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The anti-bucket list

| Friday, September 20, 2019

Yes, you read that right. I am going to write about all the things that scare me, all the things I don’t want to be. If I’m being honest, this is not particularly easy. I come from a family of dreamers. My mother was the optimist dreamer and always believed that the good came out of everything, no matter what. My father was the purposeful, undaunted dreamer always aspiring to grow professionally. My aunt was the adventurous dreamer who moved from Lebanon to Venezuela at merely 19 years old and started her own successful business. My sister was the artistic dreamer: whatever she worked, on she turned into art. 

There’s one detail missing in this picture: I also come from a family of perfectionists. This family’s inheritance was not only that of ambitious aspiration, but also that of exhaustive perfectionism. 

And so from a very young age, I started planning every aspect of my days. I made a lot of lists. Wrote down page after page of the projects I wanted to complete, the recognition I wanted to receive and the success I wanted to achieve. I believed that as I ticked off accomplishments and successes from my bucket list, the imaginary happiness meter looming over me would inevitably rise. 

Yet, the more I planned, the more frustrated I got. The more I planned, the more overwhelmed I became. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I realized I couldn’t go on like this: it hit me like a massive wave, a massive wave of anxiety and stress. 

It took me a long time, plenty of patience, a few counseling sessions and lots of soul searching to realize that success — as pleasant and as satisfying as it may be — was not the key to happiness. I had built my whole life around the belief that I had to strive to be as close to perfection as possible. I’ll admit that when this belief came crashing down, it wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t easy, either. But as I type out this column, I can’t help but smile at how proud I am for all the progress I have made. Part of that progress was originated from what I call the Anti-Bucket list: a list of all the things don’t want to be. A list of all the things I need to let go off to be truly happy.

I don’t want to say yes to things I should really say no to. I want to learn how to prioritize and most importantly how to turn down a club, an event or a job when I feel I have too much on my plate. Life is not an infinite black hole you can keep overloading — at some point, it will overflow and you will find yourself stressed, drained and lagging behind in too many areas. 

I don’t want to hold a grudge when I can let go and forgive. Resentment is quite a heavy load to carry around forever.

I don’t want to feel embarrassed when admitting weakness or vulnerability. Growth manifests itself in so many divergent ways and it is most definitely not linear. Growth is tiring, challenging and even sometimes painful, but I want to remember that  “for a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction,” as author Cynthia Occelli once said.

I don’t want to be always right (Yes, this one surprised me, too.)

I don’t want to ignore the vitality of rest and quiet time. I now recognize that taking a break is not a waste of time. Sleeping in when I need it is not the definition of laziness. 

I don’t want to forget to focus on the lighter, brighter side. I want to inherit my mom’s optimism. I want to practice gratitude more often and face hardships with a more positive attitude. 

I don’t want to confine myself to society’s definition of a successful life. I want to trace my own special journey that fits my needs, my skills and my desires. We don’t all have to be employed engineers married with two kids at the age of 35. 

I don’t want to compare my progress to others’, measuring my progress based on theirs success. Their chapter 10 looks nothing like my chapter two.

Finally, I don’t want to keep laying out 5-year plans, and I want to trust my instincts and intuition more. There’s this quote I love by CEO Christina Stembel which reminds me not to overthink and overanalyze: “I heard Oprah say every decision she made by not trusting her gut ended up being a bad one. So, I decided that if trusting a gut instinct was good enough for Oprah, it’s good enough for me.”

Krista Lourdes Akiki is majoring in management consultancy and global affairs. Coming from Beirut, Lebanon, she always enjoys trying out new things and is an avid travel-lover. She hopes to take her readers on her journey as she discovers new lifestyles and navigates new cities. She can be reached at [email protected] or via Twitter @kristalourdesakiki.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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