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The Anti-Bucket List Post

September 8, 2014

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Weeks and months have evaporated into the vaults of history since I last visited my own blog site. The two month period since book-marked in the memory bank with fond recollections of holidaying back in the UK with my kids, and then re-engaging in Saigon life following our return.

I’ll be on the road again soon, no doubt inspired into literary action once more by long stretches at airport terminals, cramped airline meals, exchanging mundane commentary with fellow passengers, or jostling down the streets of Bangkok, inhaling the familiar fragrances and stark realities that I have come to associate with urban Asia.

Even when the work emails were switched off on holiday this summer, what was constant was the addictive white noise of the Twitter machine, militantly keeping up its fervent pulse. And I indulged regularly enough in entertaining it. The World Cup semi final demolition of Brazil, at the hands of Germany, was relayed to my bedside early in the morning via a short – and at the time gob-smacking – tweet. On July 17th, it was twitter once more alerting me as I touched down in Dubai, en-route to London, of the Malaysia Airlines tragedy. Scottish independence, air-strikes in the Middle East, ebola out-breaks, celebrity break-ups, Robin Williams’ suicide, or, how late my old co-worker’s commuter trains might have been on any given Monday morning: twitter supplies them all.

I came off Facebook last January, and have never looked back. Twitter is obviously a very different social media relative to facebook, the world’s most subscribed to platform, and I am not about to give up my membership. There is more of an ease with twitter in terms of picking up and dropping off who or what it is you follow. Which I like. And there are no ‘Like’ buttons either – another bonus.

For example, earlier today, after my Monday morning commute into the office, zig-zagging the streets of Saigon from District 2 to the west end of District 3, it was with immense pleasure that I “un-followed” a certain Break-Up Bucket List twitterer, who I’d unwittingly started to follow last year, in step with my own personal circumstances at the time.

I say “‘unwittingly” – there is absolutely nothing cynical or deeply unsettling about the particular stream of advice and updates which the site in question offers up. Their daily tweets come in the form of suggested actions (numbered, so you can keep track and tick them off) about things you can/should do to alleviate the conflicting emotions of breaking up with someone. These range from “Go to the beach”, “Go to Buckingham Palace” or “Go eat Sushi Samba” all the way through to “Not date for three months”, “Rent out my spare room” and “Turn all your attention to booze” – (that last one may not be a 100% accurate reference.)

Granted, I hadn’t signed up expecting emotional transformation. In spite of the site’s regular enough inclusion of those great life statement gems, that people like the Dalai Lama claim to have said (although with the DL, if you were to ask me, I imagine him to have a team of wordsmiths sat about all day long drinking espressos and brainstorming new ways of channeling what is essentially the DL’s main riff of “just spread a little happiness people, for gawd’s sakes”)…in spite of all such nice fluffy quotes which make you stop and go “oh, yeah, that’s totally true, that is”, in spite of these, I entertained being a follower because I appreciated that their tweets were designed not to change you, or to make you think even (what, you mean “Go to the beach” doesn’t come with deeper resonance and rooted meaning?) – no, I think the tweets are, in fact, designed to do exactly the opposite: to make you not think. They distract you, they engineer a sense of solidarity. Their very simplistic and useless implications end up making them, on occasions, quite useful.

Moving on from a relationship is all about not following any advice – in my experience – and can work best when, contrary to your instincts, you don’t listen to anyone, nor place a value on any type of advice being bandied about. The fact that there is so much “advice” to grab at these days – online, in print, on the TV – means the process that any one individual might go through to “move on” (as the phrase goes) will never quite feel like it is owned by that person themselves.

“At what point,” you will ask yourself, “am I actually thinking through things with my own thoughts, and not those of others, re-cast by me”?

As with all things in life, you have to practice at this particular past-time (that of finding a truth from within) and it is a process.

This morning, my step forward was in realising that I didn’t need the Break Up Bucket List style reminders – or distractions – anymore. I never thought I needed them to begin with, but now that they so clinically invoke in me a sense of utter annoyance, and make me feel vehemently anti the whole ‘Bucket List’ concept, I think they have served their purpose.

Bucket lists can be inspiring ways to first catalogue, and then push oneself to complete something important. The very process of setting out to do this can be enough of an achievement for some. Others require to go much, much further and I am sure managing to “forgive someone that hurt you” and parachuting out of an aeroplane in the same week, would make one feel a sense of success.

However – to borrow the UK media’s fascination with phrases – I think we have reached “peak” bucket list. Either that, or I have actually started to move on in my own part of a particular journey – albeit to where exactly, I have very little idea.

It’s good to have goals, and it’s also good – better, usually – to fail them, and to learn from this.

For me though, right now, to stick with following only one’s instincts is the best advice I am offering and taking myself.

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