We all have a bucket list. It may not be a literal, tangible list where our dreams and desires are all written out, ready to be marked off. But that doesn’t mean we don’t all have a running internal list of aspirations and things we wish to achieve and accomplish in life. Some of the things on our bucket lists are fairly simple, straightforward, and theoretically easy to accomplish. I want to visit the Grand Canyon. I want to see _____ in concert. I want to learn a new language. Others, on the other hand, are much more daunting, dreams that we deem unattainable except for in our wildest imaginations.
How often do we really talk about our dreams? I mean, really talk about them? It’s one thing to offhandedly say to someone that you would love to travel to Europe someday. But it’s another thing entirely to actually look someone in the eyes and say, “I’m going to do this and here’s how.”
When we’re kids we are encouraged to dream. We are told we have our whole lives ahead of us and that we can be and do anything we want. But as we get older the narrative changes a little bit. It’s not that we’re specifically told to give up on our dreams, it’s more this unspoken expectation from society that diminishes our desires. We are expected to go to college, begin a career, meet the love of our lives, get married, start a family, raise a family, eventually retire, and then, if everything has gone to plan, we’ll have time to travel and see the world. Following that path doesn’t seem to offer much flexibility in the realm of dream chasing or marking things off bucket lists. Sure, that may seem like a very basic and narrow-minded approach to life, but for a long time that’s how I’ve perceived what it’s like to get older.
Me questioning my direction in life or wondering where God is leading me is nothing new. That is, ultimately, what led to the inception of this blog. What am I going to accomplish in life? What are the dreams I’m chasing? What are the dreams I’ve given up on? Sadly, oftentimes I fall into a state of complacency. Sure, dreams and aspirations are great, but they’re not realistic. I need to focus more on my current job and place in life. Whatever dreams may cross my mind are quickly shot down for a variety of reasons – it’s impractical, it’s costly, self-doubt, too time consuming, and so on and so forth. I had to stick to the path I assumed would lead to happiness.
Just within the last 6-8 months I have changed jobs, moved twice, and gone through a breakup. How’s that for sticking to the plan? While I’ve certainly gone through some drastic life changes I also feel like I’ve gained valuable perspective and insight. My main takeaway? Screw the plan. Not only am I not where I thought I would be by now, but why should I have ever limited myself to this particular path? What kind of opportunities have I missed out on? What dreams have I given up on that may be worth revisiting? Only recently have I really allowed myself to dream again and envision what my life could look like. Now, that’s not to say I will actually achieve everything I conceive. But another thing I’ve learned is that our dreams change and evolve as we age. Our interests change, our gifts and talents develop, and new opportunities present themselves.
It’s one thing to dream of something and keep it to ourselves to reflect on. But it’s another thing to share it and put it out into the universe. So that’s exactly what I’m about to do. I’m going to share some of the dreams I’ve conceived and what I’d like to do and accomplish in life. Some of them are simple and relatively easy to envision. Others are larger and admittedly, somewhat terrifying. Am I really cut out or qualified for some of the things I’m about to share? Who knows!
Before I dive into my current dreams and goals, I think it’s worth mentioning the importance of appreciating what I have accomplished. There are times in my life where I feel down, wondering if I’ve accomplished anything of true significance, as If I haven’t had any real life experiences. But when I stop and actually think about it, I understand that that couldn’t be further from the truth. I have done and experienced things that were at one time on my bucket list or were crazy dreams I never thought I’d do. Some of those things include starting a blog, starting a podcast, running a marathon, travelling to El Salvador three times, spending a week in London, road tripping to Utah to see my favorite basketball team, , seeing B.o.B in concert, helping lead a young adult ministry, among many other things. I don’t mention these to pat myself on the back or to boast, but rather to remind myself of what I’m truly capable of. If I’ve accomplished these things, who’s to say I can’t achieve even greater things?
Hike the Appalachian Trail
About five years ago my dad and I went on a trip out East to the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia. It’s always been a bonding experience for the two of us to go hiking and camping. Typically we stay close to home but on a few occasions we’ve gone to different, more adventurous parts of the country. This would be my first time in the Appalachians. It was breathtaking. The views were incredible and being in such a naturally green place was indescribable.
Before that trip I knew very little about the Appalachian Mountains. I knew so little, in fact, that I didn’t even know the Appalachian Trail existed. If you, like me, don’t know what that is, it’s a hiking trail that runs from Georgia all the way up to Maine. The entire trail is over 2,000 miles, passing through over a dozen states. During our trip we had a chance to hike a portion of the trail (I would wager to say it was less than 1% of the trail, though it felt like a lot to us). I also learned more about the trail and its history. Every year people attempt a thru-hike, in which their goal is to walk the entire trail. It typically takes people about 5-6 months to complete the entire thing.
During our trip I bought a book about a guy from Ohio that hiked the entire trail for a charity in his hometown. He chronicled his journey, the ups and downs, the beautiful scenes and the struggles, and everything in between. He wasn’t a natural outdoorsman or somebody that hiked regularly at all. No, he was just a regular Joe. The seed had been planted.
In the years since, I have a read a few more books about the Appalachian Trail and individuals who have hiked the entire thing, each for their own personal reasons. Each book I read instills in me an even greater desire to hike the trail myself someday. I have numerous motivations for wanting to hike the AT. One, it would certainly help me get in better shape. But more importantly it would be a uniquely incredible opportunity to remove myself from the negativity of society and reconnect with God and nature.
For as much as I may want to hike the whole thing, I also understand the obstacles. I can’t envision a scenario in which I tell my boss I’ll need 6 months off just to go walking through some woods. Beyond that, it also takes a lot of preparation physically, financially, logistically, and practically. This isn’t as simple as saying, “I’m just going to do it!”
But that hasn’t diminished my desire. I have plenty of life ahead to cross this item off my bucket list. And in the meantime, maybe a few trips out to the AT for a warmup is the first step.
Visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums/cities
I imagine many other baseball fans have this on their bucket list as well. I’m fortunate to have gotten a decent headstart on this one, though I still have my work cut out for me. Many of my family’s vacations have centered around baseball. As a family of diehard St. Louis Cardinals fan we have enjoyed several trips to rival stadiums to see our favorite team in action. So far I’ve knocked off the following cities:
- St. Louis (duh)
- Chicago (Cubs)
- Kansas City
I’m about a quarter of the way through. Considering I’m a quarter of the way through my life I figure I’m on a pretty good pace.
Meet Adam Wainwright
This has been a personal one for me since I was 12 years old and Adam Wainwright was closing out the World Series for the Cardinals in 2006. It didn’t take long for him to become my favorite player because of his on-field accomplishments. He established himself as not only one of the best players on the team but in the entire league. He routinely placed at the top of Cy Young voting, serving as the epitome of a workhorse and fierce competitor.
But it was the man he was (and still is) off the field that solidified his spot atop my list of favorite athletes of all time (a prestigious honor, if I don’t say so myself). He is as goofy and fun loving as he is competitive. Whenever he’s not scowling on the mound he can be found playing jokes on teammates or dancing in the dugout. Away from the diamond he is a devoted husband and loving father and devout man of faith.
We often talk about athletes as role models. Even if Adam Wainwright wasn’t a professional baseball he would still fit the definition of role model to a T. As I’ve gotten older my appreciation for Adam Wainwright has evolved. I’ve loved him as a player because he helped my favorite team win a lot of games. While I certainly still appreciate that, I am now more drawn to the difference he makes in the lives of others.
I would love his autograph but what I would love even more is to simply have a conversation with him. To talk to him about his faith, how he overcomes adversity, and what it means to be a true family man.
I’m sure a lot of people have this on their bucket list as well. Although I took four years of Spanish in high school I can’t claim to have retained much of anything. At that time in my life I was ignorant and didn’t see any value in learning a second language. It wasn’t until I was able to go to El Salvador that I began to understand the importance of learning a second language. For the first time in my life I felt what it was like to be on the outside looking in, not understanding a single word or conversation happening right in front of me.
After my first trip to El Salvador I was committed to not just learning Spanish but being fluent. It turns out learning a new language is hard. It took just a couple months to lose my motivation and what little I did learn quickly left my brain.
The same thing happened the next two times I went to El Salvador: I regretted not learning more before the trip, dedicated myself to actually learning for a couple months, quickly forget everything, and repeat. While I may not have picked up on the language as fast as I had assumed or hoped, I still have the desire within me to learn. Not only do I think it will help me continue to grow relationships with the people of El Salvador but I also think will be of practical use. If I can do even a little bit to help someone from a Spanish speaking country feel more comfortable, welcome, and at ease then I’d consider that a success.
Speak at a Steubenville Conference
We are now entering the “he wants to do what?!” portion of the post. If you are unfamiliar, Steubenville is the hometown of Franciscan University in Ohio. Every year there are dozens of Steubenville conferences across the country, mega retreats designed for high school students. I have been going to the Steubenville Conference in Springfield, MO, since I was 14 years old. This specific retreat holds an incredibly important place in my heart, as I have had some of my most impactful faith experiences while attending, both as a retreatant and chaperone.
Now, what do I mean by mega retreat? Imagine 4,000-5,000 teenagers and chaperones packed into a college basketball arena, all singing praise and worship music at the top of their lungs. That’s just a small piece of the retreat. Throughout the weekend there are national known Catholic speakers that present and share their testimonies of faith. Over the years I have heard some unbelievably inspiring witnesses. My admiration for these speakers was through the roof. On more than one occasion I have found myself sitting in my seat thinking to myself, “How awesome would it be to be up on that stage someday?”
That thought was typically a rhetorical one. I would never actually think about the steps I could take to make it a reality someday. I was more content with just being in awe of the powerful words of these speakers. I never really dreamed about it.
Until recently, that is. Now when the thought crosses my mind there’s a tinge of genuine okay, but what if? What if this could actually be a reality? What would I need to do? What path do I follow to wind up on that stage, speaking to 4,000 young Catholics? I quickly snap out of it, reminding myself that I am a relative nobody in the vast world of Catholic speakers. Sure, I give talks here and there at Via and to my youth group, but that’s not exactly on the same scale, now is it?
But this blog post isn’t to put down or minimize my own dreams. Although it may not be truly realistic I’m not going to let that stop me from at least exploring what that path might look like. That means telling people about this dream, asking for advice, reaching out to people, stepping out of my comfort zone. And though I don’t have experience talking to thousands of people, or even hundreds, I have to get my start somewhere, right?
Write a book
I have to admit, this is the most recent addition to my bucket/dream/aspiration list. Until two years ago I was the furthest thing from a writer anyone could be. I went into college as a history major. When I found out that it consisted of nothing but reading and writing (like, a LOT of reading and writing) I quickly began exploring other majors. Multiple choice tests were my favorite because they required no writing or short essays. Papers were my worst nightmare as I struggled to fill the page requirement. Talks I gave at church were memorized, not transcribed. I didn’t keep a diary or a journal. Putting words onto paper was simply not my strong suit.
Then, two years ago, I decided to do something drastic and way out of my comfort zone – start a blog. I honestly had no idea what I was doing but just knew it was something I needed to do. Little did I know how putting words to (electronic) paper would help me so much. Writing has become a powerful outlet for me to express how I’m feeling, describe my struggles, and rejoice in my triumphs.
When the idea of writing first crossed my mind I instinctively went to a blog. Not just a personal journal but rather a very public platform in which other people can read and follow along my life’s journey. Why is that? While I don’t know for certain, I have my guesses. I had this innate gift and ability to write that I didn’t know I possessed. Simply put, I believe God pushed me to start a blog so I could share my story with others through the gift of my words.
So…book. That’s the next logical step, right? You might be thinking I’m crazy. Believe me, I think I am too. What would I write about? Why should anyone read about anything I have to say? What do I have to say that’s so special or important? These are all valid questions in my mind and doubts that have persistently dampened my desire to write a book. But the desire is there, nonetheless. Instead, I’ve been trying to ask myself a different slate of questions. How do I narrow down what to talk about? Why wouldn’t someone want to read what I have to say? Who’s to say my thoughts and experiences aren’t as valid as anybody else’s?
Start a business
I will be the first to admit to not knowing a lick about business. I haven’t the slightest clue where to even begin or how to sustain a profitable or viable company, and in fact, the thought of operating my own business is stressful and nauseating. To make matters worse, I’m not even sure what kind of business I’d operate. But although I may not have a clear idea at this moment in time, I don’t want to write off ever starting a business. I have vague, nonspecific ruminations of what kind of business I might be interested in.
I should back up. I do have one specific business idea. Imagine an establishment that functions as a coffee shop in the morning before transitioning into a brewery in the evening. It would be appropriately called…Drew’s Brews (if you’re reading this, please don’t steal my idea). At the present moment, however, this business plan is not in action, seeing as I know nothing about brewing either coffee or beer.
These are but a few of the dreams I currently have. Just as my bucket list and dreams have evolved over the years they will continue to do so as I get older. I know I will not fulfill all of my dreams listed (if any of them), and that’s okay. And you know why? They serve as a sign of hope. Hope that regardless of my situation in life or where I am on the dreaded “timeline”, I will always have something to strive for and work towards. And instead of dwelling on what I haven’t accomplished, I’d rather rejoice in the things I have.
What’s on the top of your bucket list? What is it you’re striving for? What’s that one thing you think is so ridiculous that you’ve kept to yourself? I would love to know. Please, feel free to leave a comment, send me an email, or shoot me a message with your dreams in life. Sometimes we really can speak things into existence.