A List of Things I Actually Plan to Do Before I Die

A few weeks ago, I sat down to clean out my Internet bookmarks. That’s an end-of-semester tradition for me, sort of like how some people make a big bonfire and burn all of their notebooks. It’s very cathartic. Most of my bookmarks were things like “A Room of One’s Own, Ch. 6″ or “Is Intelligent Design a Form of Natural Theology?” or “world of the sun – cyrano.” You know, the sorts of things that you tell yourself you’re going to read someday, and then you don’t, and then your professor assigns you to read 100 pages by Tuesday and you wonder how you got yourself into this mess in the first place, and you just bookmark the page and decide to do it later, and then you forget about it and go to your friend’s apartment and play Skyrim on his PS3 until he kicks you out so he can watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The usual. But about halfway down my collection of bookmarks, not sorted into any folder, I found a page called only “The List.” I had no idea what it was.

Well, as I discovered two seconds later when I clicked on it, it was this guy‘s list of things to do before he died. (You can read the list yourself here; it’s worth a look.) I have no idea when I first stumbled across The List or why I bookmarked it, which is a little creepy, but I’m glad I did. Some of the items on that list are audacious; some of them seem silly; but at the very least, all of them are full of conviction. They’re all things the author really intends to do.

After reading it over, I decided to make my own list, using his guide as a framework. See the guide here.

That was two weeks ago.

And I have got a list. The question is whether or not the list is complete.

For one thing, I’m twenty years old. I can’t even buy a drink in the States yet. How the hell should I know what I want to do with the rest of my life? How should I know if the things I find important now will still seem important in five years, or ten, or twenty?

For another, how many items on the list are really important to me? David’s got a hundred and thirty-nine items on his bucket list, including 18 different cities to tour, four long-term trips to take, and a slew of experiences to have and skills to learn, including “Learn to throw a tight spiral with a football” and “Achieve a comprehensive knowledge of the events of the Second World War.” I looked over a lot of lists to try and come up with the things that I want to do, and there just don’t seem to be all that many things. I mean, I’d LIKE to run a half-marathon, but do I really want to train for one? No. And will I really be upset if I never do? Unlikely.

Most of the things on my list don’t seem like they’d really influence my happiness much. I’m already fairly happy, and although I’ve gone through periods of time where I’ve felt seriously depressed, that depression didn’t have anything to do with what I had or hadn’t done. This past Thursday, I thought, “If the world actually ends tomorrow, what will I regret?” And then I thought, “No, I’m doing pretty okay.” If I die tomorrow, I might be mildly wistful at having never seen France, but it’s not like a trip to France would have actively impacted my well-being. As a consequence of my musing, I keep paring my list down. At this point, I think it’s relatively short.

Also, all of the lists I see, for some reason, include a list of ten or so books to read. But I read all the time. My list only includes three things to read: the Bible, the Quran, and the U. S. Constitution. It would take me forever to write down everything I’d like to read, and then the list would probably only irritate me. That’s fine, because I know that I am going to read my goal-books, even if I don’t have a comprehensive list of them; but still, it makes my bucket list feel incomplete.

But even after all of these complications, I think that a list of things that I really want to do, and that I really intend to do, is a good thing to have. So here it is. It’s a work in progress, but a good start.


  • Have a novel published by a professional publishing house.
  • Have my creative work published by a publication unaffiliated with my current institution. (So getting a short story into one of Johns Hopkins’s many literary magazines, for example, doesn’t count.)
  • Have my creative work published by a publication that will pay me professionally for it.
  • See the Northern Lights.
  • See a solar eclipse.
  • See a bullfight.
  • Go skydiving.
  • Go zip-lining.
  • Earn a degree from an accredited four-year university. – IN PROGRESS. Currently in my junior year at Johns Hopkins, on track to graduate in May 2014.
  • Stay at the Waldorf=Astoria.
  • Fill a notebook, instead of just forgetting about it halfway like I always do. – IN PROGRESS, as usual.
  • Permanently overcome my crippling fear of spiders and large insects. – I would like to say that this is in progress, but I’d be lying.
  • Live abroad. – IN PROGRESS. I am set to spend six months at Oxford University in the UK this spring. You can look at my Oxford to-do list here.
  • Live in New York City.
  • Donate enough money to an institution that they name something after me.


  • Learn to spin fire.
  • Learn to drive stick.
  • Learn to fold an origami elephant and swan by heart.
  • Learn basic car maintenance:
  1. How to change the oil
  2. How to change a tire
  3. How to change a car battery
  4. How to jumpstart a car battery
  • Learn French to fluency. – IN PROGRESS. I have been studying French for eight years and am competent, but not what I would consider fluent.
  • Learn a third language to fluency.
  • Learn to fire a handgun competently.
  • Learn to invest wisely.
  • Read the Holy Bible. – IN PROGRESS. Currently on Exodus of the Douay-Rheims.
  • Read the Quran.
  • Read the United States Constitution.

To visit abroad:

  • France (includes Paris; Marseilles; Strasbourg; something that could reasonably be called “the French countryside”)
  • Spain (includes Madrid; Barcelona; Seville)
  • Italy (includes Rome + Vatican City; Naples; Milan; Venice; Florence)
  • Greece (includes Athens; Crete)
  • Germany (includes Munich; Berlin; Dresden)
  • India
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Jerusalem, Israel
  • Cairo, Egypt
  • Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • Beijing and Hong Kong, China

To visit in the United States:

  • Chicago
  • Phoenix
  • San Francisco
  • Los Angeles

To spend a leisurely vacation:

  • Bora Bora
  • the French Riviera
  • the Amalfi Coast

What sorts of things do you REALLY want to do?

*This list does not include things that I have already done but would like to repeat, e.g. seeing Cirque du Soleil or a Broadway show.

**The “Travel” list does not include places that I have already visited, even though I really want to go back to London and San Diego, for example. There are lots of places I would like to visit – you can see the full map here – but the above are what I consider most important. NOTE: “Visiting” means spending at least a few days exploring and checking out landmarks.

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