Wishlist: In the Bucket

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Life is most appealing when jumbled and unexpected. To me, anyway. I love organising. I love lists, and putting things in order. That said, I feel richest when I make a mental list of the experiences I have had that cannot be neatly packaged, but through disparate and unconnected sources have made my life fuller, my insight greater and my memories thrilling.

I’m working on my wishlist for my thirties as I wave goodbye to my twenties. My twenties were a period of growth and change, much profitable and some painful, and I hope that by looking forward I can hope for further adventures and celebrations rather than feeling sad about the inevitable ageing process.

Before I start my “bucket list” for the next decade, I wanted to reflect on some of the experiences that have made my twenties. Not all are good, but they have all contributed to 30-year-old me being a different animal to 20-year-old me. Many involve travel.

  • Living with an actress. This made me more outgoing and made home life 82% more fun. I calculated.
  • The norovirus. This revised all my ideas about illness and the capacity of the human stomach. Twice.
  • Driving around Australia in a campervan – unexpectedly challenging (to the stupid) with my arthritis. Should have thought that through. But I’m proud that my travelling companion and I did not only survive with limbs and friendship intact, but that we were able to laugh and enjoy the experience, even as the dingoes howled while I walked to the toilet block at 3 a.m.
  • Taking the train through the Alps alone, following my passions in Vienna and learning to enjoy my own company on the road.
  • Playing tour guide for multiple groups of overseas students and their visitors.
  • Learning exactly how much pain I can experience before adrenaline kicks in.
  • Finding out how humiliating and dehumanising it is to belong to the most vulnerable portions of society.
  • The highs and more frequent lows of working towards a doctorate – a solitary and demanding experience that dominated this decade.
  • Rocking up in a campervan with a couple of chairs to watch the sun set at Uluru.
  • Falling in love with New York City and its theatre scene.
  • Auditioning.
  • Going to Buckingham Palace to watch my mother receive an honour.
  • Singing solo in public, as myself, after friends demanded it and my singing teacher pointed out that my impostor syndrome must be quite arrogant to discount the evidence of her recordings.
  • Going into battle on behalf of others, and learning how to be assertive in meetings.
  • Waiting to hear my degree result while staying with friends and being so relieved to do well.
  • Visiting an American supermarket for the first time (SO MANY POTATO PRODUCTS. “This is a land of plenty!” Friends mock.)
  • Working for masters students’ hospitality while a doctoral student and seeing how drastically different some people’s behaviour could be before and after they knew I could be of use to them.
  • Becoming a nervous flier and overcoming it.
  • Finding out I had selective mutism growing up and was not just weird. Realising I was not alone in my weirdness.
  • Having an illness that made me realise that there are not always ways around things. Sometimes you are just stuck.
  • Finding out how hard it is to be a woman in academia, or in a number of areas. As much as I want to pretend it’s not an issue, it has been eye-opening and makes me want to fight harder just to get invited to the table.
  • A wonderful summer of global adventure made complete by the people – not only my companion but the encounters we had on the way. Several people found out that we were from Scotland and immediately exclaimed, “Gordon Strachan!” People all over Asia knew minute details of Scottish football, and we found out about Rangers’ relegation from a be-turbaned security guy in Singapore. We heard the life story of a Holocaust survivor in Sydney and met someone in Alice Springs whose mother came from a small town near my place of birth. A taxi driver in Kuala Lumpur brightened up a forty-minute traffic jam by catching us up on all the local scandals du jour. 
  • Dogsitting the most neurotic five pounds of dog you could imagine. She takes the protest vomit to a high art form and taught me a lot about responsibility. Also providing a cautionary tale about parenting, I feel.
  • Going to more weddings than there are weekends, at some points. This is a quintessential twenties theme, methinks – and the best being where everyone pitches in to make a special, non-fussy celebration.
  • Being adopted by my flatmate’s family – you can  never have too many people care about you and take an interest.
  • Making a home for myself. This seems to involve buying and making a lot of Christmas decorations.
  • The highs and lows of powerful medication. Some side effects of  my pain killers and chemotherapy are horrible (hair thinning, nausea, mood swings, insomnia and depression) while others are hilarious, at least for others (twitching, belief in clairvoyancy of self, refusal to speak English, obsession with flying squirrels – hence the blog name – inability to remember ebay shopping spree until Euro flag bunting arrives, paranoia about lack of loyalty of teddy bear, attacking mother with same).
  • Living in Paris. Life-changing.
  • Learning that I am more than what I do. This became clear when I was unable to do anything and became more myself than I could have anticipated.
  • Getting hugged by a monkey in Thailand. Though I am pretty sure it was trying to mug me. Advice to those accosted on the street: squeal, “How cute!” and start socially grooming your muggers. This will soon pacify them.
  • Okay, don’t do that; that’s terrible advice. You will actually die.
  • You may not actually die. But still.