My Adventure Book

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.

It feels sort of like this…

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.

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Note: My roommate and I have celebrated V-Day together for ten years.

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.

Up-6

To Finding New Dreams

After losing my aunt to pulmonary fibrosis this week, I spent a great deal of time sifting through old photo albums as Polaroid told her sepia-toned life. Although she had been ill all of her life, nothing stopped her: she faced each day with a “live-like-you-were-dying attitude” because, in fact, she was.

 Now, I’m not certain if she ever had a physical bucket list written out, but if she did, there was undoubtedly no item left unmarked. Her marvelously saturated photo albums left me contemplating a few things, namely bucket lists, life, and dreaming.

 For many years, I was afraid of a bucket list. I know how absurd that must sound, but it’s true. The finality of it all, of writing down the things you most hope to accomplish in life, intimidated me far more than it should. Although I had a mental bucket list for years and was fortunate enough to see many items scratched off, it always left me with the bitter, cold taste of inevitable disappointment on my tongue. Now matter how I gnawed on the idea of a list, one question always stopped me:

 What happens when the last item is marked off?

 This question haunted me for years, keeping me from ever etching my aspirations in ink for fear of running furiously into a dead-end street. As odd as it may sound, I found my answer in a Disney film. “Of course,” you say, rolling your eyes. “With you, the answer is always Disney.” Perhaps, but this time is different.

 In my favorite scene of Tangled, on the threshold of watching her greatest dream fade into reality, Rapunzel turns to Flynn with a skeptical look.

Tangled

Rapunzel: I’ve been looking out of a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what I might feel like when those lights rise in the sky. What if it’s not everything I dreamed it would be?

Flynn Rider: It will be.

Rapunzel: And what if it is? What do I do then?

Flynn Rider: Well, that’s the good part I guess. You get to go find a new dream.

 Lights

Of course, it was everything she dreamed it would be and also my answer. Only a few short days after seeing Tangled for the first time, I decided to write out my first bucket list: 25 items that a 19-year-old Laura would like to see for herself.

 Bucket List

It’s remarkable the things I’ve seen since then: meeting the Backstreet Boys, traveling to another country, and learning a new language, just to name a few. But just as Flynn said, with each accomplished dream comes a new one, and that is why for each item completed from the list, a new one takes it place. And of course, as a reminder of this mantra, my bucket list is buried inside of a custom-made Disney journal that a friend made me from her Etsy site.

Journal

 So, if you’ve never written a bucket list, I encourage you to. You will no doubt be surprised by the marvelous things you are capable of, even in just a few short years. If, like me, you wrestle in vain with the suffocating fears of post-dreaming, the “now what?” at the end of the road, I pray you remember the greatest part of all: finding a new dream. So here’s to us and bucket lists! May we always remember the dreams we dreamed.