Hans Christian Anderson once said that life itself is the most wonderful fairytale. This is one of my favorite quotes, which is no surprise if you know me. As you might remember from a former post, I am a firm believer in bucket lists. For me, it’s less of a to-do list and rather a representation of someone I hope to be—brave, adventurous, spontaneous, uninhibited. My bucket list is a lot like Ellie’s Adventure Book from Disney’s Up!. “More Disney?” you whine. Yes, but bear with me!
I recently graduated from college and began my adult life working full-time. Like any newbie, there are days when I wonder what exactly I am working towards. What I want out of life. Where I will go. The big “what next”. For the first time, my life isn’t scripted, and that terrifies me. Like plenty of people, I challenge myself to move one step closer to Paradise Falls every day. Even though I don’t really know what my dream is yet—maybe it’s becoming the next J.K. Rowling or marketing a Disney blockbuster—I am sometimes overwhelmed by the burden of making it come true. It’s a blessing and a curse, I guess. Maybe you’ve felt that way, too.
If you’re not moving forwards you’re moving backwards, right? That’s how I looked at college. Most days were part of an uphill climb to the next milestone on the road to successful alumna. I had this need to make something of myself simply to prove I could. The idea of mindlessly drifting along like a balloon-tethered house in the sky seemed like a total waste, and I used milestones to measure my progress in the Adventure Book of life.
Don’t get me wrong, those achievements were great! They provided so many opportunities. But those milestones seemed to me the very point of college, and now? I think I was wrong. When I look back over the past four years, those accomplishments sort of melt away in my mind. I tend to overlook the typical “highlights”—my first time making honor roll, studying abroad in England, landing an internship, my first time inside the Sooner stadium. Instead, it’s the little, seemingly insignificant things that stand out.
Hitting the 24/7 donut shop at midnight with my friends, schooling my folks at Bananagrams, meeting up every week for the new American Horror Story episode, celebrating Valentine’s Day with my roommate, playing Mario Kart with my boyfriend until 4 a.m., waking up in my old bed at Christmas, skipping class to rewatch old episodes of Friends. Those are the things I remember most.
And to you, that may seem uneventful because, well, it is! But there’s a moment in Up! that sums up what I’m trying to say. Near the end of the movie, Russell is talking to Carl about his workaholic dad. He talks about the way they used to get ice cream together and count the cars as they passed by. Then, in one sentence, our young wilderness explorer perfectly captures the point of the entire movie and, incidentally, life.
As Ellie points out in her sob-worthy note to Carl, life isn’t about the destination. It’s about the adventures along the way, adventures shared with others. Perhaps I will write a bestseller or work for Walt Disney Studios, but more and more I am realizing that the most exciting parts of life are happening right now. As we speak, I’m filling the pages of my own adventure book with “the boring stuff”. Yes, adventure really is out there. You just have to open your eyes and see it.