Do not go gentle into that good night
May 8, 2012 9:59 AM   Subscribe

What do I need to experience before I die?

I have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. I am physically healthy at the moment other than mild fatigue, but I may enter a swift decline at any point. I probably have two to five more years, hopefully most of which will be filled with relative health.

There is so much that I haven't experienced. I just turned 30. I've accepted that I'll never have a family or fall in love again. These were the two things I wanted the most. And with those off the table, I'm overwhelmed by everything I haven't done and I want to do as much as I can in the time that I have. But I don't know where to start.

I've always thought the idea of a bucket list was silly but now that my time left is so limited and I'm so young, I think I need one.

So where do I start? There is so much out there and I don't even know about most of it. I want to spend as much time experiencing the most beautiful, transformative, awe-inspiring and humbling things I can, and I need ideas. What have you done that you think I should do? This stupid world is so big and so beautiful and I am going to miss so much and I don't want to waste the time I have. There is so much I don't know. Tell me about the things I don't want to miss.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (66 answers total) 131 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry for your prognosis – but it might help if we knew something about your tastes, what you like and where you've already been.

It's too open a question without some clues. It's a big world.
posted by zadcat at 10:13 AM on May 8, 2012

Be a mentor to an at-risk child.
posted by drlith at 10:13 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cancelling your cable TV and internet would be a good start.
posted by amazingstill at 10:14 AM on May 8, 2012 [17 favorites]

I'm sorry you have received this diagnosis. A good friend of mine was in a similar situation, with an inoperable brain tumour that left her with a "maybe two years, maybe 15 years" time frame. (She got 12 years.) Her mottos became "I'm going to live until I die" and "I don't have time for bullshit. I have a brain tumour!" She said the whole hypothetical scenario of quitting her job and travelling went off the table when she realized that she still had to have an income of some sort. So she nurtured relationships she valued and ended those that brought her stress and negativity. She also fell in love with with a guy who went in with his eyes wide open and they had seven or eight years together. So don't count out falling in love.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:15 AM on May 8, 2012 [25 favorites]

#1 don't shut yourself off to the possibility of love.
#2 realize that every moment can be anyone's last and while the smile might be bittersweet, that thought really never fails to make me sit up straighter, take a deep breath and appreciate the feeling of being alive

Other than that, I recommend in order: drink a cocktail, wear a tie, at the very least throw parties all the time. A Talk with George and The Last Lecture have helped me understand life's possibilities.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:16 AM on May 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

If I were in your shoes, I'm not sure I'd aim for big experiences since sometimes the little ones are the most rewarding - letting a puppy lick your face, drinking a perfect Mint Julep, making a snow angel, listening to a beautiful concerto or a riotous rock and roll concert. Have hot chocolate at Angelina's in Paris with someone who means a lot to you. Go skinny dipping. Ride your bike without a helmet. Listen to someone play crystal meditation bowls. Even if you don't think you have time for love, let love happen if it will.
posted by tizzie at 10:18 AM on May 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm sorry to hear of your condition.

Don't tell yourself you won't experience a family or love again... you can cherish and embrace those things they are in your life one way or another still!

Somethings I can think of:

-If you enjoy nature, go out and explore a place you always found beautiful, take pictures of it, share it with someone. If you're feeling like getting a thrill under your skin try skydiving or.. actually i'd just go with skydiving! for me it was the craziest thing i'd ever done and when your on the edge of the plane door about to jump out... your mind and body just go crazy.

-You can try to volunteer a little bit of time. spending time helping others or something your passionate about might be a very rewarding and humbling experience.

-Try being a kid again, doing things that you enjoyed when you were 5. Or hang out with a kid for a day, its funny how inspiring children can be sometimes.

-Dance, like there's no tomorrow. And whats great is you don't need to go any where fancy or do anything special (or you can mix it up and take a class, club, bar). Dance in your living room, in the kitchen, in your car!

-Do cliche things like - being in 2 places at one time - head to the four corners (provided you live in the US) or straddle a country, town, continent line.

-Go snorkeling off the coast of a beach (its just not the same from a boat!) and see life underwater from a different perspective.

-Climb a tall mountain. Head to the top of a skyscraper... see things from high up!
posted by melizabeth at 10:19 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've accepted that I'll never have a family or fall in love again. These were the two things I wanted the most.

Fall in love again.
posted by John Cohen at 10:22 AM on May 8, 2012 [25 favorites]

I'm sorry to hear of your condition, but you should feel proud of yourself for having the mindset to make the most of your years.

One piece of practical advice is to look into any life insurance policy you may have. My parents set me up with one when I was a kid, and I remember that it would be worth $70,000 if I was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Since you are young, you probably don't have a family to provide for after you are gone, so if you did have a life insurance policy in place, you could use the money to fund your adventures. I'd possibly set up a trust for a charity I believed in with the remaining money I had left, and leave enough aside to cover funeral costs for myself so I wasn't burdening my family with that.

Best of luck, wonder, and happiness out of every day you have with us on this earth!
posted by shortyJBot at 10:26 AM on May 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm sorry to hear about your illness. It's great that you've decided to live with as much joy as possible - considering that all of us die, and we don't know when that will be, not enough people try to make that time as joyful as possible.

I think that when you generate your "bucket list," it'll help to start with your own list of interests, and seek out extraordinary experiences within those interests. Something that might be awe-inspiring and a lifetime experience to one person is not necessarily the same for another, even down to natural wonders - to a climber, climbing a particular difficult cliff or peak may be on their bucket list, but may not have much of an impact on someone who doesn't really care about that. Or, to a bibliophile, getting to handle a truly ancient and rare book is a thrill that would bore the shit out of someone else. It's tempting to assume that people know about amazing things you've never heard about and would need to experience - and they might! - but start with yourself!

For example, say you're interested in the stars. Then I'd suggest to make sure to catch some meteor showers and see the Milky Way, maybe up high in your mountain range of choice to get the blackest skies. I'd suggest seeing the closest Aurora. And so on. (And, I guess, those are my actual suggestions for you if that's the case!)

So, well - tell us about yourself, maybe, and we can try to think of things you'd really enjoy?
posted by vetala at 10:26 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Very sorry to hear of your situation. Were I in the same spot and not in a committed relationship I would sell off all my things save for the very few items that mean something special to me and hit the road for as long as my money would last. Traveling has opened my eyes, heart and mind in ways that not experiences here at home ever could. I love the things I've experienced on the road.

Places I'd go (in some cases, again):

Iceland for the Aurora Borealis
Australia for the great barrier reef and the 12 apostles (such a beautiful site and a wonderful drive)
Machu Picchu
Tokyo & London if for no other reason that to feel alone in the middle of so many people. But that may not be what you need/want right now.

There are actually a lot more places, but those are the ones I'd be sure to hit.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:40 AM on May 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm so sorry for you, but your desire to make the absolute most of the time you have left is wonderful. I hope this thread gives you some great ideas.

Things I would suggest:
- make sure all the people you love know that you love them. Make a point of spending some time with each of them doing things that will be great memories for them and you.
- hold no grudges and forgive old fights. I'd not waste a single second more hating or being angry with someone.
- decide what your absolute favourite food is and everywhere you go make a point of trying to find the BEST of it. Or make it your goal to learn how to cook it PERFECTLY, and have that recipe be a legacy of yours.
- help strangers in small but meaningful/unexpected ways. Try to make at least one person's day better somehow each day. Hand out umbrellas to wet passers by on a rainy day. Pay for the person behind you at a drive through. volunteer to read to people in nursing homes/hospitals.
- Read up on some amazing life changing places and the experiences of others who have visited them, and then choose one and go there.
posted by gwenlister at 10:41 AM on May 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm sorry for your prognosis.

Let your loved ones know how much you care - parents, friends, bothers and sisters. Tell them how much they mean to you.

Ask for (and graciously accept) whatever help you want or need. I guarantee everyone you know is looking for ways they can help you. By allowing them to do something, it enriches your life and their.

Other than that, what do you want to do? Is there anything you've been putting off (traveling?) or something you've always been too scared to try (scuba diving, skydiving, motorcycles?).

Good luck.
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:42 AM on May 8, 2012

When I read your question, my first instinct was to think about extravagant things I've done. Places I've visited, incredible restaurants, fantastic concerts or museums that blew my mind. I loved visiting wineries in Napa, wandering through Las Vegas, seeing a house made of glass bottles on Prince Edward Island, etc. I thought about isolated memories that have stuck with me.

Then I realized that for me personally, the best moments have been accomplishments. The moment when I realized that I was about to graduate from college. Finishing law school. My first job promotion. When I successfully did an endo on a bike, after two spectacular fails. My first lasagna, or figuring out the trick to vinegar peppers. My most rewarding moments and memories all share a theme. "I did that."

That's me. It may be you, maybe not. It's the closest I have to advice.
posted by cribcage at 10:46 AM on May 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm very sorry to hear that. I went backpacking for six months and was delighted I did. If you can afford it (and it can be done relatively cheaply in a lot of places once you have flights) I would definitely do that. It's a very rich way to experience life, lots of ups and downs, far more intense and memorable experiences than you get in day-to-day life in a job in the town where you live. You'll meet hundreds of people - and I agree with the people saying don't rule out falling in love - and the days will stretch out, filled with novelty. You don't need to choose what experiences you're going to have - those experiences will come to you. People will be doing things and making plans and you'll be carried along in their wake. I think in your position this is what I would choose. Good luck mate.
posted by Kirn at 10:53 AM on May 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh and I just thought of something else I would do. I'd document this on a blog and set it up with adsense, etc. and donate proceeds to whatever organization is dedicated to helping end whatever got you or in general to one of my favorite causes.

To do that you'd need to set it up with a system that allows you to directly monetize the blog and you'd want to pay for some hosting in advance or go with - which, forgive me, seems like a horrible pun at this point, but it's not. At that point you just need to make sure you've paid for a domain name for many years in advance.

I don't know about anyone else but I sure as heck would read about your experience and the journey, whatever form it takes.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:53 AM on May 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

Also when backpacking, there will be plenty of opportunities to get involved with voluntary projects, building schools and teaching kids and that kind of thing - limited, valuable engagements. If you feel a need to leave a positive mark on this world, there's ten thousand opportunities to do that in every country there is.
posted by Kirn at 10:56 AM on May 8, 2012

Travelling. I would drive all the way from Asia down to South Africa, and then back up again through Europe. See the rain forests, the deserts, the great cities, the great rift lakes, the savanna, the Alps. I would invite people to join me at any leg of the trip (send out a mass email) and participate in every human experience possible.
posted by moiraine at 10:57 AM on May 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

sorry about your health, but good on you to have such a good attitude about it. Some people never live a day for fear of dying.

go scuba diving at a coral reef - it's like visiting an alien planet. and I totally agree with the poster above - write about your experiences, joy shared is joy multiplied
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:57 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you been to Big Sur? It is stunning.
posted by yarly at 11:02 AM on May 8, 2012

I'm so sorry for your diagnosis.

It feels very presumptuous to answer this question, but something occurred to me as I read it. Namely: I think you shouldn't cut yourself off from any possibilities right now. You say that falling in love is out of the picture for you. I fear that belief might inadvertently close off the potential richness of new relationships, period. And that's basically one of the foundational constituents of happiness, IMO. Don't tell yourself anything is impossible until it just ISN'T possible anymore.

To that end, some of the most memorable things I've ever experienced were premised on the relationships I strengthened or made while doing them: e.g., traveling alone through parts of western Europe; having deep and meaningful conversations with family members; listening to my parents talk about their childhoods; staying up all night with a new acquaintance and feeling that thrill of budding romance. People are at the heart of all of these. People will be enriched by knowing you.

I guess what I'm saying is, you have much to offer people no matter what span of time you have left - an hour, a day, a year, or five decades. Don't feel like you need to hold back for fear of "leading them on." Life is not guaranteed to any of us. The moments are all that count, and you can share those moments with people right up until the moment you can't, anymore. Don't turn away from the possibility of particular kinds of moments until the choice isn't yours any longer.

So, having said that: spending time with loved ones in great places. Talking about things that normally don't get talked about: their pasts, their wildest hopes and dreams. Recording it all, their histories and yours, in a book for posterity, which will be cherished by those who come after you. Travel, seeing the world through others' eyes. Volunteering with people whose possibilities were, from the moment of their birth, radically different from yours. Learning to be alone in places that make you feel humble and small but also remind you of the grandeur of the universe. (I think here of mountaintops in lonely places.)

Again, these are only my personal notions and recollections of moments when I've felt exalted, lifted outside myself, as though I were brushing up against something greater and more wondrous. I hope a couple of them speak to you. My very best wishes to you.
posted by artemisia at 11:02 AM on May 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

Although this sounds cynical, if I were in your position, I would start accumulating a massive amount of debt with no intention of paying it off. It seems silly to finance your adventures with earned money when you have no descendents to leave any assets to.
posted by saeculorum at 11:03 AM on May 8, 2012 [27 favorites]

List of United Nations World Heritage Sites.

If it were me, I'd want to go to Banff, which is one of the sites, and just stay there.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:03 AM on May 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Travel, travel, travel.
Make up with your enemies.
Be nice(r) to your family.
Keep writing.

Prioritize the things that require the most physical and mental acuity, then when things get worse, settle down in the most gorgeous place you can think of.

Don't worry about what you're missing out on. Even Frank Sinatra had a few regrets.
posted by moammargaret at 11:06 AM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

A psychedelic experience.
posted by theraflu at 11:07 AM on May 8, 2012 [16 favorites]

It might help you to realize that you couldn't experience a fraction of what life has to offer if you lived a hundred years.

You don't "need" to experience anything. It's more a question of choosing who you want to be, and what you want to do with your remaining days.

It's not impossible that you could fall in love or start a family. It's not guaranteed either, though it's not guaranteed for any of us at any age.

If you look into why what was the most important thing for you, you might get a clue to how best you could fulfil that in the time you have. Perhaps what's important for you is the love and support you can give others. Maybe it's being able to play a part in raising a child. There are ways to do that without falling in love or becoming a parent.
posted by philipy at 11:08 AM on May 8, 2012

Life is ephemeral, and yours is just a little more ephemeral than most people's. You might have the sort of urge to leave your mark on the world, or to go do all the tentpole sort of things - skydive, scuba dive, dive bars - but maybe you could also embrace the essentially ephemeral nature of human life? I'm thinking you could do this by finding and engaging in as many one time only occasions as you can. Stuff like interactive improv performances, concerts, special occasions for special people. Stuff that's only going to happen for a short time and will only ever happen once, and will only have mattered because people like you were there to see and do it. Visit installations of artworks like sand paintings or sculpture intended to be washed away with wind or tides. Engage with reality knowing that it is fleeting, but no less valuable for that fact.
posted by Mizu at 11:10 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

If only I could let you know in person how much I sympathize with you!!!

I would suggest that whatever you decide, please keep a journal of sorts to record your thoughts, feelings, experiences. This could be a book or video. One of the things I am constantly thinking about these days is about my legacy to the world - what will I be remembered for and who will remember me?

I am sure you are doing this, but keep in touch with cutting-edge research on your illness - there may be new experimental treatments that prolong life in the next 2-3 years - please do not give up hope. Keep fighting.

Some more things:
1. Go to a rainforest and do a river cruise - its magical (
2. Go scuba diving in coral reefs - its magical
3. Don't discount falling in love - or at least spending a year with someone
4. Act a part in a stage play or as an extra in a Hollywood production
5. Volunteer for a red-cross or hospital mission
6. Invite friends over regularly and cook meals (I do some grills and cocktails) for them (I find this so enjoyable)
7. Indulge in all your secret fantasies
8. Take a Buddhist meditation camp
9. Explore Las Vegas and NYC

Feel free to adapt these suggestions to what is feasible for you. I left the 10th for you to write about.

Keep fighting.

[This is an uncharacteristic emotional response, but I cannot do otherwise here]
posted by theobserver at 11:15 AM on May 8, 2012

Silent meditation retreat. Almost nothing else makes me feel more alive in each moment (the only thing comparable that I've experienced is being deeply in love).
posted by zahava at 11:31 AM on May 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

If it were me, I'd be focusing on the things I love and find the most fulfilling, and do the things I've been putting off just because. I'd finally get that community garden plot, and I'd start really gardening. I'd spend significantly more time on my bookbinding work than I do already. I'd make a true effort to get back into writing poetry, and try to get it published. I'd spend time with my loved ones, and try to talk with them about the things we never say. I'd try yoga and meditation. Id read through my favorite books again. And I'd try to drag my fiancé around on as many trips as we could manage financially (traveling with a friend, or even solo, would be fine to). But that's just because those are the things I love doing or would love to do. They make me feel alive, and electric, and beautiful, and whole.

Explore your passions, and don't discount anything as impossible. I don't think it's so much a matter of what you do, but how you do it.
posted by divisjm at 11:35 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do things with people. It's not so much what you do -- plant trees, climb a mountain -- but that you do them with others, and that you do them thoroughly, with open eyes, and you talk and write about them afterwards. Do things together for the reward of being with others and sharing experiences with them, but also to know that they will always remember you and be able to tell others about you.

If this thing is going to be gradually debilitating, go out and do the strenuous things now. Save the sitting and thinking for the days when that's all you have the strength for.
posted by pracowity at 11:36 AM on May 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


and then a long, long walk.
posted by rr at 12:01 PM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

"Hey good looking OP, what's cooking?" "Oh?" "Is that your very own recipie?" "Heck to the yes, lotusmish." "I +1ed it, OP. Booyah!"

(^Yeah, nobody could ever accuse me of being mature.)

So basically, you should do what I did
1) Mess around in your kitchen. Blindfold yourself and invent something tasty! #ohyeahbaby (in a George Forman/deep Black guy voice. mmmm, lol.)

2) Fun stuff like skydiving, ziplining, parasailing, bananaboating, jetskiing, actual skiing, riding crazy fast roller coasters, racing past 100 mph, driving on a semi-empty highway lane at 100 mph for the hell of it, and--of course--bungee jumping! Even better if you overcome your fear of heights by putting yourself out there! (If I could overcome acrophobia, so can you!)

3) Road cycling down a really steep hill where you unclip both of your feet, spread them out as you declerate and the wind rushes into your face. (Heck, I only ride as much as I do because the feeling of going down can't be beat!)

4) Take the Great American Road Trip. I'm talking mixed tapes filled with every decade of music you enjoy, living out of an Igloo box, a stoked out itinerary, and badass camping. You must sing along to every song as you admire the sights and sounds of our great homeland. That includes Duran Duran, U2, and The New Radicals. Do not discriminate, homedawg...word to ya motherr. Have fun with it...roll down the window, let down the sunroof, and don't be afraid to be that awkward driver getting wayyyy too into rapping...heck, if I can get away with it, you can too! :D

5) Dance by yourself in the moonlight...naked. I don't care where you do it, just do it to this song. Fondle yourself and give yourself a nice, big bear hug! Afterwards, feel free to masturbate on the grass to this song.

6) Tell the people you actually love how much you love them and spend as much quality time with them as you can. They'll miss you when you're gone. (I'd actually write letters like in P.S. I Love You if you have younger siblings, elderly family members, close friends, or anything.)
---> 6a) If you have an unrequited love, tell them before it's too'll be cathartic but you'll feel much better.

6) Keep a journal as you embark on all of your adventures...fill it with anecdotes and life lessons you've learned along the way. Then give the journal to someone you know will get some use of it!

7) Go to a My Chemical Romance or hard metal concert and GO INSANE. Call a limo to take you there and dance on the top of the car on the way there! (Grinding on limos is sooooo much fun.) When you get there, go all out with hair bobbing, air guitaring, making out with complete strangers, boozing hard, dancing like it's your last moment on your feet, crowdsurfing, going backstage and schmoozing with famous people, and having fun!

8) Do something creative and uniquely you to leave your mark on the world.

Love, love, love...
posted by lotusmish at 12:13 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Experience reality as a creation of your consciousness and that consciousness as a property of the universe.
posted by cmoj at 12:41 PM on May 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Do keep a journal. Take lots of photos of yourself with people who are important to you and share those photos with those people. Write letters people.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:51 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Touch people. Make eye contact. Hug everyone. Talk to strangers. Tell them what you are doing, and why. Try hard to get somewhere where you can hold a baby, preferably a newly born one. Tell your friends and family about this question, and see where that takes you. Hold hands with someone whenever you can. Let love happen, if it wants to.

Be a sponge, be impulsive, soak up all the gravy that you can. Smile at the world.

(I've been following askmefi for years. I signed up today just to send you this. I guarantee you that every one of the people who have replied today will be carrying your question around for a long time. You have more to share with the world than you imagine.)

Good luck-have a wonderful time.
posted by LaBellaStella at 12:58 PM on May 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm very sorry you're having to live with this.

My friend who has brain cancer blogs about her life, her treatments, and the fact that she has no definitive prognosis except that it will eventually kill her. A memorable thing she's written is that she doesn't try to live every day as if it were her last, because how else would she be able to face cleaning the litter box, or making dinner, or watching her husband's favorite movie? She said it much more eloquently than I just did, but it struck me as astute nonetheless: she goes on with the business of living her everyday life because that's what is most precious to her.

Having said that, she and her husband have taken a few trips to places she's always wanted to go (London, the Caribbean), and their dream is to live for a time in New Zealand, where she can laze on the beach while he surfs.

What's the thing that, when you're doing it, you're the happiest version of yourself? If you enjoy traveling, I'd say you should concentrate on having new experiences in places you want to travel to. If you enjoy learning, I'd say take some classes.

And you should definitely not eliminate falling in love. It's possible.

I wish you all the best.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 1:17 PM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I want to spend as much time experiencing the most beautiful, transformative, awe-inspiring and humbling things I can, and I need ideas.

I don't know if what I am about to suggest will resonate with you; also it sounds like you kind of don't want to be tied down for the next few years while you go out and have these experiences. But anyway.

One of the best and most beautiful and most meaningful things I have ever experienced was adopting an ill and abused shelter dog and watching him recover physically and psychologically under my care. To see him romping around in the sunshine with his new brother without a care in the world, when he was huddled in a corner of a concrete cage the first time I saw him. To have him race up to me, flop on the floor and roll over for a belly rub, when at first he stood rigid and shook when I tried to touch him.

With my other dog it was different but just as resonant for me. With him I had decided I was going to go to the worst kill shelter I knew of and get the dog who would be next to be put down. I didn't know anything about his background except that he was 9 and had been dropped off by his family. They brought him out, handed me the leash, I signed the paperwork and paid and we walked out the door. When we walked out the door, he started jumping. He was jumping as high as my shoulder. He jumped all the way to the car. I had never seen an animal jump for joy before. There have been few experiences in my life that have affected me emotionally more than that.

So, I recommend it for you too.
posted by cairdeas at 1:23 PM on May 8, 2012 [28 favorites]

You've already done something important - you posted this question, which I believe will remind some people that our time here is fleeting, and motivate a few to get on with living fully.

First off, I don't think you should do it anything in particular (like travel) out of some sense of obligation - as if there's a right way to face your prognosis.

It's a bit presumptuous for us to postulate how you should use this time, in the same way I shouldn't be telling anyone how they should live their lives, but I can tell you the things that make me feel I've touched the world meaningfully, the things that will outlast me. I've seen and done some interesting things, but the most valuable are the kindnesses I've been able to show others. Look for opportunities to do something for other people, however fleetingly small. Much will be forgotten, and you may never know the effect you've had, but in the end you'll know you did something.

Just a little story. I'm a paramedic. A couple days ago I held the hand of a patient who was very frightened. She came back to the station a few days later and was so grateful for that small gesture. Out of all the things I do, all the magical medications I can push, the defibrillations, the breathing tubes I've inserted, the squiggles of ECGs I try to make sense of in the back of a bouncing ambulance, out of all these skills I've accumulated, holding someone's hand was the most simple thing I could do. This woman didn't come to thank me for diagnosing her condition or delivering the meds that helped resolve it, although I'm sure she appreciated that. What really stuck with her was that someone showed compassion when she was terrified. Just being there for others is the most important thing we can do.

I can't tell you who you are, but I can tell you that for me, when the time comes, I believe that moment and a few others like it will be sufficient evidence that my time here was not wasted.
posted by itstheclamsname at 1:43 PM on May 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

I should have said, a couple shifts ago (6 days). Not germane, but I didn't want to leave the timeline all screwy.
posted by itstheclamsname at 1:47 PM on May 8, 2012

I've recently taken to trying to say "Yes" to more of the good/fun/silly/new and "No" to the obligations/hard/exhausting. It means I've done a lot more fun, new things with friends, that I know my area more, that I've met more fun people. And they've, in turn, inspired me to try new things, to travel further afield, to dye my hair purple for the first time in middle age.

So as you sit down to write yourself a list, pay attention to the people and places that inspire you, and say Yes to their best qualities. Let them inspire you.
posted by ldthomps at 1:48 PM on May 8, 2012

These are the things that I have found fill me with the milk of human kindness/appreciation for the world

Go to Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans and eat one of those puffy doughnuts while you have a chicory coffee. This is best done while it's raining outside.

Go to the national gallery of art in Washington DC and just hang around for a while, they have a cafeteria downstairs where you can get some lovely snacks when you get tired.

Go to where those you love as your family are from and learn about them.

Go to Tobermory on the Bruce peninsula and go hiking and swimming, look at the rocks, climb them, fling yourself into the water.
posted by FatRabbit at 1:58 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

build a massive driftwood fort on the beach (Fort Stevens in Oregon is excellent for this.)

Lay out in a meadow on a moonless night and watch the stars.

go somewhere where you can experience the full Annular Solar Eclipse on May 20th.
posted by vespabelle at 2:29 PM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

What is it that matters most to you? Aside from relationships with others. What is it you enjoy most? I say this because it's really all about you-- even now, it's still your life. Like, me for example, I would spend at least 6 months of that writing and painting in a retreat somewhere, in nature. I would determine to eat fresh food (like, raw food as much as possible) and purify my body and cultivate my physical energy (yoga, running, swimming). I wouldn't, say, hold parties or hug people any more than before, but I may let go of any grudges and just be a lot more sincere. I may contact people again (not telling them I'm dying) and tell them how I feel. I would treat everyone, as much as possible, as my best self would their best self, which is to say I would love most people. I don't know if I'd act too differently 'cause I'm just not that expressive, but still. I'd meditate, for sure.

I'd probably do a few dangerous things-- para-glide or parachute jump, try some mushrooms, have some meaningless sex, but maybe not. Really I'm not the sort of person who's been holding herself back from much. Are you? What have you been holding back from? Do you have secret desires? What are they?

I wouldn't just travel, I'd try to go places that mean a lot to me, and you could probably get funding from some charities for this. Well, I wouldn't consider maxing out a credit card too too unethical. I would try to have 'experiences' rather than just good experiences or sublime ones, 'cause I'd want life, and life is best appreciated in its diversity-- so I'd try being a homeless busker/street-artist in London or a fortune-teller in Edinburgh, maybe I'd try being a foreigner teaching English in Japan, or maybe I'd go on a cross-country trip to see all my friends for a week. I'd learn a badass skill I didn't have 'time' or 'energy' before, like pottery or surfing. I'd definitely try a month-long relationship with someone 'bad' for me, like a surfer-dude or something, someone free-spirited. I'd try ceremonial magic; stuff I thought was 'really not me' can be me now, if there's no strings. I may try to volunteer at an archaeology dig, work as a barista, in a soup-kitchen, in a YMCA.

I guess I may see this as a chance to really re-imagine yourself. 'Who am I' becomes unimportant. The long-term being gone can be freeing. You're not committing anymore, so you can be anything. I would not go for quantity or meaningful-laced importance 'cause it weighs you down, makes every day heavy with the need for meaning-- but every day is already heavy. Instead, think of what you'd do if you had all the freedom in the world and the only compass was your heart's desire.
posted by reenka at 2:56 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Step one: learn some version of mindfulness meditation. That way, whatever you do with however many moments are left to you, in every single moment you will be open to the possibility of "experiencing the most beautiful, transformative, awe-inspiring and humbling things," even when the moments in question are mundane*, or when pain or discomfort are present.

*"mundane moment" is an oxymoron, though, isn't it?
posted by Corvid at 3:00 PM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Warning: this will sound cheesy at first, but I mean it.

Find the beautiful, wonderful things that are all around you.

You don't need to travel around the world to find awe-inspiring sights. If you're not comfortable with living on credit and creating a lot of debt (you don't know how long you will live, and being hounded by collections agencies is not something to add to your bucket list), search out the splendid things around you.

I love the pre-dawn glow, especially in areas between towns. The landscape is all silhouettes, and the sky is dark blue, getting lighter. Camp outside and get up early, if you can. Few people get up this early, so even if get up from a comfortable bed and drive through this sort of landscape, it's peaceful and wonderful.

Find a really, really dark place, and go out on a moonless night and watch the stars.

There are hundreds of hiking trails that I can get to within a few hours of where I live, and I doubt that this is anything special. Explore the natural world around you, and pay attention to the details. Take a camera with you, even if you don't think you take good photos, and try to find interesting to capture. Force yourself to stop every so often, turn around where you stand, and find something interesting to capture.

For moderate adventures, travel on a body of water under your own power or on the wind. Try river rafting, kayaking, or find a way to go sailing. If nothing else, travel on a small boat that can float out, silently, for a while.

Learn skills to make things, be it photography, sculpting with clay, stone or wood, knitting, or paper mache monsters. Enjoy your craft, sell them, give the items to friends and family, or leave them for someone to find randomly.

Start writing to a penpal: an inmate, a soldier, or someone somewhere else in the world.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:49 PM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Make some things for people to remember you by. Scrapbooking, cheesy art project, whatever. Even if you suck at art, just for fun.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:02 PM on May 8, 2012

Sorry to hear about your situation, and I hope you end up making the best of it possible!

For a small fraction of people, establishing a cryonics policy is a profoundly hopeful and pragmatic response to mortality.

I can elaborate and provide additional resources if this is something you're intrigued by.
posted by anateus at 4:35 PM on May 8, 2012

If you're in a position to, find people in need and help them. It's not too late to have a positive, critical impact on someone's entire life - an impact that will continue to resonate for decades.

I'm so sorry to hear your news OP, maybe you can help others in a similar positions, or others facing death for no other reason than poverty.
posted by smoke at 4:36 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this question. I'm facing the same thing you are (as we all are to some level), but due to age, not illness. Thanks for making me think about being more intentional.

I wish you well and I wish you peace as you travel this route.

I can't recommend exotic locations or activities, that's not who I am, but I would recommend that you get a dog, a big, sloppy, loving, dog.

When things are down, there isn't a therapist in the world that will mitigate the pain more effectively than an hour spent sitting on the floor petting a sleeping dog.
posted by HuronBob at 5:02 PM on May 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Just reading your post has been very inspirational for me. We're all in this situation, more or less, but sometimes we forget. Just thinking through your question -- and deciding what I would do in your situation -- has really clarified some things for me.

If I were you (and I guess we all are to some degree), I would do something to make a "dent in the universe". You have a fixed time horizon. You don't need to plan for the future. So do everything you always wanted to do. Start an outrageous art project. Start a world-changing scientific endeavor. Write a book about the year you spend doing everything you can think of doing. Travel everywhere. Do things that might kill you, but will be awesome. Why not? Spend money you don't have. Get money from Kickstarter. Raise money from investors. It doesn't matter at this point.

It's good advice for all of us, but especially for those of us who don't have the excuse that we are "planning for the future" when we keep ourselves from focusing on our deepest desires.

Basically, follow this philosophy

And yes, fall in love. Love is wonderful; all the moreso when you don't have to care so much about practicalities and the long run. Just find people you really love and spend time with them. There's no need to worry about a picket fence or the "future" or any of that crap. If you adore someone, just adore them, for as long as you can.

Good advice for all of us!
posted by carolinaherrera at 5:14 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

If there is metal in your soul at all, see Sabaton in Poland. Sabaton wrote a couple of songs about doomed-but-noble Polish military conflicts (the Warsaw uprising, and the Battle of Wisna) and now, even though the band is based in Sweden, the most maniacally devoted part of their fanbase is in Poland. Before I saw these guys in Europe, I'd have thought I'd be the absolute last person in the world to fall for a guileless, militaria-infused power metal act, but now I'm entirely owned. Entirely.

I'm mentioning this odd, left-field thing because it's obscure enough that I don't think anyone else will suggest it to you, and it's something that'd be near the top of my list, if I were in your shoes.

I'm so, so sorry to hear about your diagnosis.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 5:29 PM on May 8, 2012

I would travel, but I would travel with people who are important to me, to make memories for both of us. I wouldn't just go to the places I wanted to see, but the places they always wanted to see, too. I could leave Paris, but if mom wants to see the Eiffel Tower, then I would take her to Paris just so I can see her face when she sees it.

Along those lines, I would visit people who don't live near me. Not necessarily stay with them, if we haven't been in touch, but go to their cities and let them show me around for a weekend.

Love is a tricky one, but if the right person comes along, go for it. Ditto friends, jobs, projects. Don't be afraid to make new connections or commitments, or renew them if they have faded. Don't leave until you're dead.

Beautiful places I have seen that you might want to see too: Prague, the Rocky Mountains, the Empire State Building at night (yes), the town of Ronda in Spain, the town of Guanajuato in Mexico.

Good luck to you.
posted by elizeh at 7:40 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Most the things I can think of are already written here. Interesting that there are some common themes. Meditation and yoga with others. Snorkeling. Spend time with dogs and children. Do kindnesses for others. I would add a hallucinogenic trip in Southern Utah with good friends.
posted by Jandoe at 9:05 PM on May 8, 2012

I was just thinking today as I took a long, meandering walk after work about my potential regrets upon dying, and so I already have an answer for you: service to others. i thought that it would be such a shame to leave this life without having felt that I'd had a beneficial impact on others - that I hadn't unleashed the latent store of love & empathy inside me. That would truly be a shame, I told myself.
Aside from that, I would advise magic mushrooms or ecstasy. Sorry I'm naming mind altering substances but both escorted me to states of mind I may have never otherwise entered on my own and they were extremely visceral, revalatory experiences at that.
posted by afabulousbeing at 9:32 PM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

First. The title of your post: Do not go gentle into that good night. I disagree, maybe, probably: why not go gently? If you are a gentle person -- so many great posts here in this thread by gentle people – if you are a gentle person, why should you go out the door jumping up and down, what purpose would that serve? Gentle is nice, it's calm. Gentle doesn't mean dork, it can be purposeful and thoughtful and cool. I remember a Ray Bradbury short story about the world ending tomorrow, some people in a house were talking about it calmly, and one of the things one of them made sure to do was turn off the faucet that sometimes dripped; I read that thirty years ago and I liked it so that it easily comes to me on a gray spring afternoon in Austin as I consider your plight.

I don't feel sorry for you -- yech. Who'd want that? It's sad that your life is going to end while you're young. Damnit. But at least you know it, you have time yet, and the energy to do some things, once you decide what those things are. Knowing that there's a clock ticking will force clarity. Foolishnesses will drop away, or they damn sure can.

So. I read a quote by Al Pacino, he was talking about performing live, how he would find a pair of eyes early as he could in that performance, how he keyed on that set of eyes, played to that set of eyes. After one performance in Central Park, he looked at the end of the show to see the eyes he'd played to, and they were the eyes of a dog. All of that intelligence, all of that understanding, all of that depth, all of it in the eyes of a dog. I wrote that to write this: Love. Dogs love. I'm not saying that people don't love -- I'm saying that people *do* love. But so do dogs, and I think it's often more unfettered love than people will give, maybe more than they can give. Maybe don't get a dog if that's not for you, but spend some time around dogs, if that can work out for you. Dogs are the best.

Love again, people this time, not dogs – funny thing about your situation is that, for the right (?) person, they will be able to give themselves completely to you because they know that there's an end point; it's like they're shooting with blanks, they don't have to really expose their hearts, because you'll be waving them goodbye pretty soon. Often this type of person has needs that include being depended upon in crisis, and they are often very good in crisis. And they sortof like the drama in it all, they get to be heroic and loving and cry and all of it.

I call these people ambulance chasers, because they are in their way like the lawyers who chase down after people who've been hurt, chase them down to represent them in personal injury suits. Well, these ambulance chasers are chasing people that are hurt, just that they are chasing them for a different reason, or set of reasons.

These people can be good in your situation, and even though you maybe know that this love is counterfeit, who cares; counterfeit or not, any port in the storm, right? Just like counterfeit money, the deception can be extraordinarily good, and it'll spend same as real, just like iin town, so what's it matter? Just don't go into remission, is all, and think that "Hey, now me and Myrtle can finally relax into this sweet love thing she's been going on about." because Myrtle is gonna be gone in the blink of an eye if she has to make good on all of that sweet talk of love and light and forever more etc and etc.
Note: They'll almost certainly get all fussy if you point any of this out, they'll talk of the depth of their love, blah blah blah.

So there's that.

Love, again. People. People who are close to you now may bail out; while there are ambulance chasers there are also people who just cannot deal with the fact of their friends death, or even their illness. Who knows why, and it doesn't really matter anyways, other than to let them know – if they'll even hang around long enough for you to do so – to let them know you aren't mad at them for hauling ass. It's just bigger than they are, is all. Something *really* odd will be when you find yourself comforting *them* about how *they* feel about your illness/impending death. Comical. You might find yourself gravitating toward people who've dealt with illness themselves, or other life-changing circumstance; they won't be uncomfortable around you, many of them anyhow. And lots of them have this great black humor, which is so much fun – you'll know you've got a new friend when they can joke around with you about death and/or can handle it when you do so. I mean, come on, you've got to talk about this stuff, yeah, it's all serious and shit but sometimes you'll just want to talk about it without the other person getting all solemn and somber and frowny about it. And it's not like you don't still like a dirty joke or whatever. Jesus.

Others upthread have spoken about diving into bed with this person or that, tossing your cautions to the wind, sliding your hand down into some dangerous persons shorts and seeing what you find in there. That's all well and good as long as you don't fall in love with them but if/when you *do* fall in love with them, now you're not only saddled with picking up your backpack and heading on into the next country or experience on your end-o-life itinerary but also saddled with an acheful, broken heart. And that's not like adding insult to injury, it's like adding injury to injury. Be careful. You've got limited time left and you don't want to spend it moping around with a broken heart just because you wanted to jump into the rack with a dope.
Of course if you're good with protecting your heart from foolishnesses -- I'm not, but maybe you are -- if you're good at setting up and keeping to strong boundaries around your heart, well, go on, have some fun, wear black leather underpants maybe, climb into their bed or drag them into yours and roll around and talk nasty and pull their hair and stuff. In fact, have some fun for me, too.

I laughed out loud at the posts upthread which talked about taking out tons of credit and blowing it all -- hurray! A couple of years ago I would have been completely scandalized, horrified at the thought of exposing your soul to such darkness blah blah blah but that was before watching our govt throwing trillions upon trillions of dollars into killing brown people for fun and to take their oil and giving trillions upon trillions more to scum-being bankers while the avg Joe/Jo is having hard times and can't even go to a damn doctor. Follow your heart on this one but I damn sure wouldn't judge you, and I think many others eyes are opened now to the double standards which we've imposed upon ourselves IE business can do what they want but if we look out for our own interests then we're supposed to feel all low and bad and shitty -- fuck all that. Do what you will. Life, as you know, is short.

I've been dead -- bunch of heart attacks in 2004 -- and I will be dead again. That never really occurred to me before that Tuesday -- other people would die of course, but not me and not anyone in my immediate sphere. After the whole death thing came down on me and then I got to the other side of it all and began to find my feet again, it has become crystal clear to me that the most important piece of my life is passing on to others what I've learned. I truly believe it's why we're here; I know for a fact it's why I'm here. I'm fortunate to be in a position where I'm able to mentor younger guys; spending time with these young men is the most important thing that I do, it is what comforts me most and when I feel most alive, yet balanced. Such as ever I do feel balanced.

So if you can find someone to give to, those short hours can be so sweet. You've got lots to give, though you may not think so; there are people who need to hear what you've got to say, there are people that you can comfort, and in that you can find comfort also, and purpose. Or I do anyways, and you asked me, I didn't ask you, so there.

Meditation. “Don't just do something – stand there.” You're thinking "Hey, fuck all that, yeah, like I'm gonna sit like a lump of goo and be quiet when I could be bungee jumping or chasing dirty girls -- what are you, nuts?" And, well, yes, that case could be made. But that's not the point of this paragraph; this paragraph is about meditation. And it's not so much about how meditation can peaceful and calming -- though it absolutely can be those -- but also how it's a step out of time. You have limited time; should you sit in deep silence you get to step out of time for a while. It's a hell of a thing, I don't know so much that I'd call it fun as much as ... Different. It's very interesting. I call it "Going to Disneyland." I don't get there every time I meditate – there isn't really any -where- to get to anyways – but I like it, I like to be there, or get there, or something. Whatever it is. Hard to articulate. But you might find it worth the time you put into it, I wouldn't have written this unless I thought you'd perhaps want to consider it. And you can meditate anywhere you find yourself – should you go to Poland or Chicago or Australia, whatever. You can sit anywhere, anytime. Disneyland. I recommend this.

So I've been dead, you'd think I'd not sweat the small stuff anymore, right? And for about three weeks after I got out of the hospital I -didn't- sweat the small stuff, I was all Mr. Om, Mr. fucking Kumbayah. It's like I can almost remember when my ego came back online, I was in traffic and someone “wasn't driving right” and I got angry about it. It's worse than ridiculous, it's stupid, too. Sometimes I just can't believe myself. What a dope! I'm very human, I have an ego and you'd certainly never think that I don't. I'm saying this to say to you that regardless your situation, your personality is still there. Maybe you'll find yourself snapped out of it all – I damn sure did, for a while, a short while – but if you don't, well, welcome to the human race. You're still here with us.

I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. I don't plan on that but I didn't plan to die that Tuesday, either. I'm glad for you that you've got time to say your goodbyes – I always thought that if I lived my life such that I was current with someone that if they got sick I'd have no reason to go see them, I always ridiculed people who rushed somewhere to say goodbye to someone, I thought them living their lives poorly. I am judgmental. And wrong, also, I was wrong; my little ex-wife got cancer, we weren't good married but I pretty much loved her since the day I saw her and I found that I desperately wanted to tell her that, face to face, but she was gone before I even could pack a bag. That hurt. I'm glad for you that you'll get to tell people goodbye, those you want to. Depending upon who you are, and who they are, you might cry like a kid – my brother died last year, cancer, and we absolutely cried like kids, I'm lucky in that I did get to see him – but that's just part of the show, right? You want to experience it all, that's a good piece, though painful I guess; it's still life lived right. Or so it seems to me...

I've written way more than I intended, sorry. I started earlier, this afternoon, went out for dinner and it was damn good, my favorite restaurant – if you were here in town it's where I'd take you. I'd buy. I'm thinking about you, now, your plight. I'm wishing you well, from Austin, I'm wishing you good luck, good travels, a good life, a good death.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:50 PM on May 8, 2012 [13 favorites]

Read "If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit." It's roughly about living true. Then make your life your art.

Some things I would do:
* Study the back of my hand.
* Take an improv class.
* Roll down grassy hills.
* Eat dessert first.
* Play a kazoo.
* Dance.

If you have any *things* you own that would be treasured by someone you know, consider giving those things to those people.

If you do travel by car, take back roads.

I'm sorry about your prognosis. I wish words could hug.
posted by maurreen at 1:27 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

dancestoblue's offer to take you to dinner struck a chord with me.

We don't know where you are, and it really isn't necessary for us to know, we can still make these offers.

I'm near Ann Arbor, and, if you're anywhere near here at any time, I'll offer you a quiet and peaceful day kayaking my river if it would be helpful, and as much time petting the Husky as you would like.

And, I'll go a step farther and offer either one of those to any mefit who is in need of a few hours of peace. My e/mail is in my profile.
posted by HuronBob at 6:07 AM on May 9, 2012 [7 favorites]

If you're working still - quit your job, or get "fired/let go" so you can collect employment insurance. Explain to them the situation to the point you're comfortable with.

Alright. Now sit and see how much money you have. Sadly, a poor financial situation might limit what you can and can do (which would suck).

Like someone said, cancel your cable. Go through all your things. Give away what you don't know, keep the things that would mean something to your family. Take this time to clean and go through your life and memories. You can do this alone or with a friend.

Now, your place is clean, you don't have to work, you have an idea of your financial state... what would you like to do? I suggest something everyday - it could be a walk, or a taking a one day class, volunteering at an organization, spending time with your family or friends.

Then you can expand. Where is someplace you've always wanted to see? France? The south pacific? Canada? If you could only experience one place different and see a bit of the world I would strongly recommend doing that.

What are things you wanted to do but were afraid of? Meeting new people? Bungee Jumping? Acting? Make a list, how crazy it might seem and now you have the start to a bucket list.

In the mean time, talk to people. Make emotional connections to loved ones and strangers. Talk to someone at a coffee shop, Make friends with someone in the grocery line, find someone at the library who shares your same book likes.

Learn about people and the world around you. Ask personal questions. Go to a comedy club and laugh. Watch a movie with a child and answer their million questions.

If you read this and would like, send me a message. I have questions I want to ask you.
posted by Danithegirl at 6:09 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't know if you're spiritual or not, but holding God's hand while going through your bucket list could be a great comfort to you.
posted by sybarite09 at 6:43 AM on May 9, 2012

Backpacking is great - love the opportunity to do myself, some of my best memories are from the times I was on the road - but ultimately it's a very selfish thing, it's this accumulation of sights, sounds and experiences for yourself, often in the pursuit of narrating these over to your friends and family. It can feel empty very soon. The same with any list of adventure-sports, partying and so on.

Thing is, usually when people offer suggestions for what you can do you in your spare-time or for a bucket-list, it's often a reflection of what they've always wanted to do, but couldn't for a variety of reasons. Let me not get down that path myself; instead, can I flip the question on its head and suggest this: don't think of what you want to do, but think of what you want people to remember you for.

Here's my suggestion: think of how you want people to think about you, say, seventy years into the future, what kind of tales you want to tell a historiographer from that time, and then work backwards into narrowing yourself into a few projects with the express intent of producing some creative output.

Don't think big, not "The Great American Novel", more like, say, a short story every month. Feel free to substitute that with a medium of your choosing; "photo montage", "song", "music video", "phone app" etc. Or even, "chapters"; the important bit is to break your horizon down to every month.

Also, it's easier said than done, but do make sure that you don't talk yourself out of experiences. Feel free not to search for love, but if and when love finds you, you shouldn't be in a position where you end up saying no. The trick is realizing that all our lives are ultimately terminal; to mistranslate an expression from my mother tongue, we're all bubbles in a vast ocean, just that some bubbles last longer than others.
posted by the cydonian at 3:45 AM on May 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

At one event I went to awhile back, I had expected to see it all, to do it all, and to experience the entire world. A third of the way through, I realized it simply wasn't possible; given 24 hours a day for the next 100 years, I can't see all I want. Or, we're all on limited time.

It may be a small consolation, or none whatsoever, but most people don't realize when they have a few good years left to them; this hits us after we're unable to do anything, or we simply die suddenly. You've got the one advantage here; you know you should make the next few years count. :-)

That said, I'd start by making more time.

Do you have enough income to do as you choose? Can you get your doctor to put you on disability due to your illness so you get time back from work?

Do you have a TV? Give it away. Same with anything that you don't feel is an outstanding part of your life.

Then take out some of the things we do to live longer. If you don't get seconds at the buffet, it's time to start. If a minor drug habit isn't going to accelerate your decline, have at it. If you rack up a stack of minor traffic tickets? Those aren't going to matter, either. While you're at it, ever feel shy talking to that cutie barista at Starbucks? Ask them out for drinks now.

After that, are you more of a city person, or an outdoors person? Do you want to see it all/do it all, or do you want to make a potential difference in the world? If you can answer those, it'll help narrow down what it's time to do.
posted by talldean at 7:06 AM on May 10, 2012

So many amazing answers your shoes, I think I'd adopt a kitten or two. And maybe a puppy as well. Not much brings me more happiness and amusement on a daily basis than my ridiculous, sublime cats, and there is not much more joy in the world than a puppy out for a walk. Yes, adopting adult animals from a shelter is an amazing thing to do, and worth it--but for sheer entertainment and joy, there's not much better than a kitten or a puppy. Or maybe just foster some kittens and puppies, if you don't want the commitment of a permanent adoption.

Other things....I would visit Tassajara in California and sit meditation and soak in the hot springs and hike in the mountains and eat the amazing food. I'd figure out what food I love and go travel to eat it where it's best and try crazy things like fried bugs or molecular gastronomy. I'd plant lots of trees. I'd see the 24 hour days north of the artic circle and the northern lights.

You might want to record video of yourself. Talk to the camera, leave stories behind and images and voice for your loved ones. That will mean a tremendous amount to them when you're gone. Just talk about little things, personal things, memories of good times with them.

As for love....some of my most fondly remembered relationships (friends and romantic) are the ones that were relatively short for various reasons. Just because you may not have decades together does not mean you can't fall in love again.
posted by min at 5:04 PM on May 10, 2012

some of my most fondly remembered relationships (friends and romantic) are the ones that were relatively short for various reasons

This is true. I still think about a girl I had a week-long friendship with when our families met during a vacation in my childhood. That was over 20 years ago.

I wasn't sure whether to say it before because I couldn't tell if, because you had ruled out falling in love again, you didn't want people to talk about it in their replies. But I think I should tell you about one of the women I've known. After her own terminal illness diagnosis, within the space of about two years, she broke up with her long-term partner (a perfectly nice guy she stayed friends with afterwards, but I think she just didn't feel he was the guy for her), started a relationship with someone new, and got married. She and her husband had about six more months together after they got married, and I do not think he regrets anything.
posted by cairdeas at 5:18 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Definitely n'thing the travel thing. Come visit Africa. I'll take you on a safari.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:04 AM on May 11, 2012

Boy, am I late in responding to this one. But hey, I made it in 2012!!

Just a thought about ruling out love:

I met my boyfriend online. On date #2, he said - I am interested [in you] so lets get this out of the way - he told me, briefly but also with enough details, about the cancer he had had (twice!) in the last five years. I won't go into details (mail me if you'd like to talk more) but I just wanted to say that he is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I am also a scientist so I can find out when bad is really bad, and I know he may have 6 months or 10 years or more....but whatever time I get to spend with him is a blessing for me. I really appreciate the person he is, and that may not have been without his condition. Lucky for me, the feelings are mutual.

Please don't rule out love. You have nothing to lose. Life might surprise you just when you think otherwise.
posted by xm at 9:52 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

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