back packing across Europe do it now. You can save some of the less adventurous stuff for later.

I also like the space travel thing. I have officially added that one to my list of things to do! Hopefully by then we will have invented space marines and space zombies for us to fight! Dear God I doubt I will ever grow up.... and I'm cool with that :>)
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:11 AM on November 17, 2008

All the big and small things that you might suddenly get a chance to do, the things that some people say ¨Oh, I´d do that but I can´t because...¨

Yeah. Do all those things.
posted by yohko at 8:43 AM on November 17, 2008

This site promotes the idea of a 101-item list to be completed in 1001 days. It links to a lot of lists made participants which could be useful as inspiration.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 8:49 AM on November 17, 2008

Oops..."made by participants"
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 8:50 AM on November 17, 2008

Follow your favorite band on a tour and try to go to as many shows as you can - so many that they recognize your face. Hang out in the hotel and try to meet one of the band members. Get autographs, and squeal like the big fangirl you are. You will never again be allowed to do those things and not have it be considered creepy. (In fact, you may be borderline too old for this already, so hurry up!)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:53 AM on November 17, 2008

You do not know how long you are going to live. Just like the rest of us.

Because of this, I don't think you (or anyone) should go through life without a good understanding of yourself, what you care about, what interests you, and what your limitations are. Determine what causes you regret, and then make sure you don't repeat those mistakes. You can't ever figure this out completely, but do the best you can before you start setting life goals that, in the end, mean nothing to you.

There are absolutely no particular acts that you definitely must perform to have a fulfilling life. I'm just as fixated as everyone else on filling my few living moments with buttloads of experience. But there are no defining experiences to guarantee your life is one of the good ones. Your attitude will define that. Many people happily lead quiet, uneventful, geographically-isolated lives, and that is every bit as valid as cramming your life with thrills and skills.

There are many good suggestions in this thread, but you are alive RIGHT NOW, and you don't know how long that will be the case. So, for instance, if your current attitude RIGHT NOW isn't compatible with acquiring a roster of sex partners and clicking down the list of possible sex acts, then don't. (Especially don't do this if you're afraid that women's romantic lives end at 30, and that you're running out of time for anyone to ever love or want you. This is an unhealthy and inaccurate attitude to have toward yourself.) Do what is right for you, and in the future, always have faith in your past self's knowledge of what had to be done in the circumstances.

Not saying that you should live every aspect of your life by the seat of your pants, and never save or plan for the future. You need to do that do. But seize the day, at the same time.

One note, however: If you want to bear children, take that into deep consideration, because that is one thing that you can run out of time to do more easily and safely.

(Also, take care of your health for god's sake!)
posted by Coatlicue at 9:27 AM on November 17, 2008 [4 favorites]

Learn another language. Learn it well. It's amazing how having a second language in your skillset will broaden your horizons in so many unexpected ways.
posted by HeyAllie at 9:42 AM on November 17, 2008

Travel. Alone. At least once. To a city you are interested in but cannot speak the language.

And walk on beautiful beaches, swim, get almost too much sun, sleep so deeply at night of that kind of exhaustion, fine sand on your feet. I hope you get to do this one with someone you care about, someone you really love deeply. Even if that relationship doesn't last your memories of those days do; myself, I'm thinking here of Kathy, how she freckled in the sun, her blue eyes. It's good.

Help other people. Or animals. Find your niche, and help others with the pains and aches of life. Which is to say, become a lover, a giver.

What is the one thing that you would have left this world unfulfilled had you not experienced it?
I bet most will answer this by saying 'Having a child or children.' I've never done this, so I don't know for sure, but from looking on it seems that it's very, very big, and I'm pretty sure I've missed out here, in a big way, missed out of much of the warmth in life.

I haven't missed out on pracowity's suggestion, of getting laid a lot, and it's a good one. Whether with one person or seventy-four, get you lots of hot sex, while the gettin's good. But please be careful with your heart, and others hearts; you can hurt yourself or someone else or both and that'll carry with you, it'll sting and burn a long time, or it can -- it did me.

And the whole physical thing, doing lots, though you needn't be in a hurry as some upthread have mentioned, not if you take care of your body and have some fortunate genetics -- I still ride that mountain bike, practice yoga, swim, walk, run, whatever else. I am more careful, not as fast in exposing my body to dangers of whatever sort -- this thing is beautiful. This thing really is beautiful.

Stay off of motorcycles. They sure are fun but one mistake -- just one, a mistake of your own or another persons mistake, it doesn't matter -- and you're in a world of hurt, or you're not in this world at all. I've never owned one -- and man have I wanted one -- but every time I've ridden one I've had ever so much fun, then I look down at the speedometer and I'm at 85mph. There's better ways to get your kicks, way less dangerous ways.

Riding horses is as much fun as riding motorcycles and just one hell of a lot less dangerous. They smell lots better, too, leather and lather and sweat mixed in with the flowers crushed in the field you run through, the breeze flowing through the horses mane and your own, too. Though you cannot practically travel on horseback, you can't take a road trip. Too bad.

Read Marcus Aurelius, but make sure it's the translation by Maxwell Staniforth or you're in for a yawn festival.

Tell a musician how important their music is to you. No, I'm not talking about some heroic legend, I'm talking about the musician who is maybe scraping by but you've seen their shows around town, you just cannot get their cd out of your car's player. At the least, write them a letter. No, NOT an email -- a letter. They get it, open it, read it, hold it in their hand, read it again.

Same thing with a writer; tell them how their words have moved you. I blew a guy almost out of his chair, told him how a poem he'd written got carried with me to so many dinners or walks in whatever woods, how I shared it with people who were important to me, told him where I'd come across it, told him how over the years it'd warmed me -- you can't imagine the effect it had upon him. He wrote me and told me about it. It was good.

Your question, again: "What is the one thing that you would have left this world unfulfilled had you not experienced it?"
Since I have not had children and I have not and likely won't find Capital L Love, or, rather, I haven't found Capital L Love that has held over Capital T Time, I'm left with helping others, as best I can, in ways that I'm able.

I don't help by giving money, as I haven't a lot of money to give. Nothing wrong with giving money, in fact giving it well might be a lesson you'll want to learn. I just don't have much experience with having enough to spread around. I give to people as I can, usually other poor people, in harder shape than I am maybe, or having a bad time. But it's not what I'm usually able to give.

So that leaves what I wrote about above; finding your way to give love. I've found mine -- I mentor a few younger guys, and it's really great, and with some of them I even sortof get to live a family life, through their eyes; just because I've not been able to find Love that holds doesn't mean that I don't have eyes to see, and the fact is that I've learned lessons through my Loves that haven't held that help my guys in their Loves that are holding. I've been lucky in life, in finding older guys to help me stumble down the road, to show me what they see, and I feel an obligation, to them and to life, to pass it on.

It's a lot of fun, to boot.

This whole being a gray-beard thing, it's not all bad, it's not even mostly bad, most days. (Don't ask me on the days after I've fallen off that mountain bike though, or pulled a particularly hard yoga practice one day; the whole 'being sore as a motherfucker' is, um, interesting.)

Your post has got me to thinking, that's for sure. Particularly that one question. I started this answer this morning and left it, returning to it now maybe four hours later.

I give time. I do have time. And I spend it, some of it, helping people through tangles I've already negotiated. And I think that’s a real important thing to do, something that I would not want to have missed in this thing.

Last. Find your way to creativity. Whether it's in words or colors or gardening or sewing or cabinetry, find a way to express beauty. Yeah, yeah, I know, fucking is great, the ultimate act of creativity, blah blah blah, but it doesn't hold. Or it hasn't for me, at any rate. And even dogs can fuck, pigs can fuck, even republicans can fuck, and baptists. So maybe it's not the ultimate in creativity, right? Sure, it's loads of fun, get you a guy who floats your boat and go rock and roll this weekend, fuck till you're sore. Write and tell us about it.

But if you write it well, if you write your description of your weekend fuck with beauty, if you capture in your words the turn of his shoulder in the afternoon sun in the small room you've rented upstate as he leans in to tend the fire you told us about, the fun in building it, and how you had to stop midway or not even midway, just a bitty fire going is all but you had to turn from it because he wouldn't stop biting your side -- he couldn't stop biting your side, truth be told -- gently but not too gently, and kissing on you, your shoulders, and your back, he couldn't keep from you, his hands on your breasts from behind, he's needing you again, aching for you, and you turned to push him away -- "I'm building a fire here, goddamnit!" -- but you don't even get the sentence out, you almost do but you turn into his kiss, you look at his eyes and it's over, your hand drifts down to a different fire -- you tell us that in a way that gets us into that room with you, seeing with you that flowered wall-papered walls and those green curtains covering partway the bay window looking out at new snow, and you do that for thirty pages or even thirteen and you've got a message to the future from that room.

Or say you want to paint. And I'm not sure how you paint or if you even do but let's say you do, and let's say that you paint a sort of abstract expressionism but mixed into realism, you paint dreamscapes, you paint for yourself and give to yourself and to us these spectacular dreamscapes, they start in the room you wrote about above, hell, you and your lover are there gazing into the fire later that afternoon and the afternoon soft gray is captured perfectly as it lays on the white comforter that you two are wrapped under and it's as real as rain and then, just the same as rain falls gently at first but then it's all rain that same happens in color, we're taken from that room and into a spectacular run of gold and silver spinning down against red, a brilliant red span, and the eye moves from color to color, from one run to the next and we're right there in the dream with you and goddamned if it isn't a beautiful dream, a rich dream, and powerful and subtle and even fun but it really is powerful, that's for sure, it's softer than symbols or maybe not softer but it's less structured than symbols but it's stronger for that, it doesn't need structure, it's not wanting for structure, the color holds us fast…

Bah. I’m running on here. A bad habit – put a keyboard in my hands and I’m a hazard. I did go on about the creating part and I know it’s all knotted up and sloppy and I didn’t want to hit ‘Submit’ so I went next door and asked Emily to read it – I trust her eyes pretty dang much – and she said hit enter. So I will.

Have fun – that’s real important too.

posted by dancestoblue at 3:35 PM on November 17, 2008 [11 favorites]

Riding horses is as much fun as riding motorcycles and just one hell of a lot less dangerous.

Not answering the original question at all, but I just want to point out here that a study was recently done on this very topic and actually found the opposite to be true.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 4:36 PM on November 17, 2008

1) Apology for nasty comment about baptists and republicans.
2) I've never gone 85 mph on a horse.*
* (As a kid on a brown and white pinto I think I came close.)
posted by dancestoblue at 6:31 PM on November 17, 2008

I recently made my own to-do list for the next 10 years. Here's what's on it:

- try surfing
- try water skiing
- try mountain biking (have to get a bike and remember how to ride again. apparently you CAN forget)
- try golfing
- get an expensive camera and take good artsy pictures
- have a garden
- crochet or knit something other than a scarf (yea, I'm THAT exciting, that's on my to-do list)
- volunteer somewhere
- take a ski lesson to become better
- give snowboarding another shot
posted by KateHasQuestions at 7:38 PM on November 17, 2008

The easiest (and most complete) way for me to answer your question is to show you my list. 101 in 1001 (<-- shameless self link)
posted by craven_morhead at 6:57 AM on November 18, 2008

Thanks hivemind! I've been out for a couple days, but I'm happy I came back to such awesome suggestions. I'll definitely be using them, and maybe be inspired to add a couple more unique ones of my own!
posted by karyotypical at 4:08 AM on November 21, 2008

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