In August of 2011 took one of those “How Long Will You Live” online tests that ask you about your health and habits – just for fun really. I did quite well actually as my expected death age, of 86 years, is 5 years ahead of the curve for my generation. But that left me with 68 years left and 21% of my life lived it gave me some pause for thought.
The death of a cousin my age when I was a child had always meant I was without that child-like sense of immortality. I’ve always tried to do the things I want to do now instead of putting them off but in the last few years as I no longer have being underage to blame I found that I was not pushing myself quite enough. I’ve been called morbid before but I don’t see death as a scary monster off in the future but more as an inevitable deadline we all must reach to visit the unknown. It might all sound a bit nuts but death is a part of our lives that no one ever seems to talk about.
I’ve seen bucket lists before but this should be different. 68 is a nice exact number. I also don’t just want it full of things that people think you should do before you die. I have pointedly left bungee jumping off the list for this reason. I want them all to mean something to me:
# 1 Write a letter to my favourite author
(28th August 2011) The first one was easy, or at least it did not require great expense or sacrifice. Alan Garner, author of ‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen’, ‘The Moon of Gomrath’ and ‘The Owl Service’ (three of my favourite books) had been my favourite author, all my life without fail. It had never wavered even a little. I made a little card with an owl on the front (sad I know) and did some Googling to find an address for fan mail. It went to a publisher in England and I just had to post it and cross my fingers that it made it to him. Though he’d always been my favourite writer it wasn’t until I went to write the letter that I realised how much he’d influenced me. His stories had inspired me to read even though it was harder for me than the other kids and even inspired my early style as a writer.
#2 Give away half my things
(9th September 2011) I can be a real pack-rat (it’ll be useful someday) but at the same time clutter stresses me out so crossing this one off was really therapeutic.
#3 Plant a tree
(January 2016) These are my oak and blueberry trees that I’ve been nurturing.
#4 Go Star Gazing
#5 Learn to play guitar (properly)
#6 Join a Roller Derby team
(September 2013) This picture is actually from the pride parade we skated in 2014 but roller derby definitely gave me a lot.
#7 Give Blood #8 Go to an Opera
#9 Research my family tree
#10 Meditate for over an hour
#11 Write a book in Irish
#12 Learn First Aid
(October 2015) I learned first aid with a specialisation in outdoor/mountain emergencies
#13 Watch the sun rise at Newgrange
(2015-2016) I did a lot of volunteering while in Edinburgh with a great environmental education charity called the Green Team.
#15 Build a tree house
#16 Make my own dress
#17 Visit Athens
#18 Climb Mount Olympus
#19 See the sunset over the Murder Hole
#20 See the Aya Sofya
#21 Get a first class degree
#22 Stay by the sea for a week alone
#23 Live without electronics for a week
#24 Learn to drive
#25 Sail on a Greenpeace/Sea Shepard ship
#26 Save a whale
#27 Get a book published
#28 Travel Italy by train
#29 Do a Masters
#30 Kayak down Glen Coe
#31 Climb Ben Nevis
#32 Learn Spanish
#33 Climb Carrauntoohil
#34 Walk the Beara-Breifne Way
#35 Go to Costa Rica
#36 Travel Norway
#37 See the Midnight Sun
#38 See the Northern Lights
#39 Kayak around Ireland
#40 Learn to Scuba Dive
#41 Improve my French
#42 Fly a plane
(June 2015) While traveling with a friend whose father is a small plane pilot, he let me take the sticks for a bit. Didn’t crash so I call it a success.
#43 Speak at a conference #44 Speak at a protest
(March 2012) Me at an anti-ACTA/SOPA protest speaking about surveillance in the name of intellectual property.
#45 Sing at a protest
(May 2017) Singing with Voices 4 Choice
#46 Swim in the Red Sea
#47 See the Pyramids
#48 Work on an archaeological/palaeological dig
#49 Go on an American road-trip
(June 2015) Annie and me take on highway one in California.
#50 Climb a redwood tree in California
(June 2015) Same road trip, they smell great.
#51 Go to New Orleans
#52 Build something that will outlast me
#53 Go to Stonehenge
#54 Fly in a hot air balloon
#55 Spend a week without shoes
#56 Spend time in a Buddhist monastery
#57 Fundraise for Bees #58 Record an album #59 Work abroad
#60 See Angel Falls
#61 Save a life
#62 Help fund Dublin community gardens
#63 Go to New Zealand
#64 Go to Japan for Sakura season
#65 Publish non-fiction work
#66 Fall in love
#67 Climb Errigal
#68 Write my autobiography